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How to Become a Dental Assistant in Utah

Most Utah Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board regulations concerning dental assistants pertain to what these professionals cannot do:

  • Perform definitive treatment and make diagnoses
  • Perform final cementation
  • Finish, carve, condense, polish, or place restorative materials
  • Extract teeth or cut hard or soft tissue
  • Make adjustments that will result in teeth moving upon appliances
  • Attempt to correct the malocclusion or malposition of teeth
  • Perform sub-gingival modification with instrumentation
  • Make decisions about the prescription, administration, or dosage of drugs

Dental assistants in Utah are permitted to:

  • Use a rotary dental instrument to polish teeth coronally with a rubber cup, and in the process remove accretions, stains, bonded materials, or deposits
  • Introduce nitrous oxide for its analgesic effects to patients under the direct supervision of a dentist
  • Take jaw registrations or oral impressions for the fabrication of temporary or provisional appliances

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Qualifying to Become a Dental Assistant in Utah

To work as a dental assistant in Utah, all candidates must have either CPR certification or Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) certification. Additionally, dental assistants interested in working with radiology and x-rays must complete an educational course or pass an exam approved by the Utah Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board demonstrating skills gained through experience.

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You know you’re ready to make the move to become an administrative or clinical dental assistant. All you need is the training to make it happen. Learn more about flexible training options and the cost of programs in your area.

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Dental assistant training and education programs accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) take approximately one year to complete and include over 1,200 hours of study in subjects such as:

  • Financial operations for dental assistants
  • Dental law and ethics
  • Dental terminology
  • Dental assisting clinical procedures and lab
  • Overview of dental assisting
  • Anatomy and physiology for dental assistants
  • Dental office administrative procedures
  • Dental radiology
  • Therapeutic communications for dental assistants and health professionals
  • Dental assisting externship

These programs result in a certificate or diploma, though some associate-level programs are available.

Gaining Permission to Take X-Rays – by completing one of the following requirements dental assistants will be permitted to expose radiographs:

  • Graduate from a dental assisting school that is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); there are two such dental assistant schools in Utah, located in Kaysville and Ogden
  • Pass the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) Exam through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), which covers the topics of:
    • Exposure and evaluation
    • Convention film processing
    • Labeling and mounting
    • Radiation safety for patients, operators, and other staff
  • Pass a course or exam that is approved by the Utah Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board and includes coverage of:
    • Orientation to radiation technology and terminology
    • Radiographic dental pathology and anatomy
    • Radiation physics
    • Radiation protection for the operator and patient
    • Radiation biology, such as the interaction of ionizing radiation on cells, matter, and tissue
    • Factors that influence the response of cells and tissue to ionizing radiation
    • Cumulative effects of x-rays
    • Extra-oral and intra-oral radiographic techniques
    • Dental radiology infection control
    • Proper disposal of chemicals and other processing techniques

Additional Dental Assistant Qualifications

While not required by state law or the Utah Dentist and Dental Hygienist Licensing Board, earning any of the following qualifications can make dental assistants stronger candidates for hire:

  • Dental assistant certification through a nationally-recognized association
  • Certificate of completion from a dental assistant training program

There are a number of national dental assisting associations, with one of the largest in the country being the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB). In addition to being part of a recognized route to x-ray permission through its Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) Exam, DANB is the sponsor of several other certifications and exams that are recognized nationally:

Pursuing Dental Assistant Jobs in Utah

Utah has the highest concentration of dental assistants in the country. According to the most recent numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3.88 dental assistants for every thousand jobs in the state. Dental assistants in Utah work in areas divided among the state’s urban and non-metropolitan areas:

  • 1,960 dental assistants in Salt Lake City
  • 1,010 dental assistants in the Prove-Orem area
  • 890 dental assistants in the Ogden-Clearfield area
  • 240 dental assistants in Logan and the surrounding area
  • 240 dental assistants in Saint George
  • 220 dental assistants in the eastern non-metropolitan portion of the state
  • 140 dental assistants in the south western non-metropolitan portion of the state
  • 80 dental assistants in the west central non-metropolitan region of the state
  • 70 dental assistants in the northern non-metropolitan area of the state

A sampling of the most recent job announcements seeking dental assistants revealed a demand for the following qualifications:

  • Pacific Dental Services in Midvale was recently looking for a dental assistant with the preferred qualifications of:
    • An associate’s degree in dental assisting
    • One-year certificate from a dental assisting training program
    • Permission to expose radiographs
  • Apex Dental in Salt Lake City recently posted a dental assistant job description that specified the following qualifications:
    • At least one year of experience working as a dental assistant
    • High energy and self-motivated
    • Warm and friendly personality
  • Smile Brands Inc in American Fork was recently seeking a dental assistant who had the following qualifications:
    • At least one to two years of previous work experience performing dental assistant functions
    • CPR certification
    • Permission to take x-rays
    • Experience using Microsoft Office
    • Willing to travel to offices in Orem, Sandy, Taylorsville, and West Valley
  • Sugarhouse Dental Office in Salt Lake City was recently advertising for a dental assistant with more than two years of work experience.
  • A dental clinic in Salt Lake City was recently looking for a dental assistant with the following minimum qualifications:
    • Completion of a dental assistant training course
    • Completion of the Radiology Health and Safety (RHS) Exam, or a willingness to complete this within six months of hire
    • Basic Life Support for the Health Care Provider Certification from the American Heart Association, or the willingness to obtain this within one month of hire

As candidates explore what it takes to become a dental assistant in Utah, it may also be helpful to contact local professional organizations such as the Utah Dental Assistants Association or the national American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA). Professional organizations can offer information regarding:

  • Legislative changes in the dental assisting field
  • Employment opportunities
  • Opportunities for professional development and education

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