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What type of salary can you expect as a registered dental assistant? Depending on your skills, experience, and expanded functions credentials, your salary, and hourly pay rate can improve with time, experience, and specific skills. While the average dental assistant’s salary is a competitive amount (especially when it comes to no degree requirements), you can take steps to increase your value over time. 

Here are a few things that can set you apart when you’re applying for that next dental assistant job opening:

In Office Training

Dental assistants get better at their skills with time and hands-on practice. If a certified dental assistant has experience working in a specific setting, such as pediatrics, orthodontics, or oral surgery, they will be more competitive and in demand for those types of offices. Based on training and experience, your average salary can go up if you work in a more specialized practice setting where dental assistants are in demand. 

Working in settings like a nonprofit community health clinic can be an excellent opportunity to gain more experience when it comes to working with at-risk populations and dental emergencies. You can also ask our dental assisting program to help arrange externship opportunities with specialized clinics if you know you want to work in a specific type of dental setting.

One of the reasons why graduates of Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School are so successful is that we train them in live dental work, allowing them to immediately hit the ground running as clinical dental assistants after graduation.

Special Skills in Dental Assisting

Besides setting up instrument trays, disinfecting instruments, taking blood pressure, preparing materials, and preparing patients for treatment, your job as an assistant may include knowing how to track and order inventory skills, processing insurance claims, treatment plans, and others. Many of these skills are taught by fellow dental assistants or office managers. But learning them during dental assisting school or shadowing opportunities can make dental assistants more competitive when you’re searching for a job. 

In addition to traditional dental assistant responsibilities, great dental assistants will also have excellent soft skills. Being able to put patients’ minds at ease, schedule appointments, and relate to a wide array of personalities will make you more valuable in your job position. 

Expanded Functions Credentials

The average salary for dental assistants goes up with expanded functions because you’re able to perform more responsibilities than entry-level dental assistants. When dentists can trust you with preparing patients and performing more specialized skills, they can delegate more responsibilities and run a more efficient practice. This naturally increases your average hourly wage because of the financial impact you’re making on the dental office as a whole. 

Dental assistants perform expanded functions like placing dental sealants, trimming stainless steel crowns, polishing teeth, or helping place dental filling materials. The exact responsibilities will vary depending on which state the dental assistant is working in. 

Working in a Specialist Office

Dental assistants who work in specialist dental practice settings will have job roles slightly different from a general family practice setting. For example, working in oral surgery means being alongside the dentist in more complex circumstances, where attention to detail is vital for patient safety, which is why you might make more money working in oral surgery than you would as an entry-level dental assistant. 

Similarly, orthodontic dental assistants perform more independent tasks and need to be good with their hands. The specialized tools and services rendered are different from what you’ll find in family practice. 

Another common specialist office for dental assistants to work in is pediatrics. In a pedodontist office, dental assistants need to be great with young children, have an excellent and upbeat demeanor, and often have an additional certification in coronal polishing or sealant placement (if you’re living and working in an expanded functions state.) 

Taking the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB Certification)

Dental assistants can choose to sit for the dental assisting national board or state tests, depending on where they choose to work. Having extra credentials like a DANB certification is excellent to have on your resume. 

Other certification options include nitrous oxide monitoring, sealant placement, coronal polishing, and others. Again, these types of dental assistant responsibilities will vary depending on where you live since each state has rules for what a certified dental assistant can or cannot do. 

Along these lines, make sure you’re licensed or credentialed in the appropriate state. At Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School, all potential dental assistant students will want to talk with our incoming student coordinators about where they plan to live and work. 

Some people drive across state lines to work in Oregon or Washington, for example, or may plan on relocating after graduation. Being familiar with the requirements for your career will prevent any delays when it comes to accepting your first job. 

Office Management

As a dental assistant, you can go on to pursue a leadership role like office manager after several years of experience. Since dental assistants understand the day-in and day-out processes of dental treatments, they are often some of the best medical professionals to work in practice management roles. 

As an office manager, you’ll boost your salary as a dental assistant and take on extra responsibilities with greater earning potential. Organizations such as the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) provide training to current dental assistants looking to pursue this rewarding career. 

Train With an Experienced Dental Assisting Program

Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School has trained thousands of dental assistants over the years, many of whom have gone on to work extensive careers in family practice dentistry, specialty offices, or pursue office management roles. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a rewarding career as a dental assistant, we can give you the tools you need for a competitive paying salary, confidence in your new job role, and all the dental assistant training you need to achieve appropriate credentialing requirements.

Contact our dental assistant school today for more information!