How to Become a Dental Assistant in Minnesota
If you love working with people and have an interest in healthcare or the dental profession consider becoming a dental assistant.
In Minnesota, you can begin working as a dental assistant right away with on-the-job training. You can also go to school first and qualify to become a licensed dental assistant. Successful completion of a dental assisting program at an accredited school is generally required to earn licensure.
Who is a Dental Assistant?
A dental assistant helps keep dental offices running smoothly and contributes to patient safety.
The role of a dental assistant is exactly as it sounds: to assist dentists and dental hygienists.
Their responsibilities allow dentists and hygienists to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
Duties and Responsibilities of a Dental Assistant
The exact duties and responsibilities of a dental assistant vary depending on the employer and credentials. In general, a dental assistant performs the following duties:
- Check patients into the office
- Get patients settled in the exam room and ready for their appointments
- Take patient vital signs
- Keep patient records up to date
- Prepare exam and procedures rooms for the dentist or hygienist
- Clean and sterilize equipment and instruments
- Assist the hygienist or dentists during cleanings, exams, and procedures
- Educate patients about oral hygiene and the dentist’s instructions
- Answer the phone and schedule appointments
- Assist with billing and taking payments from patients
- Perform other clerical and administrative duties
Minnesota also allows dental assistants, even those without a license, to perform specific minor procedures with supervision. They can retract the tongue or cheek during a procedure, for instance. They can also place topical medications and fluoride under the direction of a dentist.
Types of Dental Assistants Recognized in Minnesota
The Minnesota Board of Dentistry recognizes three levels of dental assistant: dental assistant, licensed dental assistant (LDA), and LDA with collaborative practice authorization.
For the first level, you only need to find a dentist willing to hire and train you. The dentist is responsible for making sure you can perform the allowed functions.
They must also ensure you are up to date with CPR certification and comply with state guidelines for infection control.
To become an LDA, you must meet specific education and training requirements.
Radiography Requirements in Minnesota
Dental assistants at any level can operate X-ray equipment if they meet certain qualifications. The requirements for LDAs include radiography.
If you are not an LDA, you must get a limit-license permit through the Board of Dentistry. To qualify for the permit, you must:
- Complete a dental assistant program
- Be qualified in any allied health profession in the state
- Complete a Board-approved course in dental radiography
- Pass the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) exam in Radiation Health and Safety
- Apply to the Board of Dentistry with the required fee
How to Become a Licensed Dental Assistant in Minnesota
The Minnesota Board of Dentistry sets several requirements for licensing. These are the steps you must take to become an LDA:
- Graduate from a dental assistant program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
- Pass the DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam.
- Pass the Minnesota Dental Assistant State Licensing Exam.
- Pass the state jurisprudence exam.
- Apply to the Board for a license.
You also must maintain a current CPR certification. Suppose you are performing restorative procedures as a dental assistant. Minnesota state board of dentistry also requires you to have a permit for this. The certified dental assistant (CDA) credential meets the permit requirements.
In that case, you must also complete a Board-approved course and submit proof of completing the course to the Board.
The Benefits of Becoming a Licensed Dental Assistant
Minnesota does not require a dental assistant to be licensed. It is an option but not mandatory.
You can begin working as a dental assistant without school or a license, but your duties will be limited.
While you may be eager to start working immediately, there are many good reasons to either become an LDA first or work toward getting a license:
- It may be easier to find a job. Dentists often give priority to LDAs.
- If you need to relocate to another state that requires licensing, your credential may transfer.
- Starting with dental assistant school better prepares you for the job.
- You’ll be able to perform more exciting functions and do more hands-on work with patients.
- It will be easier to transition to becoming a dental hygienist later.
- You can likely earn a higher salary with a license.
Accredited Dental Assistant Schools in Minnesota
If you want to become an LDA, you must complete a dental assistant program accredited by CODA.
Fortunately, Minnesota has several options. There are 13 schools with accredited programs in the state:
- Northwest Technical College, Bemidji
- Central Lakes College, Brainerd
- Hennepin Technical College, Brooklyn Park
- Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Canby
- Hibbing Community College, Hibbing
- Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Minneapolis
- Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Moorhead
- South Central College, North Mankato
- Rochester Community and Technical College, Rochester
- Dakota County Technical College, Rosemount
- St. Cloud Technical and Community College, Saint Cloud
- Herzing University, St. Louis Park
- Century College, White Bear Lake
Dental assisting program length can vary, but most full-time programs can be completed in less than two years. Dental assistant diploma and certificate programs typically take about 10 months to a year to complete.
Another option is to complete a program online. Penn Foster offers a dental assistant program that allows you to complete courses at your own pace and from your home.
What Will I Learn in a Dental Assisting Program?
Each program is unique, but because they are CODA-accredited, they should all have similar coursework and educational objectives.
These are some of the topics you can expect to study in an accredited dental assistant program:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Dental science
- Dental practice management
- Dental materials
- Dental communications
- Chairside assisting
- Preventative dentistry
- Dental radiology
- Medical emergencies
- Dental specialties or expanded functions
You can also expect to have a clinical course, which allows you to practice dental assisting skills in a real-world setting.
Alternatively, a dental assistant program may require students to complete an internship in a dental office or practice. Some schools also include courses for exam preparation to help you pass the required licensing exams. You may be able to take your required CPR certification as part of your program as well.
Career Outlook for Dental Assistants
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that dental assisting as a career is growing significantly.
This is much faster than average job growth and amounts to more than 40,000 positions per year between 2020 and 2030.
Minnesota’s statistics are similar, according to Projections Central. Long-term growth in the state is even faster at 12.2% from 2018 to 2028. Dental assistant graduates should have plenty of opportunities.
This means you can expect to see 750 open positions for dental assistants each year in the state.
The growth is related to an aging population with an increasing demand for healthcare and a rebound from the slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dental Assistant Salaries
The median salary for dental assistants in the U.S. is $41,180 per year. The median hourly pay is $19.80. The top 10% of earners make more than $58,390 per year. According to the BLS, dental assistants working for the government earn the most.
The BLS ranks Minnesota as the highest paying state for dental assistants. The average annual salary in the state is $53,670, and the average hourly rate is $25.80. Minnesota also has the country’s second-highest metropolitan area by pay for dental assistants. Those working in the Minneapolis–St. Paul-Bloomington area make $56,240 per year on average.
Finding a Job in Minnesota
With such strong job growth, finding a position in Minnesota shouldn’t be difficult, especially if you completed a program and earned a license.
To give you an idea of the opportunities, here are some recent job listings from Indeed.com:
- Dental assistant, Babcock & Morgan Family Dental, Prior Lake, $25 to $30 per hour
- Licensed dental assistant, All Family Dental, Oakdale, up to $28 per hour
- Unlicensed dental assistant, Hanover Dental PLLC, Hanover, $20 to $29 per hour
- Licensed dental assistant, All Smiles Dental, Medina, $27 to $34 per hour plus a $4,000 signing bonus
- Full-time dental assistant, Mill District Dental, Minneapolis, $30 to $34 per hour
Minnesota needs qualified dental assistants in all areas. If you’re ready for an exciting career in patient care, consider becoming a licensed dental assistant.
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