How to Become a Dental Assistant in Missouri

The role of a dental assistant varies by employer and state. In general, they help dentists and dental hygienists keep offices running smoothly. They check patients in and get them ready for appointments, assist dentists during procedures and exams, clean and prep exam rooms and equipment, operating X-ray equipment, and perform more advanced functions if qualified.

Missouri recognizes two levels of dental assistants. You do not need any formal training or education to get started. However, to perform expanded functions and have more career opportunities, it’s essential to take approved courses or earn a credential from a dental assistant school.  

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Types of Dental Assistants in Missouri

The Missouri Dental Board recognizes two levels of dental assistants working in the state:

  • Dental Assistant. This is an entry-level position with no formal requirements. You only need to find a dentist to hire and train you on the job. The state board limits the duties you can perform at this level.
  • Expanded Function Dental Assistant (EFDA). As an EFDA, the board still limits duties but allows more than at the entry-level position. The functions you can perform depend on the courses you’ve taken and your credentials. To be an EFDA, you need to meet special education and certification requirements.

Missouri has no official requirements or licensing for the operation of X-rays. Any level of dental assistant may perform radiography procedures if the supervising dentist allows it.

How to Become an EFDA in Missouri

There are three pathways: you can begin working as a dental assistant in the state with no formal training or coursework. You can start at this entry-level as you work to meet the EFDA requirements. You can also begin at the EFDA level by meeting the requirements first.

  1. Graduate from a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA)-accredited dental assistant program and hold the certified dental assistant (CDA) certification from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).
  2. Earn CDA certification and complete an expanded functions training course approved by the Missouri Dental Board.
  3. Complete Board-Approved expanded functions courses and pass the Missouri Test of Basic Dental Assisting Skills.

In addition to one of the above pathways, you must also have an approved basic life support certification and submit an application to the Missouri Dental Board.

What Can EFDAs Do in Missouri?

Missouri has five categories of expanded functions permits with allowable duties for EFDAs:

  1. Restorative I. This permit allows you to place and work on certain classes of amalgam, composite restorations, prefabricated crowns, and sedative fillings in emergencies.
  2. Restorative II. This expands on the first permit to allow work on other classes.
  3. Orthodontic. With this permit, you can make impressions in certain situations.
  4. Fixed Prosthodontics. This allows the EFDA to make impressions and other preparations for fixed prosthodontics.
  5. Removable Prosthodontics. The fifth permit allows for making impressions for fixed prosthodontics, plus placement and adjustments.

These functions can only be performed by an EFDA under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist.

Accredited Dental Assistant Programs in Missouri

Completion of a dental assistant program is not required in Missouri, but it is an excellent way to start out in the industry. An approved program lays the foundation for your career and for earning credentials to further your career. The following schools have CODA-approved programs:

  • Metropolitan Community College – Penn Valley, Kansas City
  • State Technical College of Missouri, Linn
  • Ozarks Technical Community College, Springfield
  • St. Louis Community College – Forest Park, St. Louis

Penn Foster has an online program for dental assisting if you cannot find a program that works with your location.

Completing an academic program is essential if you think you might want to become a dental hygienist one day. Many schools offer bridge programs that allow you to apply the previous dental assisting coursework and degrees to a dental hygiene program.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant in Missouri?

If you choose to skip dental assistant school, you can begin training on the job right away. However, your job options may be limited. Completing a program gives you more choices but requires an investment of time. These programs take between one and two years to complete.

Career Growth in Dental Assisting

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that dental assisting is a growing field, with a faster growth rate than average. The number of positions available between 2020 and 2030 should increase by 11% nationwide.

Missouri’s Economic Research and Information Center reports a slower growth rate in dental assisting jobs for the state. It projects just one percent growth in positions between 2018 and 2028.

Salaries for Dental Assistants

According to the BLS, dental assistants across all states earn a median salary of $41,180 per year. The median hourly rate for dental assistants is $19.80. Those with the highest salaries make over $58,000 per year.

The BLS lists the average salary range for dental assistants in Missouri to be between $37,740 and $40,980 per year. Missouri puts the average at $38,350 per year.

Job Opportunities for Dental Assistants in Missouri

Although the growth in the state doesn’t match the national rate, Missouri still expects to see hundreds of open positions for dental assistants in the coming years. You can expect to find the most openings in the state’s major population centers, including Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield, and Columbia. Don’t overlook less populated areas. Wherever dentists work, they need good dental assistants.

Most dental assistants work in dental practices, but you can find opportunities with other types of employers. Dental assistants also work in physician offices, community clinics, residential nursing homes and assisted living facilities and dental schools. Government agencies also hire dental assistants.

A career as a dental assistant is a good option if you’re interested in healthcare and working with patients. The education requirements are much less than for other health-related careers. You can get started at a job sooner and begin working with patients and earning an income in less than two years.

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