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What Is a Registered Dental Assistant and How Do You Become One?


Are you contemplating a career change or are considering what career you would be best suited to? Does the thought of sitting at a desk hour after hour make you want to pull your hair out? If so, consider a career as a Registered Dental Assistant (RDA). RDAs get to work with their hands while they assist the dentists and dental hygienists in their roles.

Sound like something you would be interested in? Keep reading to find out more about RDAs and the licensure process for them.

What Does a Registered Dental Assistant Do?

You have probably interacted with an RDA in the past but never thought much about it. They are the support system for dentists and dental hygienists (and work under the supervision of dentists). They have many roles in the dental office, some of which are listed below:

  • Prepare the patients for treatments and procedures (and the treatment area)
  • Sterilize the instruments
  • Hand instruments to the dentist during procedures
  • Keep patient’s mouth dry by using suction hoses
  • Make dental impressions
  • Maintain the inventory
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Work with clients on billing and payment

As you can see, an RDA has a wide variety of roles that keeps their job and workday interesting. There’s never a dull moment to be had.

The difference between dental hygienists and dental assistants is that dental assistants assist dental hygienists in their job. And dental hygienists have a broader range of duties that they are involved with. For example, dental hygienists can clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral disease, and much more. These do not follow under the RDA’s domain.

Some Soft Skills That an RDA Must Have

The great thing about working as an RDA is that it isn’t just about your technical skills. In fact, you need to be quite a well-rounded individual to succeed as an RDA. If you are wondering what kind of soft skills you need to foster in yourself, consider the following list:

  • You need to be detail-oriented and remember many rules and protocols when assisting the dentist
  • You need to be dexterous as you will be working in tight quarters and handling small instruments
  • You need to have great interpersonal skills as you will be interacting with patients and customers
  • You need to have listening and empathic skills as people will share their trials and tribulations with you
  • You need to be highly organized as the dentist will rely upon you having everything in place before they start

If you feel like you are already great at the soft skills mentioned above, or if you think that you can evolve and develop them, then consider a career as an RDA.

What Does the Licensure Process Look Like?

The rules of how to get licensed differ from state to state in the United States. Some states will require the RDAs to graduate from a dental assistant school and get accredited before they start work. In other states, there is no such requirement and you can start working as long as you can convince a dental practice to hire you and give you satisfactory work experience.

Of course, it is much easier to find a job as a dental assistant if you already have experience in the field OR if you are certified by an accredited (and recognized) program. One school to keep in mind when searching for a formal program is UMA school located in Clearwater, Florida.

If you are in high school right now and looking to become a dental assistant, then consider taking courses such as biology, chemistry, and anatomy, to get a headstart.

The three routes to becoming an RDA are listed in detail below.

On-The-Job Training

If you don’t have the funds to go to school, or if you have a family member who’s a dentist and owns a dental practice, you could skip the whole certification and degree thing by getting on-the-job training. Of course, this highly depends on what your state requirements are. If you live in a state where certification is unnecessary, feel free to go for this option.

Dental Assistant Certification

If you are the kind of person who will not feel comfortable until they have a certification under their belt, then you can take on a formal certification in a college or institution near you. Most community colleges and vocational schools will offer an RDA certification. Make sure to do your due diligence and find the best school for you.

They will cover a wide variety of topics such as dental instruments, X-rays, infection control, and medical emergencies.

Dental Assistant Degree

If you are an aspiring RDA and are a real go-getter, you can also consider getting an associate degree in the subject. You would study general education courses in such a degree along with dental assistant courses. But these degree programs that last 2 years are usually not commonly undertaken by RDAs.

How Much Does an RDA Earn?

Here’s the answer to your burning question, how much will you end up earning if you undertake the satisfying journey of becoming an RDA. Well, on average, BLS says registered dental assistants earn $40,080. That’s a pretty good salary for someone right out of vocation school or community college.

In addition, it’s a job that doesn’t require you to labor over a computer or a desk day in and day out. And it allows you the freedom and joy of switching up tasks all the time, keeping things interesting.

Become a Registered Dental Assistant Today

Are you convinced yet that becoming a registered dental assistant is the thing for you to do? If you are, what are you waiting for? Find the school for you and embark upon this enlightening journey.

Enjoyed this article? Don’t forget to check out career-related articles on our website and keep expanding your horizons.

Learn more about dental assistant skills and their scope in medical industry, on this website:

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