Become a Dental Assistant in New Jersey
Healthcare careers are growing as the population ages, and more people demand good care. Dental assistants play a big role in providing safe, effective healthcare. They work with dentists and dental hygienists but also directly with patients. For a hands-on health career that doesn’t require years of school, consider becoming a dental assistant in New Jersey.
What is it Like to Be a Dental Assistant in New Jersey?
Dental assistants at all levels are responsible for several duties in dental offices and other settings:
- Checking in patients and preparing them for exams and procedures
- Educating patients about oral hygiene and dentists’ instructions
- Cleaning and sterilizing instruments and equipment to prepare for exams and procedures
- Handing the dentist instruments and assisting in other ways during procedures
- Applying topical anesthesia
- Taking dental photographs
- Keeping and filing records
- Scheduling appointments
New Jersey recognizes two levels of dental assistants:
- Unregistered dental assistant. This level requires no specific education or training. Duties are primarily limited to those listed above.
- Registered dental assistant. This level allows for more duties, like placing amalgam and taking impressions, all under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. These dental assistants must register with the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry.
The state also registers orthodontic assistants. They work under the supervision of licensed orthodontists, who treat dental abnormalities with things like braces and surgery.
How to Become a New Jersey Dental Assistant
There are no requirements for working as an unregistered dental assistant in the state. If you want to begin at this level, you only need to find a dentist to hire you and train you on the job.
To become a registered dental assistant, you must go through these steps:
- Complete high school or have a GED.
- Enroll in and complete a dental assistant program approved by the New Jersey Board and accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). As an alternative to this, you can qualify with two years of dental assistant work experience and a passing score on the New Jersey Expanded Duties – General Exam.
- Pass the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) exam to become a Certified Dental Assistant.
- Apply for a license with the New Jersey State Board of Dentistry.
How to Qualify to Take X-Rays in New Jersey
New Jersey allows dental assistants at any level to perform X-rays. Still, you must become licensed in the state as a Dental Radiologic Technologist through the state’s Radiologic Technology Board of Examiners. Licensing requirements include:
- A high school diploma or GED and a minimum age of 18
- Good moral character
- Completion of a state-approved course in dental radiography
- A passing score on the DANB radiation health and safety exam
Accredited Dental Assistant Programs in New Jersey
Completing an academic program in dental assisting is not a requirement in New Jersey. However, this credential can help you become a better candidate for jobs, command a higher salary, and serve as a bridge to career growth. New Jersey has four schools with CODA-accredited programs:
- Camden County College, Blackwood
- Cape May County Technical School District, Cape May
- Fortis Institute, Wayne,
- Burlington County Institute of Technology, Westampton
If these locations don’t work for you, try Penn Foster, an institution that offers a nationwide online course for dental assisting.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Dental Assistant Program?
How long it takes to complete a program depends on which one you choose. For instance, Camden County College offers both a certificate and an associate degree in dental assisting. The certificate program includes 41 credits of courses and takes about one year to complete.
The associate degree program, like most, takes two years to finish at full-time status. It includes 60 credits of coursework. One of the benefits of completing a degree is applying it toward earning a four-year degree or becoming a dental hygienist.
What Will I Learn in Dental Assisting School?
There are many benefits to going to school to become a dental assistant. These opportunities include career advancement, higher pay rates and better opportunities. A program will prepare you to begin working right away, with no need for on-the-job training. Some things you’ll learn about include:
- Dental anatomy
- Chairside assisting
- Dental radiology
- Dental laboratory procedures
- Preventive dentistry
- Clinical experience
- Office administration
Career Growth in Dental Assisting
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers for dental assistants are growing across the country. Job growth in the field is 7%, higher than average job growth.
New Jersey projections report even more robust growth for the state. It projects that dental assisting careers will grow by 8.9% from 2018 to 2028. This amounts to 0.9% growth per year and a total of nearly 1,000 more jobs for dental assistants over the ten-year period.
Typical Salaries for Dental Assistants
BLS statistics report a median annual salary for dental assistants of $41,180 across the U.S. The hourly rate for dental assistants is $19.80. Those in the field that make the most earn more than $58,390 per year. Experience, credentials, and location impact salary.
Job Opportunities for Dental Assistants in New Jersey
Dental assistants mainly work for dentists in private practices. Dentists are not the only employers, though, so expand your search to government agencies, physician offices, hospitals, dental teaching schools, nursing homes and community clinics.
You can find a job as a dental assistant anywhere dentists work. This includes both rural and urban areas, although you will see more options in the latter. Look for the highest number of jobs in metropolitan areas outside of New York City and Philadelphia and in and around Jersey City, Newark, and Paterson.
To become a dental assistant in New Jersey, you have options. If you have the time and can afford to do so, start with a dental assistant school. With these schools, you’ll be better prepared for the job and enjoy better opportunities throughout your career.
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