How to Become a Dental Assistant in South Carolina

South Carolina’s state law allows dental assistants to perform basic tasks without the need to obtain a license. However, state law does require additional training for dental assistants that work with radiography, those that monitor nitrous oxide, and those with the expanded duty designation.

The South Carolina Board of Dentistry recognizes two distinct classifications of dental assistant:

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Dental Assistants – Basic dental assistants in South Carolina are only legally bound to meet employment requirements that include being able to work in the United States legally and being at least 18 years of age. However, employers often require additional qualifications, which frequently include:

  • Prior work experience in a dental office
  • Current CPR certification
  • Completion of a dental assistant certification or training program

The basic duties allowed for by law in the dental assistant job description can only be performed under the supervision of a dentist:

  • Assisting in basic supportive chairside dental procedures
  • Applying topical drugs as directed by a supervising dentist
  • Charting existing restorations such as missing teeth and applications within the mouth
  • Placement and removal of matrix, periodontal packs, orthodontic ligatures, and rubber dams
  • Taking and recording vital signs, such as respiration, blood pressure, and pulse
  • Removing sutures

Expanded Duty Dental Assistants – In addition to the general duties named above, expanded duty dental assistants in South Carolina are permitted to conduct the following expanded activities under the supervision of a dentist:

  • Placement of socket dressing, gingival retraction cord, and temporary restorations
  • Removal of socket dressing and excess cement from restoration or appliances
  • Taking of impressions for study models
  • Cementing of temporary bridges or crowns
  • Polishing restorations and supra-gingival tooth structure
  • Application of fissure and pit sealant

Qualifying to Become a Dental Assistant in South Carolina

Candidates have two options to gain eligibility to become a dental assistant in South Carolina capable of performing expanded duties:

  • Graduate from a dental assistant academic program that is accredited by the American Dental Association. There are nine accredited dental assistant schools in South Carolina, located in:

    • Aiken
    • Charleston
    • Columbia
    • Florence
    • Greenville
    • Myrtle Beach
    • Pendleton
    • Rock Hill
    • Spartanburg
  • Complete at least two years of continuous and full-time employment as a chairside dental assistant

Note that dental assistant schools with academic programs that are approved by the American Dental Association will fulfill the requirements to work with radiography. These programs may also fulfill the eligibility requirements to apply for a certificate to monitor nitrous oxide, however candidates should check with the individual program they choose to confirm this.

Dental assistant schools in South Carolina that are approved by the American Dental Association will offer courses that include:

  • Clinical assisting
  • Receiving and preparing patients for treatment
  • Oral medicine and oral biology
  • Assisting chairside treatment
  • Radiology and x-rays
  • Construction of temporary crowns
  • Ethics and professionalism
  • Tooth morphology and histology
  • Pouring and trimming impressions
  • Dental office management skills
  • Patient records, filing, and appointment booking

Specialty Training Requirements in Radiography and Nitrous Oxide Monitoring

Radiography Training – In order to place and expose radiographic film (take x-rays) in a dental office, dental assistants must have successfully completed a training course in radiation safety. This training must be acceptable to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Acceptable training courses include the following four options:

It is the responsibility of the employing dentist to affirm to the South Carolina Board of Dentistry that dental assistants who work with radiography are properly trained.

Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certificate – The state’s Board of Dentistry offers this certificate to eligible expanded duty dental assistants and dental hygienists. Candidates can become eligible for this certification by completing the following:

  • Complete an Application for Certification in Nitrous Oxide Monitoring and submit this to the South Carolina Board of Dentistry
  • One of the following:

    • Complete an approved nitrous oxide monitoring course; there are currently nine approved courses in South Carolina
    • Submit proof of nitrous oxide certification in a different state, including official transcripts from a training program
  • Pay an application fee of $25 and a $10 certificate fee
  • Demonstrate proof of being an Expanded Duty Dental Assistant
  • Have completed a CPR certification course in the past three years from one of the following approved providers:

  • Pass the State Board Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Examination – to do this candidates must first submit a completed application for certification before being allowed to take this exam; the exam is often offered immediately following the completion of the nitrous oxide monitoring course

Working as a Dental Assistant in South Carolina

Dental assistants provide their valuable services in an expanding marketplace throughout South Carolina where the number of jobs continues to grow at a much higher-than-average rate. Medical assistants are concentrated in the following parts of South Carolina:

  • 680 dental assistants in Columbia
  • 550 dental assistants in the Greenville-Mauldin-Easley area
  • 380 dental assistants in Charleston greater metropolitan area
  • 340 dental assistants in the Low Country non-metropolitan area
  • 250 dental assistants in Spartanburg
  • 220 dental assistants in the Upper Savannah non-metropolitan area
  • 200 dental assistants in Florence
  • 190 dental assistants in the Myrtle Beach area

To have an idea of the real-time qualifications employers are looking for, job candidates may take a look through the most recent vacancy announcements for dental assistants from locations across the state:

  • Family Dental in Columbia was recently seeking a dental assistant with the following qualifications:
    • Capability of taking x-rays
    • Expanded Function Dental Assistant preferred

  • Take Care Health Systems in Greer was recently seeking a dental assistant who:
    • Was a graduate of an accredited dental assistant program or who had at least three years of work experience
    • Had certifications in Radiology, Infection Control, and jurisprudence
    • Had current Basic Life Support (BLS) certification through either the AHA or ARC

  • Heartland Dental in Lexington was recently looking for a dental assistant with at least two years of work experience and the ability to work in radiology.
  • Dental One in Anderson recently sought a dental assistant who possessed the following qualifications:

    • Minimum qualifications:
      • High school diploma or equivalent
      • Ability to take x-rays
    • Preferred qualifications:
    • Experience working as a dental assistant
      • Current CPR certification
      • Nitrous Oxide Monitoring Certification

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