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Utah Dental Assisting Programs

Utah makes it easy to begin a career as a dental assistant, with no formal training or education requirements. If you enjoy working with people, are interested in healthcare, and don’t want to go to school for four years, this could be the job for you.

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental assistants work with dentists and dental hygienists to keep practices running well and patients safe. Some typical duties include:

  • Check patients in and get them ready for procedures and exams
  • Sanitize and prep equipment and instruments
  • Assist dentists during procedures
  • Communicating with patients to educate them about oral hygiene and explain the dentist’s instructions
  • Take phone calls, schedule patients, and perform other administrative duties
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Utah also allows dental assistants to polish teeth with a rubber cup and take impressions for diagnostics and models.

You may also be able to operate radiography equipment and take X-rays if you meet the state’s requirements. There are three ways to qualify:

  1. Complete a dental assistant program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
  2. Pass the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Radiation Health and Safety Exam.
  3. Complete a radiology course and exam approved by the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board.

How to Become a Dental Assistant in Utah

Utah does not license or register dental assistants. The only requirement to hold the title and to work in this position is a current CPR certification. With this in mind, there are two main paths you can take to become a dental assistant:

  • Complete a dental assistant program to earn a diploma, certificate, or degree.
  • Find a dentist to hire and train you as a dental assistant.

Regardless of which path you choose, all dental assistants in Utah must work under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

Salt Lake City

Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah

Should I Go to Dental Assistant School?

School is not required for dental assisting in Utah, so you can if you want to start working immediately. However, there are good reasons to start with education:

  • You are likely to have more job opportunities with a degree or diploma.
  • With a completed program, you don’t need much on-the-job training.
  • You can earn more with a credential.
  • Completing courses will make it easier to earn a Certified Dental Assistant credential through the Dental Assisting National Board.
  • You may be able to apply completed courses to a degree in dental hygiene if you want to advance your career.

Dental Assistant Schools in Utah

Because the state doesn’t require dental assistants to complete a program, none in Utah are accredited by CODA. You can still find several dental assistant programs that will prepare you to begin working in the field:

  • Fortis College, Salt Lake City
  • Ogden-Weber Technical College, Ogden
  • Mountainland Technical College, Lehi, Orem, Spanish Fork, and Heber City
  • Genesis Dental Assistant School, South Jordan
  • Dental Fundamentals School of Dental Assisting, Salt Lake City
  • Creekside Academy of Dental Assisting, Cottonwood Heights

Another option is to complete an online course. You can satisfy all the requirements for the Penn Foster dental assistant program from anywhere.

What Will I Learn in a Dental Assistant Program?

Dental assistant programs vary to some degree but have many courses in common. You can expect to learn how to:

  • Perform basic chairside and laboratory procedures
  • Sterilize equipment and instruments
  • Prepare exam rooms and equipment for use
  • Create dental charts
  • Use X-ray equipment
  • Enter patient records
  • Perform administrative tasks

Many programs require clinical experience. You may be placed in a clinic or dental office to practice hands-on dental assisting skills. You may also be required to complete an internship.

What Are the Career Options for Dental Assistants?

If you do not complete a dental assistant program, expect to begin with an entry-level position in a dental office. You will be trained on the job, most likely by a dental hygienist, while working under the dentist’s supervision.

A dental office is the most common workplace for a dental assistant but not the only one. Dental assistants work in hospitals, clinics, community health centers, residential nursing homes, physician offices, and medical centers. Moreover, some government agencies also hire dental assistants, as do university dental schools.

Depending on the employer’s size, you may perform all the duties of a dental assistant or focus more on administrative or clinical tasks. Dental assistants can also work toward more advanced or related careers, such as dental hygienists or dental lab technicians.

What is the Career Outlook for Dental Assistants?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistant careers are multiplying faster than the average rate for all jobs. It projects a ten-year growth of 11% across the country. This amounts to 44,000 openings per year from 2020 to 2030. 

Utah’s projections for growth are slower than average, just 2.4%. This rate still shows impressive growth and means that you can expect to have many job opportunities over the next ten years. This equates to 880 positions each year due to new jobs opening up and people leaving the field or retiring.

Typical Salaries

The median annual salary for dental assistants, according to the BLS, is $41,180. The median hourly rate across the country is $19.80. Those who earn the most work for the government. Dental assistants also earn more by working for larger employers and with credentials and years of experience on the job. The top 10% of earners in the field make more than $58,390 per year.

Unfortunately, Utah has some of the lowest salaries for dental assistants. The BLS reports that average annual wages in the state are between $19,370 and $37,410. According to Utah’s statistics, the compensation for an entry-level dental assistant is $25,300 per year, while the average for all dental assistants in the state is $32,390.

Finding a Job in Utah as a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are employed all over the state, wherever dentists work. You will find more choices in big population centers like Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden, and St. George.

These recent job listings on Indeed.com will give you an idea of the opportunities in the state for dental assistants:

  • Dental assistant, Smith Dental Care of Sandy, Utah, Sandy, $14 to $20 per hour
  • Dental assistant, Virgin Valley Dental, St. George, $14 to $20 per hour
  • Dental assisting instructor, Fortis College, Salt Lake City, $21 to $26 per hour
  • Dental assistant, pediatric office, Dry Creek Pediatric Dentistry, $13 to $17 per hour

Working as a dental assistant can be a rewarding career. It allows you to get into the healthcare industry without earning a degree. If you want to work hands-on with patients, but don’t have much time for school, consider this career.


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