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Dental Assistant Career Ladder


When considering a new career path, advancement opportunities make any industry more attractive. One of the great things about pursuing a career as a dental assistant is knowing there’s always room for growth, which can open up all kinds of possibilities for greater pay and added responsibilities. Below are some of the most common professions in dentistry that can all stem from a career as a dental assistant.

  • Expanded Function Dental Assistant: This is the highest level of dental assistant positions. EFDAs are usually licensed by their state, allowing them to do fillings and sealants. You must be a certified dental assistant with two years of full-time dental assistant employment to be eligible. According to Payscale, EFDAs can earn up to $26/hour, depending on the location and industry.

  • Dental Assistant Instructor: You would be educating students in the same manner you received your instruction. You would be teaching courses such as radiology, how to use the dental tools, how to interact with patients, keeping dental records, and hands-on instruction. Dental assistant experience is required if you want to be a dental assistant instructor. According to Payscale, the median pay for a dental assistant instructor is more than $42,000 per year.

  • Dental Office Business Team Administrator: In this role, you will schedule appointments and maintain the office financing and record-keeping. You will also take care of insurance on the patient level, as well as filing insurance claims. Business team administrators are usually the first faces patients see when they walk in the office. You will need to know how to build relationships with patients to keep them coming back. While the business team administrator doesn’t necessarily need to be a dental assistant, dentists usually prefer the experience. According to Payscale, some dental office business team administrators earn more than $63,000 per year, depending on experience and other determining factors.

  • Dental Sales Representative: You'll need to be familiar with sales techniques. You should also know dental terminology and types of equipment that are used in a dental office setting and understand the needs of dental offices. Dental sales reps make sure the dental offices that are in their territory have their supplies and technology to keep them up to date. You'll work very closely with the office staff and the dentist to determine what their needs are. According to Payscale, the median annual salary for a dental sales rep is around $45,000. However, you can earn well over $75,000 per year, depending on the employer and experience.

  • Dental Hygienist: If you are pursuing a career as a dental hygienist, becoming a dental assistant is a great start. It’s a hands-on educational experience unlike any other. Many who start as assistants move on to become hygienists; this is a natural career progression. Licensing and training for both positions are slightly different. A dental assistant receives experience working directly with patients. Part of the training for this career also includes various safety procedures and logistics of the home dental office. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2018 median annual pay for a full-time dental hygienist is $74,820.

  • Dental Consultant: When a dental practice is looking to enhance their business, they call in a dental consultant. The dental consultant will work alongside the dentist and office staff to make recommendations on how to get the practice back in working order. The dental consultant will also train the dentist and staff on the new best practices for the office. A good dental consultant needs to be familiar with dentist offices and their procedures; you will need to know dental terminology; you should understand the dynamics of the office you are working with; and you should be an excellent communicator. According to Payscale, the median pay among dental consultants is around $58,000 per year.

  • Dentist: It is not all that uncommon for a dental assistant to continue on through an educational path to become a dentist. Dentists will diagnose, treat, and provide oral care to patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary among dentists in 2018 was $156,240.

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