Dental assistants and administrators play important roles in assisting dentists as well as ensuring the daily operations of the dental office or clinic. A certificate or 2-year program is enough to get started as a dental assistant, while a bachelor's degree will help those interested in becoming dental administrators.
Dental administrators manage the day-to-day administrative operations on behalf of dentists and dental specialists. Receptionist duties, appointment scheduling, insurance coding and insurance billing are some common responsibilities of dental administrators. Dental assistants work with dentists to prepare patients for specific procedures, take dental x-rays and perform clerical duties. A certificate or 2-year degree is generally sufficient to begin working in this field and these programs usually contain an internship portion in which students perform duties at campus clinics, walk-in dental clinics or dental offices.
|Required Education||Certificate or associate's degree (Dental Assistants); Bachelor's degree ( Medical & Health Services Managers)|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*|| 18% (for Dental Assistants)
17% (for Medical & Health Services Managers)
|Median Annual Salary (May 2015)*|| $35,980 (for Dental Assistants)
$94,500 (for Medical & Health Services Managers)
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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Graduates of a certificate or associate's degree program in dental assisting can seek employment in private dentists' offices or dental clinics. Those seeking a position in a dental front office might complete a certificate or 2-year degree program in medical office administration; however, it's worth noting that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists a bachelor's degree as the level of education needed for most medical and health service manager positions.
Dental assistant job responsibilities combine healthcare and office duties. These individuals can assist dentists during procedures, prepare equipment and instruments, provide oral care instructions to patients and update patient files.
According to the BLS, dental assistants can expect an 18% job growth rate between 2014-2024, which is slightly under the rate expected for all healthcare support positions over the same time period but is much faster than the average for all professions combined. Dental assistants earned a mean annual wage of $36,920 as of May 2015, the BLS reports.
A dental administrator or office manager is the first line of communication between patients and a dentist's office. When a patient walks in, a dental administrator greets them and ensures that everything is ready for the appointment. In addition to handling all the appointment scheduling, a dental administrator handles all the billing and insurance issues between the patient and the dentist. Dental administrators multitask by performing data entering duties while assisting patients in person and over the phone.
While the BLS does not provide salary information specifically for dental office administrators, it does provide these statistics for medical and health services managers. The median annual wage as of May 2015 for this group overall was $94,500, according to the BLS. Those employed in dental offices could expect to see a 17% rise in job opportunities during the 2014-2024 period, the BLS reports.
While both dental administrators and dental assistants find employment in dentist offices and clinics, their roles are very different. A dental administrator handles patients, insurance, and paperwork, while dental assistants help dentists conduct dental procedures, inform patients on oral care, and prepare any necessary tools and supplies.