Becoming a Dental Assistant in Florida
If you want a career in the field of dentistry, becoming a dental assistant is a good choice. Required training and education take less time than other dental professions, and you can earn relatively good pay in a stable, clean work environment.
Each state has its own training and licensing requirements, so it’s important to learn what goes into becoming a dental assistant in Florida.
Education & Training
Dental assistants in Florida must have sufficient formal training and experience to work in dentistry. They attend training programs that involve classroom education, hands-on training, and clinical experience.
Some may even place you inside a local dentist’s office as part of an externship.
While you may not always need your high school diploma or GED, you still must be 18 years or older to attend a Florida dental assistant training school.
It’s important to ensure the college or program you attend has accreditation through the American Dental Association (ADA). You can verify this on the ADA website.
Typical Courses & Topics Covered
A Dental Assisting Career Certificate provides students with the theoretical, practical, and clinical knowledge needed to obtain an entry-level position in a dentist’s office. Some programs offer general education credits, especially if you attend a community college for an associate degree.
Courses that focus on the career often cover:
- Dental anatomy
- Diet and nutrition affecting teeth
- Oral hygiene and preventative practices
- Dental x-rays
- Front office procedures
- Dental office emergencies
- Disinfecting and sterilizing equipment
- Chairside assisting
Dental assistants receive on-site training under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. They perform basic supportive tasks, such as prepping the patient and utensils needed for the procedure.
The dentist supervising them assumes full responsibility for ensuring the student completes their training.
How Long is Dental Assistant Training?
Training to become a dental assistant in Florida can take up to two years to complete. However, many community and career colleges have programs you can finish in as little as ten months.
When applying to attend a school or program, check to see if that college offers flexible scheduling or fast-track programs so you can choose when and how long you want to study.
How Much Does Dental Assistant School Cost in Florida?
The cost to attend a dental assistant training program or school varies by institution and length of education. Typically, those who earn their Dental Assisting Certificate pay less than $3,000.
However, those who attend more advanced courses or obtain an associate degree spend more. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
Dental Assistant Requirements In Florida
Most dental assistant training programs in Florida prepare students for entry-level jobs.
At the same time, there are supplementary training requirements needed if you want to qualify for more jobs and greater pay, which includes expanded duties training in addition to a certificate as a dental radiographer.
Dental assistants are full-time employees who help oral surgeons and dentists with procedures.
They may also perform clerical work like keeping records. Associated tasks depend on the kind of training you received in your education.
With more training and certifications, you can take on expanded functions.
Duties & Responsibilities
A dental assistant’s duties in Florida can involve basic tasks as well as more complex assignments related to patient care. These duties include:
- Prepping patients for exams
- Performing X-rays
- Completing patient documents
- Sanitizing and preparing equipment
- Assisting the dentist with procedures
- Scheduling appointments
- Working with insurance companies to resolve issues
If you’re interested in similar careers, you might also look into becoming a dental hygienist, medical assistant, surgical technician, or pharmacy technician. These occupations help support other healthcare professionals and enable you to earn a salary with less time spent inside a classroom.
Expanded Functions Dental Assistant
With formal training, dental assistants can perform various basic tasks without direct supervision. To work alongside a dentist and perform procedures yourself, you must receive special training as an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant or EFDA.
There are two ways a student can become an EFDA in Florida:
- Complete a dental, dental hygiene, or dental assisting training program with expanded functions that are part of the curriculum OR
- Complete additional expanded duties training via a Florida Board of Dentistry-approved institution
Dental assistants with sufficient training and direct supervision can do advanced tasks such as performing coronal polishing and removing sutures after oral surgery.
The two tasks essential to an EFDAs work that you can only perform with expanded training are monitoring nitrous oxide and operating x-ray equipment.
Monitoring Nitrous Oxide Analgesia
Nitrous oxide, when used in dentistry, helps relieve pain and anxiety felt by patients during procedures. To monitor this treatment, dental assistants must have the right training and certification.
They may either attend a two-day course approved by the ADA or receive certification by the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, or similar organization regarding adult and infant CPR, obstructed airways, and the use of a defibrillator.
Performing dental radiographic procedures, or operating x-ray equipment, is an essential and regular task in dentistry.
Because of this, dental assistants must undergo special training to receive certification as dental radiographers. Many earn this education during the initial dental assistant training.
If you do not attend a school that teaches radiography, you must instead complete three months of on-the-job training and learn how to position and expose dental radiographic film under the supervision of a dentist. You should also take a board-approved radiology course within the year.
Regardless of how you receive the training to be a dental radiographer, you still have to apply for certification through the Florida Department of Health. The current fee is $35.00.
Do Dental Assistants Need a License in Florida?
Unlike dentists, Florida does not license dental assistants and there is no exam needed to work in the state.
If you want to work in this career field, you need your dental assistant certification in Florida with proper expanded duties training and on-the-job experience provided by approved and accredited institutions.
Dental Assistant Salaries in Florida
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average dental assistant salary in Florida is $40,820.
This annual wage is above the national average for the same career, which is $38,660 annually. The salary you earn, however, can vary based on where you work, your level of education, and how much experience you have working in the field.
How Much Do Dental Assistants Make in Florida?
After breaking down how much dental assistants make in Florida hourly, you get a typical wage of $19.63, which is still above the national average of $18.59.
Salary Per Major City
To get a clearer picture of what you can earn as a dental assistant in the state of Florida, look at the following cities and their average pay rates:
Being a dental assistant is a promising career path with evidence of consistent demand, stability, and growth.
Florida has the third largest level of employment for dental assistants in the U.S., employing just over 21,000 people in this position. Dental assistant jobs in Florida are vital since the state has a large elderly population requiring more dental care than other age groups.
The BLS reports that the expected national growth rate for dental assistants is 11% between 2020 and 2030, which is faster than most occupations. This projection could mean up to 44,000 job openings yearly from people retiring or changing jobs.
In other words, Florida’s dental assistant jobs will likely increase over the next few years.