Whether it’s time for a career change, you’ve nearly finished school or you’re currently working in a dental role overseas, becoming a dental assistant in Australia is an extremely rewarding job which offers plenty of amazing opportunities.
If you want to find out how to become a dental assistant, we’ve put together a summary below on what it takes to begin your career in the dental industry!
- What does a dental assistant do?
- What skills does a dental assistant need?
- Where can a dental assistant work?
- What qualifications does a dental assistant need?
- Do you need to be registered to work as a dental assistant?
- Overseas dental assistants working in Australia
What does a dental assistant do?
Dental assistants, also known in the past as ‘dental nurses’, perform a wide variety of tasks depending on the needs of their dental practice. They can be employed on a full time, part time or casual basis. The role includes:
- Greeting patients and introducing them to their dentist
- Preparing patients for dental treatment
- Preparing the treatment room, dental equipment and instruments
- Assisting the dentist, hygienist or oral health therapist during treatment – passing instruments, operating suction tools etc.
- Cleaning up after the procedure – including the room as well as cleaning/sterilising all re-usable equipment, and disposing of single-use waste
- Stock control and ordering
- Dental reception duties such as scheduling appointments, answering patient enquiries, managing patient records and payment processing
The role of the dental assistant is extremely important, as they are often the first point of contact in many cases and therefore have the opportunity to create an amazing and memorable first impression of the practice and the level of care provided. They have the opportunity to calm the nerves of anxious patients and provide a positive experience, changing perceptions of visiting the dentist, whether it’s for general dental treatment, cosmetic dentistry or a dental emergency.
What skills does a dental assistant need?
Since the typical day in the life of a dental assistant involves many activities, there are a number of personal skills and traits that will help you succeed in this role, including:
- Natural ability or interest in building relationships with patients and other people
- Excellent communication
- Highly organised
- Effective time management and ability to multitask
- Close attention to detail
- Good manual dexterity
- Enjoys taking responsibility
- Ability to quickly understand and follow instructions
Most of the time, these skills will help you work alongside a dentist when treating patients, but you may also find yourself working in a team with oral health therapists, dental hygienists, dental specialists or dental prosthetists.
Where can a dental assistant work?
Working as a dental assistant, you will predominantly be working in a private dental practice or specialist dental office. Other places where you may find work include:
- Hospital dental clinics
- Public community dental health clinics/community education programs for maintaining oral health
- Assisting in dental care for the Australian Defence Force
Gaining the relevant experience or qualifications can also open up further opportunities, working as a practice manager, dental sales representative or research assistant.
What qualifications does a dental assistant need?
An entry-level role as a dental assistant doesn’t require formal qualifications, and many assistants are trained “on-the-job” with no prior experience. Although, in order to improve your employability, remuneration and skills, completing vocational training such as a Certificate III in Dental Assisting can be greatly beneficial. This can be done through TAFE or another educational institution.
A Certificate IV in Dental Assisting – Dental Radiation will allow you to operate dental radiation equipment in conjunction with the other primary tasks, as well as learn about practice administration and general anaesthesia.
Do you need to be registered to work as a dental assistant?
In Australia, dental assistants need to comply in some states and territories with the relevant codes of conduct for health professionals. They do not need to be registered with the Dental Board of Australia.
If you are operating dental radiation equipment after gaining your Certificate IV in Dental Assisting, you must apply for a licence from the relevant radiation authority in your state or territory.
Although it’s not compulsory, it’s also recommended that you be up to date with your Tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccinations, as well as those that are received during childhood, such as measles, mumps, chicken pox and polio. Your workplace may also require you to receive annual flu vaccinations.
Overseas dental assistants working in Australia
If you’re relocating to our beautiful country from overseas, in order to work as a dental assistant in Australia you will first need to obtain a visa which allows you to undertake paid work here.
Dental assisting is unfortunately not included on the skilled migration list, and sponsorship is usually very difficult to obtain. Despite this, as previously mentioned it’s not mandatory to possess a formal qualification, certificate or registration with any organisation in order to work as a dental assistant in Australia, making it a role that can be realistically attained.
If you do already have a qualification from your home country, you may be paid a higher rate than an unqualified assistant. There isn’t an official arrangement between Australia and any other country to formally recognise previous dental assistant qualifications, but your qualification and previous roles will still indicate your advanced knowledge and clinical experience. Therefore, it’s recommended to bring a copy of your certificate to Australia to demonstrate this when applying for dental assistant positions.
There may be the possibility of applying for recognition of prior learning with a registered training organisation such as TAFE if you’re looking to gain a certificate in dental assisting in Australia and have already completed similar training overseas, so it can be helpful to discuss this opportunity with your chosen training provider.
As you can see, dental assistants are a highly valued part of any dental team, and although the responsibilities associated with this role can provide a challenge, this career in the dental industry is extremely rewarding and gives you the opportunity to change your patients’ lives and their health in a positive way!
To find out if our Gold Coast dental clinics have positions available, please don’t hesitate to contact us:
- Broadbeach Dental Practice: 07 5526 8722
- Palm Beach Dental Practice: 07 5525 6610
- Chirn Park Dental Practice: 07 5627 1127