The Changing Dynamics of the Dental Healthcare Job Market
As the population increases in the U.S. and various cities, there is a higher demand for dental care and therefore an increased demand for dentists and dental assistants. This continuous trend of more people seeking dental care translates into a growth of dental assistants in the job market.
Dental assistants are also expanding their responsibilities, making them even more valuable in dental offices. Added responsibilities and certification opportunities in specialized areas also open up new career paths.
As technology and AI become increasingly important in medicine and dentistry, tech-savvy dental assistants may find new job opportunities opening up for them. Dental assistants familiar with 3D printing, intraoral cameras, digital impressions, and laser dentistry can expect to be in demand.
Changes in healthcare will also shift the dynamics of the job market. As dental care expands more into areas with expanding communities, there will be a need for dental assistants in those areas.
As of late 2023, many states – including Oregon and Washington – are facing a dental workforce shortage, which means many dental offices have an urgent need for dental assistants and hygienists.
The combination of a growing population and a shortage in the dental workforce translates into job stability. What’s more, dental care is essential for both children and adults. Older individuals tend to need extensive dental care, too, such as dentures and crowns.
Although the Covid pandemic saw a dramatic decrease in patients seeking dental care, telehealth became available. These new safety protocols enabled dental assistants to adapt to new circumstances and allowed them to continue providing dental services remotely.
These changing dynamics of the job market make a solid education necessary. At Vancouver Dental Assisting School in Washington (VDAS), we actively equip students to be prepared for the changing dental profession by providing hands-on training with real patients as well as interview technique classes.
What’s the Earning Potential for Dental Assistants in 2024?
The average salary for dental assistants in November 2023 was $46,501 per year, with the range falling between $41,573 and $50,936. The job outlook for the next 10 years, from 2022 – 2032, is expected to grow by 7%, which is faster than the national average.
Salaries typically differ from state to state due to the differences in cost of living, urban areas versus rural areas, and other factors. Cost of living is usually the biggest determinant in salary as the increased living expenses require higher salaries.
In Oregon, for example, the average salary for dental assistants is $46,752, which is about the same as the national average. In Washington, where the cost of living is higher – such as Seattle – the average salary is $49,891.
Market demand can also contribute to higher salaries. Urban areas tend to be more populated, which results in an increased demand for dental offices, consequently leading to higher salary levels for dental assistants in those neighborhoods.
Sometimes regulations and licensing can have an impact on salaries. States that have stricter educational requirements (such as Washington’s stricter education requirements for their dental hygienists) may result in higher salaries compared to other states with fewer requirements.
Minimum wage can affect dental assistants’ salaries, too. In Washington, the minimum wage is $16.28 while in Oregon, the minimum wage is $14.20. Additionally, the economy in that region can affect salaries. Cities with a strong economy can offer higher salaries while cities facing economic challenges may have salaries that reflect their challenges.
The Earning Potential Versus the Cost of Education
Although the cost of programs varies in Washington and Oregon, graduating students can expect to earn $40,000+, allowing them to pay off their loans relatively quickly.
Earning Potential Versus the Cost of Living
Dental assistants in Oregon make slightly less than those in Washington as the cost of living is higher in Washington, specifically in Seattle. Salaries tend to be commiserate with the cost of living in that city. Eugene, Oregon, for example, may have a lower cost of living than Portland, but salaries will be slightly lower as well. Housing costs in Seattle and other cities tend to have higher than average housing costs, which can put a dent in salaries.
Our Vancouver Dental Assisting School caters to students in both Washington and Oregon, and we certify students from Vancouver and the Portland metro area. Our accredited 10-week program ensures students will graduate earning a solid $40,000+ salary, giving them a comfortable start, whether they work in Oregon or Washington state. We have a 95% success rate, meaning our students have been able to find dental assistant jobs soon after graduating.
2024 Dental Assisting Job Satisfaction and Career Fulfillment Overview
Besides the monetary compensation, working as a dental assistant can be rewarding and fulfilling. Some rewards include:
Interacting With Patients
Dental assistants get to build strong relationships with their patients. This positive rapport can be gratifying for both the dental assistant and the patient. As patients become regulars, dental assistants can help patients maintain and improve their teeth. Additionally, dental assistants can offer valuable emotional support to children and tweens who may feel anxious about dental treatments, fostering a calming environment for the younger patients and providing a source of emotional fulfillment for the dental assistants.
Part of a Dental Team
Dental assistants collaborate with dental hygienists, orthodontists, pediatric dentists, and other oral healthcare professionals. By providing support during crucial dental procedures, dental assistants can be proud to be part of an accomplished team, all working towards one goal. Whether they are passing instruments or preparing rooms, their hands-on involvement makes them an indispensable team member.
Dental assistants have an array of tasks, such as preparing treatment rooms, sterilizing equipment, taking X-rays, and explaining procedures to patients. This variety can make each day fulfilling. Some assistants specialize in tasks such as imaging and radiography, which can make them appreciate the details involved in oral healthcare. Others may help with oral surgery or emergency dentistry, which can be highly rewarding.
Dental assistants work in an environment with ongoing learning opportunities. Some may choose to pursue certifications in specialized areas, contributing to their continual professional development. This commitment to learning not only enhances their skills but can also bring a sense of fulfillment.
Peace of Mind With Job Stability
Because the dental field will exhibit a faster-than-average job market growth, dental assistants can have peace of mind that there is job stability and a need for their skills.
Some dental assistants who graduated from VDAS have found fulfillment in their careers and have this to say:
Kristine talks about her previous experience with a dental assistant who made her feel comfortable. That moment changed her life, and she hopes to do the same for other patients who fear seeing the dentist. She loves helping people and making them feel confident when they smile.
One of the dental assistant instructors at VDAS, Liz Rodriguez, talks about how she gets immense satisfaction helping “Spanish-speaking patients effectively communicate their needs to dental providers.”
Key 2024 Technological Advancements in Dental Assisting
Digital Imaging and RadiographyDigital X-rays and radiography allow for better resolution and faster results. It also reduces the amount of radiation exposure.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
Although not directly related to dentistry, electronic health records streamline patient’s records and allow for better and more efficient record-keeping.
With intraoral cameras, dental assistants can see the interior of a patient’s mouth. More effective than traditional mirrors, these cameras are a valuable tool when explaining specific areas of concern to patients.
3D printing enables dentists to make dental prosthetics such as crowns, bridges, and veneers with exceptional accuracy and detail. The software can also create customized implants.
Computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) systems are used in restorative dentistry to design crowns and bridges.
Teledentistry allows dental offices to conduct follow-up appointments with patients remotely. This can be particularly helpful to patients living in rural areas.
Automated Instrument Sterilization (Autoclaves)
Automated instrument sterilization reduces the risks of infection by ensuring that instruments are efficiently sterilized. Each instrument is placed in direct contact with steam that is at a specified temperature and pressure.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Simulations
Simulations and virtual reality technologies are used in dental education to give students hands-on training.With all these advancements, it’s important for dental assistants to stay updated on technological advancements. This not only ensures their professional relevance but also plays a role in improving patient care. By familiarizing themselves with new diagnostic tools and advanced treatment procedures, dental assistants become integral members of a team that delivers more efficient patient care. Tools such as digital imaging and radiography can provide quicker results. Dental assistants who are familiar with these systems can provide more accurate diagnoses and treatments. Patients who need follow-ups and remote patient monitoring can take advantage of the teledentistry services offered. Dental assistants who are up to date on this technology can help with virtual consultations and follow-ups. Most importantly, however, dental assistants who are familiar with the latest technology have the opportunity to remain competitive in the market or pursue additional certifications. VDAS makes it a priority to ensure that students are tech-savvy upon graduation. One of the ways we accomplish this is with a comprehensive curriculum, one-on-one attention with small classroom sizes, and an immersive learning environment.
Why Choose an Accredited Programs with High Educational Quality?
An accredited program ensures the program meets specific quality standards. When students choose an accredited online dental assisting program or dental assisting school, they have better chances of receiving a high-quality education. Here are some reasons why it is important to choose an accredited program.
Quality of Education
School or Program Is Professionally Recognized
Eligibility for Certification and Licensure
More Access to Financial Aid and Scholarships
Curriculum Follows Industry Standards
Career Opportunities, Employability, and Networking
Many employers prefer to hire dental assistants who have graduated from an accredited program. At VDAS, we recognize the importance of employability, and as part of our program, we provide an “Interview Techniques” class to equip students with valuable skills that improve their prospects in the job market.
Reputable schools typically offer a well-rounded curriculum that encompasses all the important aspects of securing a job. VDAS, for example, ensures a well-rounded learning experience by offering a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on clinical training.
Our curriculum breakdown is as follows:
• Introduction to Dentistry and Dental Assisting
• Basic Dental Assisting Theory
• Assisting for Operative Dentistry
• Radiology (licensed instructor for both WA and Oregon)
• Assisting for Prosthodontics
• Dental Specialties
• Cosmetic Dentistry – Introduction to Administrative Techniques
• Interview Techniques
• CPR Certification and Necessary AIDs/HIV training
2024 Career Advancement Opportunities as a Dental Assistant
The dental assisting field isn’t just limited to assisting others. Assistants can expand their horizons by pursuing additional certificates and degrees. Here are some ways individuals can experience career growth:
Advanced Education and Certifications
Some assistants may choose to undergo additional training for jobs like applying topical anesthetics or placing dental sealants. These additional responsibilities can increase their pay. Others may choose to further their education and become pediatric dentists, orthodontists, or even oral surgeons.
Some dental assistants may prefer a teaching role rather than a hands-on profession in a dental office. They may choose to train new candidates or they may become an instructor in an online dental assisting program.
Administrative roles are another option for those who prefer not to assist dentists with dental procedures. Administrative roles can include running the day-to-day operations of a dentist’s office.
If you have good sales skills, it may be worth exploring opportunities in sales, such as selling dental supplies. Essentially, you would promote dental products to dentist offices.
Dental assistants who enjoy research may wish to work in a research position, such as conducting clinical trials or working with researchers on a new dental product.
Opening a Dental Assisting School
If you are an entrepreneur, opening a school for dental assistants could be worth exploring. This would allow you to run your own business in a field you’re passionate about.
VDAS offers students quite a few career advancement opportunities. Besides our “Dental Specialties” class, students can get a taste of other specialties with our radiology class, “Assisting for Operative Dentistry” class, and “Assisting for Prosthodontics” class.
Considerations for Future Trends
TeledentistryAs teledentistry becomes more commonplace, dental assistants may need to conduct more remote follow-ups and consultations. Dental assistants will need to be aware of how teledentistry systems work.
TechnologyAdvancements in technology are exponential, which means dental assistants will be required to stay up-to-date with all the new diagnostic tools and software that dental offices integrate into their workflow.
Infection Control MeasuresWith the Covid pandemic, there may be additional control measures implemented against viruses and infections. Dental assistants may be required to have additional training to ensure a hygienic environment. At VDAS, we offer a “CPR Certification and Necessary AIDs/HIV training” class, for instance.
Workforce ShortagesWashington State is currently experiencing a workforce shortage of dental hygienists. With a growing population, there may be a workforce shortage for dental assistants as well, leading to an increased demand.
Population Growth and DiversitySeattle Washington, Portland Oregon, and other cities within Oregon and Washington will see a growth in population as well as increased diversity. This diversity may necessitate dental offices to have bilingual staff to attract and keep more patients. With the above changes, there could be new roles and responsibilities for dental assistants. Some dental assistants could take on the role of teledentistry coordinators, managing remote appointments, and ensuring smooth teledentistry appointments. Other dental assistants may choose to further their digital skills by overseeing all digital workflows, such as digital impressions and digital records. Those with a passion for technology can consider being technology liaisons, serving as middlemen between the dental staff and vendors. Their job may also include helping to integrate new technology into the workflow. Future trends mean an ever-evolving landscape for healthcare and oral care. Dental assistants who prioritize ongoing learning and keeping abreast of dental advances can ensure job stability in their field. One of the ways dental assistants can enhance their long-term career prospects is with continuous education and training. This may include things like online courses, seminars, or workshops. Dental assistants can also stay ahead of the curve with changing regulations, such as infection control guidelines. At VDAS, we are proactive in making sure our students are knowledgeable about future trends. Our Base program offers an internship opportunity at Ranieu Dental to ensure students work with real patients while our Pro program provides lifetime mentorship to help our dental assistants stay on top of the changing dental profession.
Is Going to Dental Assisting School Worth the Cost in 2024?
Cost of the ProgramAlthough the costs of schools can vary, many programs cost about $8,000 to $10,000. This includes tuition, books, supplies, and any additional fees. Upon graduation, dental assistants can expect to make about $40,000+, allowing them to pay off their loans within 12 months. At VDAS, you can become a dental assistant in 10 weeks for $7,995. For those who have taken advantage of our financial loans, our in-house payment plan has zero financing cost and is 100% interest-free. Students can pay off their loans in monthly installments of $250/month.
Financial AidSome students may need to take out student loans to pay for their school or program. At VDAS, we offer scholarships to families with a monthly income of $2,000 or less. You may be qualified to take $1,000 off your admission fee. Contact our admission office to see if you qualify. We also partner with WorkForce. Students who wish to attend VDAS can apply for financial aid can apply through WorkSource Washington.
Job Stability and Growing DemandWith a growing demand for dental assistants, many students may land dental assisting jobs soon after graduation. As mentioned above, the success rate at VDAS is 95%. This means 95% of our graduating students find jobs as dental assistants soon after graduating.
Length of the ProgramMany in-person and online programs run anywhere from 10-12 weeks. The short length of the program, low educational fees (compared to a four-year degree), and the relatively comfortable salary means the return on investment is relatively high.
Here are some VDAS graduates who have seen a significant or immediate return on their investment.
I graduated from Vancouver Dental Assisting School in March 2019. I got a job immediately. I’m now the lead assistant at my office. The 10 week program allowed me to get in the dental field quickly. The best part was the hands-on training. The instructor, Jasmine, was great she explains everything. Thank you VDAS. – Fernando Tino Coj
The 10 week program was so easy to fit into my busy schedule. I dedicated my time to my career and had multiple job offers by the time I graduated! – Nikki Hernandez
Why Should You Consider Vancouver Dental Assisting School?
The future landscape for dental assistants includes a growing population, technological advances, and a workforce shortage. These dynamics make it a stable profession and therefore a compelling field for prospective students.
Is dental assisting school worth it in 2024? Yes. The job growth is faster than average and most states – including Washington and Oregon – are experiencing rapid population growth and therefore increased demand for oral healthcare. Combining these factors with low educational costs for an online dental assisting program and relatively comfortable salaries upon graduation, the ROI for dental assistants looks good.
When considering an in-person or online dental assisting program, thorough research is important. Weigh the program’s pros and cons, and inquire about in-house payment plans if the upfront cost is a concern. Additionally, think about your career goals to ensure the program aligns with your professional goals.
If you are interested in an in-person or online dental assisting program in Washington, explore our program at VDAS. We offer a 10-week program that combines lectures and clinical labs. Students can take our Lite, Base, or Pro program. We also offer an in-house payment plan that is 100% interest-free, has zero financing cost, and starts at $250 per month.
One of the best ways to invest in your future is to earn a certificate for an in-demand job. An education as a dental assistant is a good start. Contact us today to find out more about our program at VDAS.