Dental Assisting Education in Virginia
There are many great career choices in the healthcare field. If you’re a person who likes working with people and making a difference in their lives, consider pursuing a career as a Virginia dental assistant.
It’s a fast-growing occupation, so there are likely to be plenty of job opportunities. It pays more than many other healthcare support careers, and there are many opportunities for advancement.
Tasks of a Virginia Dental Assistant
One factor that makes dental assisting a good career choice is that your duties are exciting and varied.
While different settings may require you to perform multiple tasks, your job will probably be a blend of dental care support functions and administrative tasks.
Job duties may include:
- Preparing treatment rooms and work areas for patients
- Guiding patients to rooms and helping to put them at ease
- Sterilizing and preparing dental instruments
- Processing lab tasks or x-rays under the direction of the dentist
- Explaining proper oral hygiene to patients
- Maintaining dental records
- Scheduling appointments
- Working with dental insurance companies to verify coverage and with patients regarding payment
You’ll work closely with the dentist and dental hygienist, and possibly the dental lab technician.
Being a detail-oriented person with good communication skills is necessary if you’re interested in this profession.
You’ll need to be sensitive to patients’ feelings, keeping in mind that some may be uneasy or fearful about going to the dentist.
What are the Requirements to be a Dental Assistant in Virginia?
There are two levels of dental assistants in Virginia. They are:
Dental Assistant I (DA I)
There aren’t formal requirements to work as a DA I in Virginia. Your training will be on the job under the direction of a licensed dentist, and you’ll learn basic supportive procedures.
Dental Assistant II (DA II)
To become a DA II, you’re required to complete a board-approved expanded functions program from a program accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).
You’ll need to hold a current certification as a DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) and apply to the Virginia Board of Dentistry for registration.
Any dental assistant who assists with dental sedation must be certified in basic resuscitation techniques or hold current certification as a certified anesthesia assistant.
To operate dental x-ray equipment, you need to earn certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Otherwise, you need to complete a radiation safety course and exam through a CODA-accredited dental assisting program. Another option is to pass the national DANB Radiation Health and Safety exam (RHS).
Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Exams
The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers three exams for dental assistants:
- The Infection Control Exam
- The Radiology Health and Safety Exam and
- The General Chairside Exam.
You may choose to take one or all of these exams.
The DANB website has a list of state dental board contact information.
The DANB exams are not required for dental assistant licensure in Virginia, but they may help meet the requirements for DA II registration.
Additionally, some employers prefer or require their employees to be DANB certified.
Dental Assisting Programs and Dental Assistant Schools in Virginia
Dental assistant programs include both classroom and hands-on lessons.
Students learn a wide variety of skills such as chairside assisting, preventive dentistry, and dental office management.
There are five CODA-accredited dental assistant programs in Virginia. They are:
Centura College, Norfolk
- Centura College, Norfolk
- Fortis College, Richmond
- Germana Community College
- Northern Virginia Community College
- Reynolds Community College
Some students prefer to get dental assistant training online. Penn Foster offers a program in dental assisting that allows students to prepare for this career from home at convenient times.
Salary Range of Virginia Dental Assistants
Dental assistants in Virginia earn a median income of $41,180 as of May 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
According to Salary.com, in Virginia, the salary of dental assistants ranges from $35,259 to $44,115 as of September 2021.
The pay that you earn can vary based on location and whether you’ve completed a training program, along with how much experience you have
Projected Employment Opportunities for Dental Assistants in Virginia
Nationally, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow around 7 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to CareerOneStop.
In Virginia, it’s projected to be even higher, with 1,120 annual job openings and projected growth of 11 percent between 2018 and 2028.
Advancement Potential in Dental Assisting
One of the exciting things about a career as a dental assistant in Virginia is the potential for advancement.
If you start as a DA I, you can advance to a DA II with some education and training.
If you choose to in the future, you can return to school to become a dental hygienist for higher pay and even more job opportunities. You’ll need to complete an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program in dental hygiene if you wish to do this.
A Career as a Virginia Dental Assistant
When you pursue a career as a Virginia dental assistant, you’ll find opportunities to work full-time or part-time.
While most jobs are in public or private dental offices, you may be able to find employment in schools or physician’s offices.
Most dental assistants work during the day, but some settings may also have evening or weekend hours.
As a dental assistant, you’ll be an essential part of the dental team. You’ll find opportunities all over the state of Virginia, especially in larger cities like Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, or Norfolk.
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