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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Georgia

Dental assistants are integral members of the dental care team. They assist patients, getting them scheduled and settled in the exam room. Dental assistants also keep equipment and instruments sterilized and assist with or perform some procedures.

Georgia has two levels of dental assistants. At the entry level, applicants do not require specific education or credentials. To move up in this career, consider enrolling in a dental assisting academic program and working toward certification.

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How to Become an Entry Level Georgia Dental Assistant

Georgia does not require entry-level dental assistants to be licensed or registered or have a specific post-secondary education. Without a credential, a dental assistant in the state may perform basic tasks with the supervision of a licensed dentist.

If you’re interested in this career but do not want to go to school right away, find a dentist willing to hire and train you on the job. There are a few duties that you need specialized training for to be allowed to complete:

  • Phlebotomy and venipuncture
  • Operating X-ray equipment
  • Coronal polishing

You can start as an entry-level assistant and add these duties after taking the appropriate classes.

How to Become an Expanded Duty Dental Assistant (EDDA)

The second level of dental assistant recognized in Georgia is called Expanded Duty Dental Assistant, or EDDA. With this credential, you can perform more duties, including applying sealants, making impressions, and monitor nitrous oxide.

To become an EDDA in Georgia, you must follow specific steps:

  1. Complete high school or earn the equivalent of a high school diploma.
  2. Become certified in CPR.
  3. Complete courses approved by the Georgia Board of Dentistry and for the specific extended duties that you will perform on the job.

To enroll in the extended duties courses, you may need to be a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) through the Dental Assisting National Board. This requires passing the CDA exams. To qualify for the exams, you must either have completed a dental assisting program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) or have 3,500 hours of work experience.

Should I Complete an Academic Program in Dental Assisting?

Neither level of dental assisting requires that you earn a degree or certificate in dental assisting. However, there are good reasons to do so, especially if you hope to become an EDDA. An accredited or approved program will provide the knowledge and skills necessary to take expanded duty courses and pass the CDA exam.

Dental Assistant Programs in Georgia

A great place to start your career is with an academic program at an accredited institution. You can find CODA-accredited programs at these schools:

  • Albany Technical College, Albany
  • Athens Technical College, Athens
  • Atlanta Technical College, Atlanta
  • Augusta Technical College, Augusta
  • Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Calhoun
  • Columbus Technical College, Columbus
  • Southern Crescent Technical College, Griffin
  • Gwinnett Technical College, Lawrenceville
  • Lanier Technical College, Oakwood
  • Savannah Technical College, Savannah
  • Ogeechee Technical College, Statesboro
  • Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, Valdosta

If earning a credential in person isn’t possible, Penn Foster offers an online dental assisting program.

Where Can I Take Expanded Duties Courses?

The Georgia Board of Dentistry approves courses for expanded duties. Most of the CODA-accredited programs are included here. The Board also recognizes additional programs through these institutions:

  • American Academy of Dental Assisting
  • Chattanooga State Community College
  • Dental Staff School
  • Fortis College
  • Georgia Dental Association
  • Georgia School of Dental Assisting
  • West Georgia Technical College

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

If you choose to train on the job, you can begin working as a dental assistant immediately. If you complete an academic program, you will need one to two years to achieve that credential. How long it takes depends on whether you earn a degree or certificate and whether you take courses full time or part-time.

Career Options for Dental Assistants

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 90% of dental assistants work in dental offices. They assist dentists and dental hygienists, maintain cleanliness and sterilization, work with patients, and perform administrative duties.

Dental assistants also work in physician offices, hospitals, nursing homes and other residential facilities, outpatient medical centers, and community clinics. They also work for government agencies.

As a dental assistant, you will have room to grow into a more advanced career. If you start at the entry-level, you can take courses part-time to earn a credential and work on expanded duty certifications.

You may also choose to become a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists are licensed and hold four-year degrees. If you take approved dental assistant courses, you can find programs that act as a bridge from one career to the next. Dental hygienists are allowed to do much more than dental assistants. They also earn more and often supervise dental assistants.

Dental Assisting Career Growth and Job Outlook

The BLS reports that job growth for dental assistants across the country is strong and faster than average job growth. From 2019 to 2029, the BLS expects jobs in this field to grow by 7%, adding more than 20,000 positions. This reflects an overall trend in increasing healthcare demand primarily due to an aging U.S. population.

Georgia also reports strong growth for dental assistants. Among careers that usually require post-secondary education or training, dental assisting comes in second for the number of open positions expected by 2028. Georgia projects more than 8,500 openings. Short-term projections show more than 1,100 positions for dental assistants through 2022.

What Do Dental Assistants Earn in Georgia?

According to the BLS, the median annual salary for dental assistants across all states is $41,180. The median hourly wage is $19.80. Those earning in the top 10% make more than $58,390 per year. Most dental assistants work full time, but part-time positions may be possible.  

For Georgia, the BLS reports that the mean, or average, salary for dental assistants is between $40,990 and $44,690. If you start as an entry-level dental assistant, expect to make less than this. With a CDA credential and expanded duty certifications, you can earn more. Dental assistants also earn more as they gain years of experience on the job.

Jobs in Georgia for Dental Assistants

Look for employment in dental offices, orthodontist offices, government agencies, residential facilities, and other types of healthcare facilities. You will find the most opportunities in Georgia’s larger metropolitan areas, like Atlanta. However, dental assistants are needed everywhere, from cities to suburbs and even rural areas.

To give you an idea of what is available in the state, here are some recent Georgia listings from Indeed.com:

  • Dental assistant, Chatham Oral Surgery, Savanah, $16 to $20 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Goldstein, Garber, & Salama, Atlanta, $15 to $26 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Palmetto Family Dental, Zebulon, $16 to $17 per hour
  • EDDA, Start Smiling Dental, Norcross, $18 to $28 per hour
  • Certified Dental Assistant, Alexander Family Dentistry, Smyrna, $20 to $30 per hour
  • Oral surgery dental assistant, Premier Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Fayetteville, $14 to $24 per hour

Dental assisting is a rewarding healthcare career. It allows you to work hands-on with patients but does not require a four-year degree. You can get started right away or choose to earn a credential first. Either way, you should find plenty of career opportunities in Georgia.

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