How to Become a Dental Assistant in South Carolina
Undergoing training as a dental assistant can be a great career move. This applies whether your goal is to obtain the certification and work directly in the field or use it as a stepping stone to a career as a dental hygienist or even a dentist. But how do you get started, and what can you expect from training? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
The guide below has everything you need to decide if this is the career for you and start on your path to becoming a dental assistant.
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Each state has its scope of practice for dental assistants, meaning the job duties can vary depending on where you live.
In South Carolina, dental assistants are split into two groups, Dental Assistants and Expanded Duty Dental Assistant (EDDA), each with a list of approved procedures.
The following is a list of the procedures a dental assistant can do under the supervision of a licensed dentist in South Carolina:
- Set up the proper tools for a procedure
- Take dental x-rays (if trained and certified to do so)
- Take medical histories
- Chart existing applications, missing teeth, or restorations
- Remove orthodontic ligatures
- Remove sutures
- Place and remove rubber dams
- Assist in chairside procedures
- Place and remove periodontal packs
- Apply topical drugs under the supervision
- Place and remove matrix
EDDAs can expect to perform the following additional tasks under the supervision of a licensed dentist:
- Place gingival retraction cords
- Polish restorations and supragingival tooth structure
- Application of pit and fissure sealant
- Take impressions for study models
- Cement temporary crowns or bridges
- Place temporary restorations
- Monitor nitrous oxide conscious sedation/analgesia (only with state certification)
- Remove excess cement from restorations and/or appliances
- Place and remove socket dressings
In addition to the above tasks, those working under the direction of the Department of Health and Environmental Control Public Health Dental Program may perform the following duties under direct supervision:
- Perform oral screenings using the approved screening system
- Assist the dentist in the delivery of public health dental program services
- Any other duties authorized by the State Board of Dentistry
Regardless of where you work, you will be dealing with patients, some of whom will be under severe stress and worried about the procedure they are facing.
As health care professionals, dental assistants bear a great deal of responsibility and need to know how to perform each procedure with complete competence.
Dental Assistant Schools in South Carolina
Dental assistant schools are the best starting places for those who want to get started on this career path. Students can expect to learn some dental assisting programs or all of the above procedures plus dental terminology, anatomy, dental law and ethics, pharmacology, infection control, and OSHA regulations.
You can attend classes in person or consider an online dental training school, like the one that is offered by Penn Foster.
In-person training opportunities in South Carolina include the following:
- Spartanburg Community College in Spartanburg, SC, offers an Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma.
- Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC, offers an Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma.
- York Technical College in Rock Hill, SC offers a Dental Office Certificate, an Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma and an Associate’s in Applied Science degree in Expanded Duty Dental Assisting.
- Greenville Technical College in Greenville, SC, offers an Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma in Applied Science.
- Aiken Technical College in Graniteville, SC, offers a Dental Assisting Diploma and a Dental Assisting Certificate.
- Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, SC, offers an Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma.
- Florence-Darlington Community College in Florence, SC, offers Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma in Applied Science.
- Fortis in Columbia, SC, offers a Dental Assisting program and an Expanded Functions Dental Assisting program.
You can generally expect a dental assisting program to take one year to complete. In contrast, dental hygienists typically train for two years.
Dental Student Financial Aid Opportunities
For many, finding the money to attend school is a barrier to success; however, financial aid is available for those who qualify. For federal financial assistance, you can begin by filling out a FAFSA form online.
The South Carolina Commission for Higher Education also lists several financial aid options and scholarships on its website. Finally, it is worthwhile to look for available scholarships through professional organizations like the American Student Dental Association, the America Dental Education Association, or the American Dental Assistants Association.
Licensing and Certification for Dental Assistants in South Carolina
As of 2021, South Carolina does not have a licensing requirement for dental assistants in South Carolina. However, Expanded Duty Dental Assistants can become certified and licensed for Nitrous Oxide Monitoring.
In addition, dental assistants who perform radiography will need to hold a certification from an organization that has been approved by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
In addition, dental assistants can seek Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) accreditation through the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB). This certification consists of examinations in three areas:
- General Chairside Assisting (GC)
- Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)
- Infection Control (ICE)
The exam costs $450, and you must have your CPR certification before sitting for it.
Employment Expectations for Dental Assistants in South Carolina
Dental assisting careers are continuing to grow in the United States. And that growth is projected to continue into 2028, with an 11.2 percent predicted growth in the ten years prior. This data translates to approximately 38,700 new jobs being created in the field and 44,800 job openings annually.
South Carolina Dental Assistant Salaries
According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants in South Carolina brought in an average annual salary of $41,010 in 2020. In the same year, dental assistant salaries ranged from a low of $30,130 to $53,150 at the top end of the scale. These differences in pay rates likely reflect experience, employer, and location.
For comparison, South Carolina dental hygienists, who spend on average one year longer in training, made a mean annual salary of $61,630, ranging between $40,280 and $81,180. With a $20,620 increase in potential wages, those with the ambition and ability may want to consider going straight to a dental hygienist program rather than training as a dental assistant first.
What is the Potential for Career Growth in Dental Assisting in South Carolina?
So, where do dental assistants work? According to the BLS, most dental assistants work in dental offices, physicians’ offices, and outpatient care centers. The website also lists the industries with the highest wages in the profession. These employers include state governments, dental offices, nursing care facilities, and ambulatory health care services. Those who assume management roles are also in the top five for receiving the best pay within the profession.
While not the top runner for employment and wages for dental assistants, South Carolina is also no slouch, landing within the top 50th percentile in both areas. There are also several open job positions in the state, with a wide range of potential employers. A few examples from the job board at the National Labor Exchange include the U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, the Office of the Secretary of Labor, Aspen Dental, the Medical University of South Carolina, and Allied Universal.
As mentioned above, many dental assistants use the career as a step along the way to becoming a dental hygienist. It is possible that others even decide to become full dentists after gaining some experience as dental assistants. Of course, many gainfully employed dental assistants are content and happy working in the field.
In short, dental assisting is an excellent career choice whether you are planning to use it as a stop along the way or as a career goal in and of itself. Regardless of your ultimate goal, working as a dental assistant can be a wonderfully rewarding experience.
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