Are you a dental practice owner or manager seeking to bolster your team with a skilled and dedicated Dental Assistant?
The process of hiring a Dental Assistant can significantly impact the efficiency and success of your practice. It’s not just about filling a position; it’s about finding the right individual who can play a pivotal role in providing quality patient care.
Whether you’re an experienced dental professional or new to the field, our comprehensive approach will help you discover the ideal candidate to strengthen your team and elevate patient care standards.
In this article, we will guide employers through the essential steps of hiring a Dental Assistant and help you create a compelling Dental Assistant job description.
Responsibilities & Role of a Dental Assistant
Dental Assistants perform a wide range of tasks to support dentists and hygienists in providing quality patient care. Here are the key roles and responsibilities of a Dental Assistant for an employer:
- Patient Preparation and Comfort: Dental Assistants ensure patients are comfortable and prepared for their dental procedures. This includes explaining treatment procedures, easing patient anxiety, and addressing questions or concerns.
- Sterilization and Infection Control: They clean and sterilize dental instruments, prepare treatment rooms for procedures, and dispose of hazardous materials by regulations.
- Chairside Assistance: Dental Assistants provide chairside support to the dentist or hygienist during dental procedures. They pass instruments, assist with suctioning, and provide dental materials when needed.
- Taking and Developing X-rays: Dental Assistants are often responsible for taking and developing dental X-rays. They must follow safety procedures to protect patients and themselves from radiation exposure.
- Educating Patients: Dental Assistants educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques, post-procedure care, and the importance of regular dental check-ups. They may also provide information on dental procedures and treatment options.
- Recordkeeping: These assistants maintain patient records, including treatment plans, medical histories, and appointment scheduling.
- Instrument and Equipment Maintenance: They maintain and organize dental instruments and equipment. This includes ensuring that all equipment is in proper working condition.
How to Hire a Dental Assistant
Hiring a qualified Dental Assistant can fit seamlessly into your dental practice and ensure your clinic’s success. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to hire a Dental Assistant:
1. Know Your Requirements
Knowing your requirements will help you streamline the hiring process and find a candidate who is the best fit for your dental practice. Here’s a breakdown of questions you can ask yourself:
- What specific tasks and responsibilities will the Dental Assistant be expected to perform in our practice?
- What are the minimum educational requirements for this position?
- Do candidates need to have completed a dental assisting program from an accredited institution?
- Do you prefer candidates with prior experience, or are you open to hiring entry-level candidates?
- Are there any specialized skills or experience you require?
- Are candidates required to hold specific certifications or licenses, or can they obtain them upon hiring?
- What essential skills and competencies are required for this role?
- Do candidates need to be proficient in dental software, X-ray handling, or other tasks?
- How important is effective communication and teamwork?
- Do you need candidates with flexible availability?
- What personality traits and interpersonal skills would align with our practice’s culture?
- Are there career growth and development opportunities within our practice, and how can you communicate these to potential candidates?
- Depending on our patient demographics, do you require a Dental Assistant proficient in specific languages commonly spoken by our patients?
2. Search for the Top Talent
You can explore various avenues to find qualified candidates when searching for a Dental Assistant to join your team. Here are some effective avenues for recruiting them:
- Online Job Boards: Dental job boards such as DentalPost, DentalJobs.net, Dentistjobcafe, and Dental Staffing are dedicated platforms where dental professionals often post their resumes and search for job opportunities. Use our Dental Assistant job description to create a listing that attracts the top talent.
- Dental Assistant Association: Many dental associations have job boards on their websites, making it a valuable resource to find qualified dental assistants. For example, you can join the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) and the National Association of Dental Assistants (NADA). Additionally, many states and regions have Dental Assistant associations or study clubs. These organizations often provide networking opportunities, educational events, and job listings specific to the local area.
- Recruitment Agencies: Collaborate with dental staffing agencies or recruitment firms specializing in the healthcare industry. They can assist in identifying and screening qualified candidates. For instance, you can use the services of DentalPower, Dental Assistant Pro, or Dental Dynamic Staffing. Read below to explore the cost associated with using each of these services.
- Employee Referrals: Encourage your current staff to refer qualified candidates from their professional networks. Consider implementing an employee referral program with incentives.
- Online Professional Networks: Utilize professional networking platforms like LinkedIn to search for Dental Assistants who match your criteria. You can reach out to candidates directly or through their networks.
3. Look for Educational Qualifications
When hiring a Dental Assistant, it’s important to consider educational qualifications and certifications to ensure the candidate meets the necessary standards for the position. Here are the typical educational qualifications and certifications to look for:
- High School Diploma or Equivalent: Most Dental Assistant positions require candidates to have a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development) certificate as a basic educational requirement.
- Dental Assisting Program: Many Dental Assistants complete a dental assisting program or Dental Studies degree from a community college, technical school, or dental school. These programs can lead to a diploma, certificate, or associate degree in dental assisting.
- Dental Assistant Certification: While certification requirements vary by state, many Dental Assistants choose to become certified by passing the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) or Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), or CPR and Basic Life Support (BLS) Certification exam. Some states may require or prefer certification for Dental Assistants.
- State Licensure: Check your state’s specific licensure requirements for Dental Assistants. Some states have licensing requirements in addition to or in place of certification.
- Radiography Certification: If your practice uses X-rays, look for candidates who have obtained the necessary radiography certification, which allows them to take and process dental X-rays. Look for certifications, such as Radiation Health and Safety or Radiology Certificate for Dental Assistants.
- Expanded Functions Certification: Some states permit Dental Assistants to perform expanded functions, such as coronal polishing or placing dental sealants, with additional training and certification. Verify if these certifications are necessary for your practice.
- Infection Control and OSHA Training: Dental Assistants should have training in infection control and adhere to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines to maintain a safe dental environment.
- Additional Specializations: Depending on your practice’s needs, you may look for candidates with additional qualifications or specializations, such as orthodontic assisting or pediatric dentistry experience.
During the hiring process, request copies of candidates’ diplomas, certificates, and licenses to verify their educational qualifications and compliance with state regulations. It’s also essential to stay informed about changes in state-specific requirements for Dental Assistant qualifications, as they can vary considerably from one state to another.
4. Analyze Their Work Experience
When assessing a Dental Assistant’s work experience during the hiring process, it is crucial to thoroughly review their resume, evaluate the duration of their roles, assess their clinical skills, including patient care and radiography proficiency, and consider any specializations or certifications they possess.
Additionally, inquire about their ability to collaborate within a dental team, knowledge of infection control and OSHA compliance, and proficiency with dental software.
Ultimately, analyzing their work history allows employers to gauge the candidate’s suitability for the position, alignment with the practice’s needs, and potential for contributing positively to the dental team.
Also, consider the candidate’s potential for long-term engagement and career advancement within the dental practice to ensure a mutually beneficial fit.
Ultimately, a comprehensive evaluation of their work experience aids in making an informed decision about hiring a Dental Assistant who can provide quality patient care and contribute positively to the practice’s success.
5. Conduct a Comprehensive Interview Process
By following a comprehensive interview process, you can ensure that you select a Dental Assistant who possesses the necessary clinical skills and also aligns with your practice’s values, culture, and long-term goals.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to conducting a thorough interview process:
- Behavioral and Situational Interview Questions: Prepare a list of Dental Assistant interview questions, including behavioral and situational questions focusing on the candidate’s work experience, problem-solving abilities, adaptability, and patient care skills.
- Clinical Skills Assessment: Conduct a clinical skills assessment or practical test to evaluate the candidate’s chairside assisting skills, X-ray proficiency, and ability to perform essential clinical tasks.
- Radiography Proficiency Assessment: If your practice uses X-rays, assess the candidate’s knowledge of radiation safety and ability to take and process dental X-rays accurately.
- Scenario-Based Questions: Ask the candidate about various scenario or situation based questions on how they would respond. This assesses their problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills.
- Follow-up Interviews: If necessary, conduct additional interviews with top candidates to investigate their qualifications and assess their suitability for the role.
6. Cross-Verify Their References and Conduct a Background Check
Conducting comprehensive reference verification and background checks when hiring a Dental Assistant is essential to confirm their qualifications, assess their work history and performance, and ensure their trustworthiness and suitability for the role.
Contacting references, particularly previous employers, allows insights into the candidate’s clinical skills, reliability, and interpersonal abilities.
With 46% of resumes including at least one discrepancy between the information provided by the candidate and the details confirmed in a background check, conducting a thorough reference and background check is essential.
When conducting a reference check, consider asking the following questions:
- What do you have to say about the candidate’s clinical competence and proficiency in dental assisting tasks, such as chairside assistance, taking X-rays, sterilization procedures, and infection control protocols?
- How did the candidate interact with patients and contribute to creating a positive and comfortable dental experience? Can you provide examples of their ability to communicate effectively, address patient concerns, and maintain a professional demeanor in challenging situations?
- Can you describe how well they collaborated within the dental team, including their interactions with dentists, hygienists, and office staff? Did they actively contribute to a cohesive and efficient work environment?
A thorough background check, including criminal history, education, license, and employment history verification, helps confirm the accuracy of the candidate’s credentials and identify any potential red flags.
Tips for Avoiding Red Flags During the Hiring Process
Here are some tips for avoiding red flags during the hiring process for a Dental Assistant:
- Infection Control and Safety: During the interview, ask candidates about their knowledge and adherence to infection control and safety protocols, which are critical in a dental setting. Ensure their understanding of OSHA guidelines and compliance.
- Radiography Proficiency: Assess the candidate’s radiography skills by inquiring about their experience taking and processing dental X-rays. Verify that they are certified or licensed for radiography tasks, where applicable.
- Patient Care and Empathy: Probe candidates for their ability to provide compassionate patient care. Ask for examples of how they have managed anxious or difficult patients, demonstrating their interpersonal skills and empathy.
- Clinical Skills Assessment: If feasible, conduct practical skills assessments to evaluate candidates’ chairside assisting abilities, including their proficiency in assisting during procedures and familiarity with dental instruments and equipment.
- Patient Complaints: Prior patient complaints or negative feedback about the candidate’s interactions or care can be a significant red flag, highlighting potential patient relations or clinical competence issues.
- Inadequate Knowledge of Dental Software: Candidates should have at least a basic understanding of dental practice management software and electronic health records to perform administrative tasks efficiently.
Dental Assistant Job Description
Here’s a comprehensive dental assistant job description:
Job Title: Dental Assistant
Type: [Full Time / Part Time / Contract]
Salary: [Salary / Hourly Rate]
[Provide a brief overview of your dental practice’s mission and commitment to patient care.]
We are seeking a dedicated and compassionate Dental Assistant to join our team of oral healthcare professionals. As a Dental Assistant, you will play a pivotal role in ensuring our patients receive high-quality dental care in a comfortable and supportive environment.
What You’ll Do:
- Assist dentists during dental procedures, including chairside support, instrument handling, and patient comfort.
- Prepare and sterilize dental instruments and equipment, ensuring infection control protocols are followed.
- Take and process dental X-rays, adhering to safety guidelines and maintaining accurate records.
- Educate patients on proper oral hygiene techniques and post-treatment care instructions.
- Manage patient flow, appointment scheduling, and record-keeping to ensure efficient clinic operations.
- Maintain a clean and organized treatment area and dental equipment.
- Assist in managing patient anxiety and addressing concerns to create a positive dental experience.
What You’ll Bring:
- Degree in dental science
- Completion of a dental assistant training program or relevant on-the-job experience.
- State-specific dental assistant certification or registration, if required.
- Radiography certification.
- Strong knowledge of dental instruments, procedures, and infection control practices.
- Compassion and the ability to ensure patient comfort and alleviate concerns.
- Proficiency in using dental software and digital resources.
Benefits and Perks:
- Competitive salary and benefits package.
- Professional development opportunities.
- Supportive and collaborative work environment.
- Opportunities for career growth within our dental practice.
- Positive and patient-centric clinic culture.
How to Join Us:
To apply, please submit your resume, a cover letter detailing your dental assistant experience and patient care philosophy, and any relevant certifications to [email address] with the subject line “Application for Dental Assistant – [Your Name].” [Your Dental Practice Name] is an equal opportunity employer committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in our healthcare community.
[Your Dental Practice Name] is dedicated to providing quality oral healthcare and fostering a welcoming environment for both patients and staff. We welcome candidates who share our commitment to patient-focused care and excellence in dentistry.
Closing Date: [Insert closing date for applications]
Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. We appreciate your interest in [Your Dental Practice Name] and look forward to learning more about you.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Dental Assistant?
Understanding the cost of hiring a Dental Assistant ensures effective financial planning for a successful hiring process. Here are some cost considerations to keep in mind:
Expenses related to the recruitment process can include advertising job listings, utilizing job boards or recruitment agencies, conducting background checks, and conducting interviews. These costs can vary depending on your recruitment strategy:
- Online Job Boards: If you plan to use specialized job boards, you may have to spend money to post your requirements. For instance, DentalPost charges $119 for posting a single job. You can even choose their premium feature, starting at $189 for one job listing. While DentalJobs.net charges $145 per month for a single job posting. Additionally, Dental Staffing charges an annual membership of $179 for unlimited job postings and $79 for a single job listing. You need to contact the team at Dentistjobcafe to know more about their pricing.
- Dental Assistant Associations: Most of these associations charge a monthly or yearly membership for accessing their database. For instance, ADAA has an annual membership fee of $135 and state dues (depending on the state where you live). On the other hand, NADA has a basic membership of $36 per year and a premium membership of $70 per year.
- Recruitment Agencies: The cost of using a recruitment agency to hire a Dental Assistant can vary depending on several factors, including the agency’s fees, the complexity of the recruitment process, and the geographic location of the dental practice. Recruitment agencies typically charge a fee based on a percentage of the Dental Assistant’s first-year salary, ranging from 15% to 30% or more. It’s important to carefully review the terms and fee structure of the recruitment agency you choose to work with and weigh these costs against the benefits of streamlining the hiring process and potentially finding highly qualified candidates more efficiently.
Salary and Benefits
The largest cost associated with hiring a Dental Assistant is their salary. Salaries vary widely by region, with higher salaries typically found in urban areas.
The average salary of a Dental Assistant is $47,570 per year, which includes $1,907 per year of additional pay. This pay includes commission, cash bonuses, and incentives.
Entry-level Dental Assistants may command a lower salary than those with years of experience or specialized certifications. In addition to salary, consider the cost of providing benefits such as health insurance, dental coverage, retirement plans, and paid time off.