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Dental assistant

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Summary of occupation

Dental nurses greet and prepare clients for dental examinations. They are also responsible for sterilising and preparing dental equipment, and providing clerical assistance. Most importantly they assist the dentist while treatments are being carried out. This will include mixing materials for fillings, passing the dentist equipment and recording information as the dentist carries out an examination. Dental nurses occasionally travel to remote areas to provide dental care and assistance to children in regional schools and people in remote areas.

ANZSCO description: Prepares patients for dental examination and assists Dental Practitioners, Hygienists and Therapists in providing care and treatment.
Alternative names: Dental Chairside Assistant, Dental Nurse
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A dental nurse needs:

  • good manual dexterity and the ability to perform precision work
  • good communication skills and the ability to work as part of team
  • a sensitive and caring nature
  • good organisational skills and the ability to perform a variety of tasks at once
  • an interest in health care.
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Working conditions

Dental nurses may work with only one other person or as part of a team. They may also work under pressure as some treatments may have to be completed within a certain time frame. Generally, dental nurses work within normal business hours Monday to Friday; however, they may be required to work Saturday mornings.

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Salary details

On average, dental assistants can expect to earn between $800 and $999 per week ($41 600 and $51 999 per year), depending on the organisation they for, and their level of experience. As a dental assistant develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Dental nurses work with a variety of equipment including hand pieces and rotary cutting instruments, diagnostic equipment including x-rays and oral surgical instruments. They are required to use personal protective equipment, which is also given to clients. They also need to know how to perform injections and sterilise equipment.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a dental assistant, you usually need to complete a qualification in dental assisting.

The Certificate III in Dental Assisting is offered at TAFE Colleges and other registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

You can also complete a Certificate III in Dental Assisting by doing a traineeship. A dental assistant traineeship usually takes 12 to 24 months to complete and is available as a school-based traineeship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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