Oral surgeon assistants perform typical medical procedures prior to oral surgery, from clerical work to patient preparation. While on-job training takes place, formal training and certification can be beneficial to job prospects.
Oral surgeon assistants see patients, prepare them for surgery, and ensure the medical equipment is sterile. Specific on-the-job training varies from office to office but previous experience is not necessary. Although most states do not require training, it is highly recommended in order to advance as an oral surgeon assistant. Certification opportunities, associate's degree programs, and one-year education programs are available to those who want formal education.
|Required Education||Formal education such as associate's programs and one-year programs are recommended for advancement|
|Other Requirements||High School diploma or GED; certification in some states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||15% for surgical technologists; 18% for dental assistants|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$44,330 for surgical technologists; $35,980 for dental assistants|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)*
Job Description for Oral Surgeon Assistants
The job of an oral surgeon assistant includes receiving patients, viewing charts, and beginning patient preparation. Often the assistant will make notes about performed procedures, progress, recommendations, and other subjects in the patient's charts. Oral surgeon assistants must ensure that surgical tools are properly cleaned and sterilized before procedures begin. Working with x-rays is common, as is processing items such as removable dental appliances and casts or impressions. While oral surgeon assistants do not perform any actual surgery upon patients, they may be responsible for tasks such as checking vital signs or maintaining IV fluid flows during procedures.
Duties on the clerical side include the handling of dental charts and upkeep of inventory. Oral surgeon assistants must often keep track of how many supplies are currently on hand, and they are responsible for re-ordering when the time is right. They must also become familiar with the equipment used in the oral surgeon's office and ensure that it is properly controlled and maintained.
Much education is required of oral surgeon assistants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many states allow for dental assistants to be hired with a high school diploma and no training. However, these individuals do not have much room for growth without education.
Oral surgeon assistants must know substantially more than general dental assistants and for this reason they may hold many certifications and have formal educational training. For example, many states require assistants to obtain licensure before they can work with x-ray equipment. The BLS highly recommends contacting specific state boards to find out the requirements for a certain area (www.bls.gov).
Available Formal Education and Training
In addition to a number of certification opportunities, formal education is available in the form of associate's degree programs and one-year educational programs that provide hands-on training. The BLS recommends that those interested in the one-year formal education should seek programs that have been certified by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Nearly all oral surgeons who hire assistants prefer to provide specific on-the-job training, and new assistants should expect this. New employees will need to learn where equipment is kept, how procedures are completed and other office-specific information (www.bls.gov).
Salary Info and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), surgical technologists, including oral surgeon assistants, earned median annual salaries of $44,330 in May 2015. The BLS projects that the employment of such technologists will increase by 15% between 2014 and 2024--much faster than the national average of 6% for all occupations.
There are no exact educational requirements for an oral surgeon assistant, but completing an associate's or one-year training program is advisable, especially since this job is more specific than that of a regular dental assistant. Training is also provided on the job. Certification is another option that may facilitate career advancement.