How to Become a Dental Assistant in Louisiana
Dental assisting is an essential part of dental practices. They work alongside dentists and dental hygienists, performing small tasks and constantly interacting with patients.
The Louisiana State Board of Dentistry recognizes two types of dental assistants: traditional dental assistants and expanded duty dental assistants (EDDA). No training, education, or certification is required to work as a dental assistant.
EDDA have more duties and responsibilities than regular dental assistants, so training is necessary. If you are interested in a job in health care that allows you to interact with and help people, consider becoming a dental assistant in Louisiana.
What Does a Dental Assistant do?
Dental assistants help dental hygienists and dentists with their responsibilities, giving them some flexibility and allowing them to do their jobs more productively.
The duties of a dental assistant will vary by employer, but Louisiana dental assistants generally perform the following tasks while under the supervision of a licensed dentist:
- Act as chairside assistant to the dentist
- Take radiographs and intra-oral photographs
- Develop radiographs and intra-oral photographs
- Take the patient’s vital signs
- Apply topical anesthetics and fluorides
- Chart missing teeth and restorations
- Inspect the patient’s mouth and floss their teeth
- Educate patients on oral hygiene
- Make plaque smears
- Remove dental cement from appliances and restorations
- Place and remove crowns
- Remove impressions
- Place a retainer in the patient’s mouth
- Remove sutures
- Condition teeth
Dental assistants cannot apply cavity liners, cap exposed pulp tissue, place or remove matrices, periodontal dressings, or retraction cords.
What Does an Expanded Duty Dental Assistant do?
A certified expanded duty dental assistant has more responsibilities than a dental assistant but less than a dental hygienist or dentist.
Duties must still be performed while supervised by a licensed dentist. Dental assistant training is necessary to become an EDDA.
Depending on the level of expanded duty courses that the EDDA has completed, they may do any of the following:
- Place or remove matrices
- Apply cavity liners
- Coronal polishing
- Apply cavity bases
- Enhance temporary fixtures
- Place or remove retraction cords
According to the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry, Eddas aren’t allowed to perform the following tasks:
- Root planning
- Periodontal screening
- Placing antimicrobial agents
- Comprehensive exams
- Periodontal probing
- Administering local anesthesia
- Any surgical procedure
- Prescribing medication
Louisiana Radiography Requirements
Dental assistants in Louisiana are allowed to operate X-ray equipment and perform radiographic procedures in Louisiana if they meet the following requirements:
- Must complete a Louisiana State Board of Dentistry approved course in X-ray function and safety
- Must perform any X-ray functions under the supervision of a licensed dentist
How to Become an EDDA in Louisiana
To work as an EDDA in Louisiana, you must do all of the following:
- Complete an EDDA program that has been approved by the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry or Graduate from a Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredited program that provides training in expanded duties.
- Complete a state board-approved radiography course
- Have current basic life support (BLS) training
- Apply for confirmation of EDDA certification through the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry
As of this writing, the only EDDA courses that the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry recognizes are those taught at:
- The Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Dentistry
- The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM)
- Southern University at Shreveport
EDDA Certification Renewal in Louisiana
Your EDDA certification must be renewed every two years. The renewal process requires you to:
- Submit a completed renewal application
- Have current BLS certification
- Pay the required fees
You will receive a renewal packet in the mail approximately 60 days before your certification expires. If you do not renew your certification, you will have to retake the EDDA exam to regain certification.
Dental Assistant Programs and Dental Assistant Schools in Louisiana
The programs mentioned above are the only ones you can complete if you’re interested in becoming an EDDA.
Dental assisting schools in Louisiana that aren’t CODA accredited can only offer you a certificate or diploma in dental assisting.
To become a certified dental assistant, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have a high school diploma or GED certificate
- Complete an OSHA-approved Infection Control Course
- Submit to a criminal background check
- Receive a passing score on the Louisiana Jurisprudence Exam passing score on the DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam
- Apply for certification through the Louisiana State Board of Dentistry
However, if you only plan to become a dental assistant or at least start in that career, below are some options for dental assistant school in Louisiana:
- Offers hands-on training
- 10:1 student-teacher ratio
- 10-week program
- Saturday only classes
- Online lectures weekly, with in-person labs once a week
- 9-week program
- Your choice of enrolling in a program with in-person labs on Friday or Saturday to better fit your schedule
- Located in Slidell
- A 7.5-month program that prepares students for the national certification exam
- Externship opportunities and job placement assistance are available
- Several campus locations in Louisiana, as well as online
- Day or night classes are available
12-15 month program completion time
- Nationally accredited online program
- A self-paced program, so completion time depends on the student
Most dental assistant programs cover the same introductory coursework, including dental health and nutrition, oral histology, tooth structure, preventive dentistry, infection control, radiography, dental procedures, orthodontics, patient care, health care regulations, and general office administration management.
Career Opportunities for Dental Assistants
Dental assistants generally work in private dental practices and dental offices. They may also work in physician offices, hospitals, medical centers, community clinics, government agencies, and nursing homes.
Working as a dental assistant is a great entry-level job. Still, you may decide to work your way up in the field and eventually become a dental hygienist.
If you have already completed a dental assistant program, a lot of schools offer bridge programs to transition from working as a dental assistant to working in dental hygiene.
Career and Salary Outlook for Louisiana Dental Assistants
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career of dental assisting is growing remarkably. Across the United States, new positions in this job field are increasing by 11 percent. The statistics for the state of Louisiana are even better.
Dental assistant jobs in the state are predicted to increase by 18 percent between 2018 and 2028, with 80 new positions becoming available annually.
Louisiana dental assistants make a median annual salary of $34,600. Their average hourly wage is $16.64. The highest-paid assistants, make more than $58,000 annually.
The most common places for dental assistants to find employment are dental offices. Dental assistants who work for the government usually make more money than those who work elsewhere.
Finding a Job in Louisiana
Finding a job as a dental assistant in Louisiana should not be very complicated, with the growth rate as high as it is. You may be even more likely to find a job if you are an EDDA.
Qualified dental assistants are needed throughout the state, but larger cities like Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport have the most job openings, according to indeed.com.
If you are interested in a rewarding job in healthcare with a steady growth rate, consider becoming a dental assistant.
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