Dental Assistant Training in Hawaii
If you’d like to work in healthcare but can’t take on four or more years of college training, a career in dental assisting could be for you. It’s a rewarding, varied role with plenty of opportunity for development and progression, and you could be working within a year.
There are a couple of options to consider when looking into a career in dental assisting. You can become a regular dental assistant by completing basic training and looking for work in dental offices and hospitals. To unlock more opportunities, including working with federal agencies or the military, you can complete a CODA (Commission on Dental Accreditation) accredited program. Then, you can take a licensing exam to become a registered dental assistant (RDA).
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistants are crucial to the efficient running of a dental office. A dental assistant’s tasks vary from state to state. In Hawai’i, a dental assistant’s role is likely to include dealing with patients and their records, preparing the exam room and equipment, assisting the dentist or dental hygienist with procedures, and carrying out minor functions such as mouth inspections and removing sutures.
Example duties of a dental assistant in Hawai’i:
- Taking patients’ dental and medical histories
- Educating patients in oral health
- Assisting the dentist during ‘four-handed’ procedures
- Measuring patients’ vital signs
- Developing radiographs (X-rays)
- Making dental impressions like those used for mouth guards and retainers
- Monitoring nitrous oxide/oxygen units
- Making mouth mirror inspections
- Removing sutures and dressings
- Applying topical anesthetic
Requirements for Becoming a Dental Assistant
You don’t need a license to work as a dental assistant in Hawai’i, but you will need to complete some basic training, which must cover:
- Confidentiality and keeping records
- How to perform CPR
- Operating ethically
- Sterilization and disinfection procedures
Training can be completed on the job in a dentist’s office or through taking a college program. The training must meet CDC, ADA (American Dental Association), OSHA, and Hawai’i Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA/HIOSH) standards. Some training areas, such as CPR, must be carried out by state-approved sponsoring organizations like the Red Cross or American Heart Association. There are no legal requirements for using radiographic equipment in the state.
Dental Assisting Programs
There are plenty of training and development opportunities if you’re in Hawai’i, including in-person and online courses. Although completing a formal training program is not required to work as a dental assistant in this state, it is strongly advised. Finding a dentist willing to train someone from scratch is no easy task, and without proof of training, it is equally difficult to move on to further jobs. By completing a formal dental assisting program, you’ll learn the skills you need and will be more attractive to employers as a result.
Depending on whether you study full or part-time, you can complete a basic training program in as little as one semester. More advanced programs may take two or three semesters, and the most advanced may take up to a year to complete.
Some in-person programs in dental assisting in Hawai’i include:
- Kapi’olani Community College, Honolulu – This college has the only CODA-accredited dental assisting program in the state. The program is comprised of two parts; the Certificate of Competence and the Certificate of Achievement. Upon completing the Certificate of Achievement, graduates are eligible to sit the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) examination to become Certified Dental Assistants (CDA).
- Dental Technology Center of Hawaii, Honolulu
- Hawaii Dental Assisting Academy, Honolulu
If you’d prefer to study online, your options are almost limitless! The advantages of studying online are numerous; you are not limited by geography, can learn at your own pace, and there’s no need to travel to class. There are hundreds of programs available from all kinds of providers, including:
- Penn Foster Career School Dental Assistant Program Career Diploma – a self-paced course that includes the option of local hands-on training
- Hawai’i Community College Clinical Dental Assistant and Administrative Dental Assistant programs
- US Career Institute Dental Assistant School
Although certification is not required for dental assistants in Hawai’i, it will improve your career prospects. With professional certification, you can showcase your skills and demonstrate to potential employers that you achieve high standards in your work. The CDA (certified dental assistant, regulated by the Dental Assisting National Board) certification is the most common certification for dental assistants in the US and is achieved by passing three exams:
- General Chairside Assisting (GC)
- Chairside procedures
- Chairside and laboratory materials
- Data collection and recording
- Office procedures
- Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
- Radiation regulations
- Radiation safety
- Infection control in dental radiography
- Infection Control (ICE)
- Aseptic conditions
- Occupational safety
- Instrument processing
- Prevention of cross-contamination
There are several pathways to certification, but you’ll need to complete a dental assisting program or have work experience as a dental assistant first.
According to the DANB, certified dental assistants earn an average of $2.01 more per hour than non-certified dental assistants. The majority enjoy better work-related benefits, including paid vacation and sick leave, medical insurance, pension plan, and free dental care. Certification makes you a more attractive prospect to potential employers. It enables you to work in areas where certification is required, such as Federal agencies and specific states.
Career Outlook, Progression, and Salary Prospects
Jobs in dental assisting are growing at a rate of 5.7% in Hawai’i and 11% nationally. Between 2012 and 2022, an expected 50 jobs will become available in the state. Dental assisting is growing across the US and is not likely to slow shortly, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities to find work anywhere in the country. As the population ages, there is more demand for dental work, both medical and cosmetic. People are also becoming much more aware of what good dental health involves. The ‘Instagram age’ has also led to an increased interest in bright white smiles.
There is an ongoing lack of healthcare workers in Hawai’i and several other states as people move away to pursue higher wages. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average (mean) salary of dental assistants in Hawaii is $36,530, ranging between $26,000 in the 10th percentile and $49,950 in the 90th percentile. The average hourly rate is $17.56. Pay varies depending on the precise job role, level of training achieved, and years of experience in the profession.
As a dental assistant, the most common places to work are dental offices and hospitals. Still, there are roles available in other settings like schools and doctors’ offices. Federal agencies and the military usually employ their own medical teams. These roles are highly sought-after among healthcare professionals. You’ll need to be comfortable wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves, masks, and coveralls.
Although dental assisting is a rewarding role in its own right, it can also be the first step towards other related positions like a dental hygienist. Becoming a dental hygienist requires completing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, which can take two to four years or longer if you study part-time. It’s a competitive field, and the benefits include a higher salary, much greater responsibility, and a more comprehensive range of tasks within the dental office.