How to Become a Dental Assistant in West Virginia

Dental assistants in West Virginia are essential members of the team that significantly impact the dentistry practice. They perform a broad scope of duties – most under a licensed dentist’s supervision–and help with administrative tasks. The West Virginia Board of Dentistry (WVBD) does not have minimum training or certification requirements for dental assistants. Nor are there any radiographic requirements in the state. All requirements are left up to the discernment of the hiring dentist. However, to perform expanded duties as a dental assistant in West Virginia, there are specific qualifications you must meet.

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Levels of Dental Assisting in West Virginia

The WVBD recognizes two types of dental assistants in the state, dental assistants and expanded duty dental assistants.

Dental Assistant

West Virginia dental assistants can do basic dental procedures while supervised by a dentist without training. Some of their responsibilities include:

  • Acting as a chairside assistant
  • Taking and developing radiographs
  • Taking a patient’s vitals
  • Applying topical anesthetics
  • Charting missing teeth
  • Flossing teeth
  • Educating patients on oral hygiene
  • Placing and removing crowns
  • Removing sutures

Expanded Duty Dental Assistant

Expanded Duty Dental Assistants have more responsibilities than traditional dental assistants and can perform extra duties after training. To become an expanded duty dental assistant in West Virginia, you must undergo training and complete certification separately. Expanded responsibilities include:

  • Restorative and orthodontic duties
  • Coronal Polishing
  • Monitoring of anesthesia procedures
  • Monitoring patients during sedation

How to Become an Expanded Duty Dental Assistant in West Virginia

These are the qualifications for each expanded task recognized by the WVDB.

  • Restorative and Orthodontic Expanded Duties
  • Complete a course an exam for one or both of the duties that the WVDB the WVDB has approved
    • Complete the required clinical experiences
    • Apply for certification through the state board  ($25 application fee)
  • Coronal Polishing (on patients 21 years and older)
  • Complete two years (3,000 hours) of clinical experience at a dental practice
    • Complete a board-approved course and exam in restorative or orthodontics duties
    • Complete a board-approved course and exam in coronal Polishing
    • Demonstrate competency in at least five of the required dental techniques
    • Apply to the state board for certification ($25 application fee)
  • Monitoring Nitrous Oxide Anesthesia
  • Complete a board-approved course and exam on the monitoring of nitrous oxide
    • Hold current CPR and BLS certification
    • Apply to the state board for certification ($25 application fee)
  • Qualified Monitor During Sedation
  • Hold board certification to monitor nitrous oxide
    • Demonstrate competency in the treatment and recognition of the operation of nitrous oxide, monitoring vital signs and recognizing medical emergencies
    • Hold CPR and BLS certification
    • If you are administering or assisting with the administration of general anesthesia, you must complete a board-approved anesthesia assistant certificate program

Dental Assistant School in West Virginia

While it’s not mandatory for dental assistants to complete a dental assisting program, it does help teach necessary skills and provides hands-on experience. If you are interested in expanded duty dental assisting, you must complete a Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) approved program. Only one CODA-accredited program is offered in West Virginia. Still, other dental assisting programs are suitable for those not interested in expanded duties. These programs include:

  • CODA-accredited program
    • Ten-month program
    • It consists of classroom instruction as well as lab and clinical practice
    • Includes ten courses, must make an 80 percent of each course before moving on to the next one
  • Campuses in Charleston and Morgantown
    • A 36-week program, plus a six-week externship
    • Day and evening classes available
  • Small Classes
    • Interactive labs
    • Externship opportunities available
    • Graduates can register as a nationally registered dental assistant

If you can’t find an in-person program near you or prefer the flexibility of an online program, then the Penn Foster dental assisting program is a solid alternative. This exclusively online program is convenient, fast-paced and affordable.

If you choose to become an expanded duty dental assistant, you may have better luck finding a job and making more money than regular dental assistants. Furthermore, any coursework you complete may contribute to a bridge program if you decide to advance your career to the next level by becoming a dental hygienist.

Career Growth in Dental Assisting

According to the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) website, dental assisting jobs nationwide are growing at a rate of 11%. In West Virginia, the career only shows a predicted growth rate of 2.5% between 2018 and 2028. This may seem much smaller than the national growth rate. However, 140 new dental assistant jobs are predicted to become available in West Virginia by 2028.

Typical Salaries for Dental Assistants in West Virginia

The  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for U.S. dental assistants is $41,180 annually or $19.80 hourly. The top earners can potentially make up to $58,000 annually. Certified dental assistants and those with more experience are likely to make more than the median wage. West Virginia dental assistants earn a median salary of $32,240 annually or $15.50 hourly.

Opportunities for Dental Assistants in West Virginia

West Virginia dental assistants work in dental and physician offices, hospitals, community clinics, medical centers, nursing homes and government agencies. Larger cities like Charleston and Morgantown are where you would be most likely to find work. Charleston and Huntington are a couple of the higher-paying cities in the state. Below are some examples of dental assisting jobs in West Virginia, according to indeed.com:

  • Dental Assistant, Cornerstone Dental, Martinsburg, $14-19 per hour
  • Dental Assistant, Capitol Endodontics, Charleston, $13-18 per hour
  • Dental Assistant, Mace Dental, Morgantown, from $25 per hour

A career as a dental assistant can be rewarding and stable as demand continues to rise in West Virginia. Whether you are looking to start immediately and train on the job or finish a dental assisting program before starting your career, West Virginia has plenty of opportunities for you.

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