How to Become a Dental Assistant in Maryland
Are you interested in starting a career in healthcare that doesn’t require years of training? Becoming a dental assistant in Maryland may be a good choice for you. For this career, you’ll need attention to detail and good interpersonal skills. You’ll help the office run smoothly, and you’ll be a vital member of the dental team.
Tasks Performed by Dental Assistants
A great thing about a career as a dental assistant is that your job may include a wide variety of tasks. It may blend hands-on dental care with office functions and you’re likely to find that every day will be interesting and fulfilling. While each work setting is different, some of your tasks may include:
- Getting rooms and equipment ready for dental care
- Helping patients feel comfortable before, during, and after treatment
- Handing instruments to the dentist during procedures or preventive care
- Cleaning and sterilizing dental instruments
- Explaining procedures to patients and giving instructions on good oral hygiene
- Completing lab tasks under the dentist’s direction
- Scheduling appointments
- Keeping organized dental records
- Ordering supplies
- Working with patients on billing
You may need computer skills to take care of office management tasks. You’ll interact with people most of the day and you’ll gain the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping others.
What’s Required to Become a Dental Assistant in Maryland?
In the state of Maryland, you can perform basic supportive dental care under the direction of a licensed dentist. Suppose you’re working as a Maryland dental assistant under the supervision for a sealant program. In that case, you’ll need to complete the following steps:
- Maintain CPR certification through the American Red Cross or Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers through the American Heart Association.
- Complete 400 hours of clinical practice for dental patient care.
- Complete a Board-approved course that’s at least two hours long in Infection Control.
You’ll also need a signed agreement with the supervising dentist stating what you’ve been allowed to practice under supervision.
Performing Expanded Functions in Maryland
On-the-job training allows you to gain experience in basic skills. There are more advanced levels of dental assisting, and to qualify, you’ll need to register as a Dental Assistant Qualified in General Duties. The steps you’ll need to take are as follows:
- Complete a Board-approved course in Maryland General Duties Dental Assisting lasting a minimum of 35 hours
- Pass one of the specialized exams through DANB, which means either DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam or the Maryland General Dental Assisting Expanded Functions (MGDA).
It’s recommended but not required that you earn status as a Dental Radiation Technologist. This status allows you to perform dental radiologic procedures and operate x-ray equipment. To achieve this designation, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and complete an approved course that’s at least 24 hours long.
You can also specialize as a Dental Assistant Qualified in Orthodontics. This option requires completing a Board-approved course in orthodontic dental assisting that’s a minimum of 35 hours. You’ll need to pass the Maryland Orthodontic Assisting Expanded Functions exam or the national DANB Certified Orthodontic Assistant Exam.
Dental Assistant Programs and Dental Assistant Schools in Maryland
When you enroll in a formal dental assistant training program, your training will include classroom and clinical experience. Subjects may include:
- Dental terminology
- Dental anatomy
- Dental radiology
- Disinfection and sterilization
- Disease transmission
- Charting and record-keeping
- Insurance and billing
Some of the programs offered in this state include:
- Harford Community College – Located in Abingdon, MD, this program is taught by experienced industry professionals. It consists of 88 hours of dental assistant training followed by an externship of 40 hours.
- Community College of Baltimore – This program can be completed in 16-20 weeks. Dental courses are offered at CCBC Randallstown and CCBC Dundalk. Upon completing the program, students can apply for an unpaid externship to gain hands-on experience.
Another option is to pursue dental assistant training online through Penn Foster. This allows you to learn online at a pace that’s right for you. Once completed, you’ll have a career diploma in dental assisting.
Dental Assisting National Board
The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) credential. The requirements for this credential include:
- Completing a DANB-approved dental assisting program OR
- Graduating from high school OR equivalent AND completing on-the-job training in dental assisting skills for at least two years OR
- Passing the DANB Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam AND the DANB Infection Control (ICE) exam
Dental Assistant Certification in Maryland
You are not required to earn dental assistant certification in Maryland, but it can help you stand out from the competition when seeking employment. Many employers prefer to hire certified dental assistants because they have met specific requirements and demonstrated their commitment to the profession.
How Much Do Maryland Dental Assistants Get Paid?
Dental assistant salaries can vary widely based on location and the amount of training and experience you have. The median salary of dental assistants across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2020, was $41,180. Dental assistants typically make anywhere from $28,940 to $58,390.
Salaries in the state of Maryland are very similar to national wages. The median pay in Maryland as of August 2021, according to Salary.com, was $41,163. The pay range in this state is usually between $36,503 and $45,675.
Career Outlook for Dental Assistants in Maryland
Healthcare careers tend to have plenty of employment opportunities, and dental assistants are no exception. CareerOneStop reports that the projected employment of dental assistants nationally will increase approximately 7 percent between 2019 and 2029. Projected employment is expected to grow even more in Maryland at a rate of roughly 11 percent between 2018 and 2028.
Potential for Advancement
When you begin a career in dental assisting, you’re entering a stable and well-paid career path. If you’re interested in higher pay and further advancement, you may eventually wish to pursue training as a dental hygienist. This field requires completing an associate’s degree program or a bachelor’s degree program to learn more advanced skills. Admission to dental hygienist programs is competitive, but your experience as a dental assistant may be to your advantage.
Your Career as a Maryland Dental Assistant
You’ll find opportunities to work as a Maryland dental assistant, mainly in dentists’ offices. Still, some jobs are available in doctor’s offices, schools, and government settings. You’ll work closely with the dentist and with dental hygienists and you’ll be an essential member of the dental team. To protect yourself and patients from the spread of infections, you’ll wear a mask, protective clothing, and gloves. Most jobs are full-time, but there are also some part-time opportunities. You’ll find many job openings all over the state of Maryland, especially in larger cities such as Baltimore and Columbia.
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