A certificate program in dental radiation is often offered through community or vocational colleges, and it provides individuals with the practical knowledge necessary to operate radiography equipment under the supervision of licensed dentists. Dental radiation courses are also offered through comprehensive dental assistant certificate or degree programs, in which case graduates have already fulfilled the requirements necessary to gain state certification. Online courses and programs are not typically available since these programs typically require significant clinical and lab work.
Dental Radiation Certificate Programs
These programs provide a theoretical overview of radiation physics, radiation protection and oral biology. Students learn how to position and prepare patients for X-ray examinations, as well as training to operate X-ray machines and process the resulting film. Students must be experienced and certified dental assistants with a high school diploma or the equivalent.
The courses found within a dental radiation certificate program provide a theoretical background of radiation technology and safety procedures as well as a clinical background in practical equipment operation. The program has 60 hours of classroom training. Course topics include:
- Radiation biology
- Evaluation of dental radiographs
- Radiation safety
- Patient preparation
- Digital radiography
- Dental radiographic techniques
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Dentists' offices and similar oral health care facilities employed about 308,170 dental assistants in the United States in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Figures from the BLS show the median annual salary for the profession as of 2018 was $38,660, and the top-paying states for dental assistants were New Hampshire, Alaska, Minnesota, District of Columbia, and North Dakota.
Not all states require dental assistants to become certified before practicing in the field; however, many states do require dental assistants to gain licensure before they can operate radiography equipment. Most of those states require individuals to complete either a dental radiation certificate program or a dental assisting training program with radiography courses before earning certification. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) offers a Radiation Health and Safety certification examination that is recognized by 30 states in the U.S. Other states require individuals to complete an approved radiology course to gain certification.
Those interested in dental radiation can complete a certificate program to learn about radiation technology, safety, and reading radiographs; these programs also prepare students for certification. Along with classroom coursework, students must also complete clinical experiences.