Why get into the dental profession? The Dental Assistant National Board (DANB) says dental assisting on among the top 25 fastest growing careers, while the American Dental Association (ADA) reports dental hygiene is one of the country’s 30 fastest-growing professions. Indeed, the employment outlook for dental professions is quite bright.
Even if you don’t plan on becoming a dentist, the field is among the most rewarding around. Dentist, dental hygienist and dental assistant are all consistently ranked among the best jobs in America. Several Fortis College and Institute campuses offer Dental Assisting, Expanded Functions Dental Assisting and/or Dental Hygiene education and training programs that can prepare you for success in the dental field. Visit our Dental Programs page to learn more about the programs, career outlooks, and which campuses near you offer these programs.
If you are interested in entering the dental profession, you may be wondering which path is best for you. Dental assistants work alongside dentists and help out with many tasks – from routine exams to more complex oral procedures. Expanded functions assistants may be asked to perform some laboratory procedures, place restorative dentures, and/or sterilize dental equipment. Dental hygienists are usually licensed professionals who often work alone to clean teeth, apply fluoride or perform certain diagnostic tests.
Dental assistant studies can be completed in less than a year and usually result in a certificate, while dental hygienists must study for two years, cover liberal arts and clinical science coursework, and receive an associate degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment growth for both professions is much faster than the average for all jobs – at 19% to 20% through 2026. The Bureau projects demand for all types of dental services – especially preventive care – will increase as the population ages. Dentist will continue to hire dental assistants to help with a variety of chairside tasks and dental hygienists will be needed to treat and maintain teeth so patients can keep more of their original teeth than previous generations did.
Because their studies are twice as long, dental hygienists typically must be licensed, and often work on their own. Dental hygienists’ salaries can be roughly twice that of dental assistants depending, of course, on the market and ongoing demand. The BLS reports the national median salary for experienced dental hygienists in 2017 was approximately $74,000, while entry-level dental assistants averaged roughly $38,000. Both are rewarding positions, but entry-level salaries are usually far below the average of those of experienced professionals. It all comes down to your needs, which position best fits your temperament, and how long you’re willing to wait before entering the profession.