During a visit to your dentist, odds are high that you have met a few different dental workers. Your dentist obviously heads up your dental care. He or she will do any restorative or protective procedures to keep your teeth and gums healthy. The dental hygienist takes care of the teeth cleanings, fluoride treatments, and often handles the X-ray procedures as well. Once he or she is done, the dentist will come in, finish the examination, and discuss any problems.

The dental assistant is often the person that people overlook. A dental assistant is really the dentist’s right-hand man, so to speak. During routing filling procedures, root canals, crowns, etc., the dental assistant is the person to hand the dentist the appropriate dental tool, monitor your comfort levels and alert the dentist if something looks wrong, take and develop x-rays, and help hold suction tubes and the likes as the dentist performs his or her duties. In small offices, a dental assistant may help with paperwork. In most offices, the dental assistant is responsible for sterilizing all dental equipment and the rooms between patients.

Typically, it is during oral surgeries or procedures that a dental assistant performs the most chores. He or she will monitor the patient’s blood pressure, pour molds, create temporary crowns, process x-rays, and hand necessary tools and prepare equipment for the dentist. Dentists look for assistants who can easily work well independently or as a team. The dental assistant must be courteous and friendly will all patients, regardless of age. Most importantly, since the dentist and dental assistant work closely, they must be able to get along well.

Dental assistants are in high demand. More people are getting past their fears and making dental care part of their health care practices. Links between poor oral hygiene and heart disease may be pushing more people to seek dental care. As patient numbers soar, the need for trained dental assistants also increases. The U.S. government believes that dental assisting is going to be one of the most highly demanded careers in the next five to ten years.

Many vocational schools are now implementing dental assisting into their array of programs. Those with strong skills in chemistry, biology, health, and office administration are well suited to dental assisting.

In Texas, it is important to note that effective in 2006, all dental assistants must be registered with the state. The state has changed the laws and all dental assistants must complete courses in patient privacy/ethics, CPR, disease and infection prevention, and radiology. Even those who have been working as dental assistants for years must meet these new requirements.

Registration lasts for one year and to renew, you must complete six hours of continuing education and prove you hold valid CPR certification. Dental assistants wishing to help monitor nitrous oxide (laughing gas) levels during oral surgeries and procedures must hold special certification from the State of Texas. The same is true for dental assistants who wish to work with sealants.

Throughout the United States, a dental assistant’s yearly income ranges from $25,000 to $37,300. Dental assistants typically work a forty hour week, including some weekend and evening hours. Salaries for dental assistants within Texas vary slightly from region to region. Dental assistants trained to work with oral surgeons or orthodontists will find their pay rates are slightly higher than the averages because it requires advanced training and offers additional job duties. A sampling of rates in Texas can be found in the following grid.

City/ Town Abilene Amarillo Austin Corpus Christi Dallas Fort Worth El Paso Houston San Antonio
Starting Salary $23,600 $23,800 $25,000 $24,000 $26,000 $25,000 $23,000 $26,000 $24,000
Top Salary $35,000 $35,000 $36,000 $36,000 $38,000 $37,000 $34,000 $39,000 $35,000

The salaries may look appealing, but you are required to gain a solid education. The more classes and certifications you can achieve, the higher your pay scale will be. Many Texas colleges and universities offer programs in dental assisting. These programs typically require forty hours of classroom instruction and additional hours interning in a dental office.

The courses vary depending on the certification you desire. Generally, the classes that are required include:

  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Business/Health Practice Ethics
  • Business Math
  • Chair side Assisting
  • Communications
  • CPR
  • Customer Service
  • Dental Assisting
  • Dental Lab Procedures
  • Dental Science
  • Infection and Disease Control
  • Materials Used in Dentistry
  • Office Management
  • Preventative Dental Techniques
  • Radiology for Dentistry
  • Radiology Techniques
  • Working with Chemicals/Hazardous Materials

Once you have completed your training, it is advisable to join the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB). The board offers certification programs that ensure a dental assistant is extremely well trained in all aspects of dental assisting. Once you have gained your CDA (Certified Dental Assisting) certification, you have proof of your impeccable skills and training. To receive a CDA, you must pass one or more written exams. The three topics covered on the exams are General Chair side Practices, Radiation Health and Safety, and Infection Control.

The exam fees for the all three exams are $50 for the application fee and then a $300 exam fee. ($320 for Maryland residents and $275 for those in the military.) If you only want to take the Chair side Practices exam, the rates are $175 ($170 for those in the military.) Those interested in the Radiation exam will pay $150 ($170 for Maryland residents or $145 for military personnel.) Finally, the rates for the infection control exam are $150 ($145 for military personnel.) Rates will be increasing in 2008.

For renewals, the fee is based on the number of credentials you hold. The current fees are $55 for one, $80 for two, $100 for three, and $125 for all four. You need to complete six continuing education hours per credential, as well as re-certifying for CPR.

By achieving certification from the DANB, you prove to clients and dentists that you are determined to offer the best possible care. It makes the most of your career!

Find a dental assisting school in Texas by browsing our list of schools.