How To Become A Dental Assistant In Australia?

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Students want to know how they can become dental assistants in Australia.


Do you like assisting people with dental hygiene issues and want to work in a clean, caring professional environment? Then a career as a dental assistant may be a great career choice for you.


Dental assistants help people with dental procedures, communicate dental care tips to patients, and perform administrative tasks. They prepare patients for dental examination and work alongside dental practitioners, hygienists, and therapists to provide care and treatment.


You don't need formal qualifications to work as an entry-level dental assistant in Australia. However, a vocational qualification like a Certificate III in Dental Assisting from an RTO will increase your job prospects and compensation.


This comprehensive blog explains the duties and qualifications of dental assistants to help you decide to pursue this profession. Explore their salary potential, job prospects, and how to become a dental assistant in Australia.



1. What Is A Dental Assistant?


Dental Assistants, also called Dental Nurses, prepare patients for oral examinations and support Dental Practitioners with tools, X-rays, and treatments.


They usually work in private practices but are also hired at community-based and dental clinics in hospitals. Occasionally, these multi-skilled dental team members also work in management, health promotion, and policy development roles.



2. What Does A Dental Assistant Do?


Dental assistants assist dentists, dental prosthetists, oral health therapists, dental specialists, and dental hygienists in their daily duties. In small practices, they may even perform the duties of dental receptionists.


The typical duties of a dental assistant include the following:


  • Schedule appointments

  • Prepare treatment rooms 

  • Greet patients and prepare them for treatment

  • Assist the dentist during procedures

  • Make tooth impressions

  • Sterilize equipment

  • Provide oral hygiene supplies 

  • Prepare dental materials and develop X-rays

  • Apply water sprays and suction devices during check-ups, cleanings, and procedures

  • Clean up treatment rooms after patient appointments

  • Perform routine maintenance on equipment

  • Monitor dental supplies and order new stock as required.

  • Educate patients on the right way of flossing and brushing

  • Advise patients on post-operative care and procedures

  • May perform billing and clerical tasks



3. Personal Requirements For Dental Assistants


You need the following skills to succeed as a dental assistant:



Technical Skills


  • Basic dentistry knowledge, including dentistry tools and oral hygiene. 

  • Able to perform major dentistry tasks, such as sterilizing equipment, operating suction devices, etc. 

  • A good understanding of the Dental Practice Act to ensure they comply with legal dental assistant requirements.

  • Able to work on Computers, specifically Dental4Windows, a popular dental practice management program to schedule appointments and maintain patient files. 



Soft Skills


  • Interest in healthcare work.

  • Good verbal communication and interpersonal skills

  • Well-organized

  • Empathy

  • Adaptable

  • Able to follow instructions

  • Able to work independently 

  • Customer service skills such as being friendly, respectful, and polite when dealing with patients 

  • Reliable

  • Punctual

  • Professional demeanour

  • Problem-solving skills 

  • A hygienic and well-groomed appearance

  • Team player

  • Time management skills and multitasking

  • Flexible dexterity

  • Quick learner



4. Required Qualifications For A Dental Assistant


You can pursue a dental assistant career without a formal qualification or prior experience, as most entry-level dental assistants develop their basic dental assisting skills while working on the job.


  • Be at least 17 years of age. 

  • Complete your Year 10 (or equivalent)

  • Though an entry-level role doesn't require formal qualification, completing a Certificate III in Dental Assisting (HLT35021) or Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (HLT45021) through TAFE or another educational institution can enhance your employability, compensation, and skills. You can complete these courses as part of a traineeship.

  • You may need a Certificate IV in Dental Assisting – Dental Radiation to operate dental radiation equipment and general job duties.

  • Ensure you have up-to-date immunizations as required.

  • Experienced Dental Assistants should consider specialising in dental hygiene or dental therapy to progress their careers. 



5. Steps To Become A Dental Assistant In Australia


Dental Assistants don't require formal qualifications, as most get trained on the job. Also, they are not required to register or get accredited by any regulatory body to offer their services.


However, those who need to operate dental radiography apparatus must hold a license with their state or territory Radiation Authority.


Here are the step-wise instructions to prepare you for a career as a dental assistant in Australia:



Step 1: Finish Your Year 10 Of High School


There are two pathways to prepare for this career:


  • Complete your year 10 of high school and enrol for an advanced Certificate III or IV at TAFE or any other registered training provider. 

  • Finish your year 12 education to graduate with your senior school certificate. 


Studying biology in high school is beneficial as it teaches you about basic human anatomy, which makes vocational training easier.



Step 2: Complete Your First Aid Certificate


Before you can graduate with a nationally recognised qualification in Dental Assisting, you should complete a recent First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certificate with a specialist training provider.



Step 3: Get Qualified In Dental Assisting


Certificate III in Dental Assisting is ideal for a dental assistant career. Some high schools offer this course as a part of a traineeship for their Year 10, year 11, and year 12 students. Alternatively, students can complete the course at an accredited TAFE college or independent training provider.


This entry-level qualification teaches students about infection control, sterilization, equipment cleaning, dental radiography, and oral healthcare procedures. The work placement component helps them practice what they have learned in the classroom.


For a direct pathway to employment as a dental assistant, students should study further and complete Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (Oral Health Promotion Specialisation) or Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (Radiography Specialisation) either online or full-time.


Students must complete a work placement of 300 hours under a qualified dentist as a part of the course.


You can also consider completing dual qualifications to complete the above courses in one go.


  • Dual Certificate III in Dental Assisting & Certificate IV in Dental Assisting with Oral Health Promotion Specialisation

  • Dual Certificate III in Dental Assisting & Certificate IV in Dental Assisting with Radiography Specialisation (HLT35015 & HLT45015)



Step 4: Get Vaccinated


Dental assistants' job involves working with infected patients.


Dental authorities recommend keeping their vaccinations up-to-date as set out in the Australian Immunisation Handbook (AIH). It helps prevent the transmission of infectious diseases while working in healthcare.


  • Hepatitis B

  • Tetanus

  • Influenza

  • Rubella

  • Pertussis 

  • Standard childhood vaccines (mumps, polio, measles, and varicella)



Step 5: Apply For A Licence


Dental assistants don't have to register with the Dental Board of Australia or any State and Territory Boards.


Those with a Certificate IV in Dental Assisting or Dental Radiography who need to operate dental radiography equipment must have a valid license with the relevant state/ territory Radiation Authority.


Step 6: Apply For Jobs


Armed with certificates and current vaccinations, you are ready to apply for dental assistant jobs.



Step 7: Consider An Advanced Degree


Once you gain a few years of experience, you may continue working as a dental assistant or pursue a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene to become a dental hygienist or therapist.



6. Where Do Dental Assistants Work?


Most dental assistants work in a private dental practice or specialist dental office in a team with oral health therapists, dental specialists, dental hygienists, or dental prosthetists.


Some may work in hospital dental clinics and polyclinics alongside other health and wellness services. Very few dental assistants work for the Australian Defence Force to provide dental care to army men.


Besides these, well-trained dental assistants can also work in the below settings, such as:


  • Specialty practices, including orthodontics, oral surgery, etc.

  • Clinics and schools that conduct community education programs for maintaining oral health 

  • Public community dental health clinics 

  • Dental school clinics



As you gain relevant experience, you can work as a practice manager, research assistant, or dental sales representative.



7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Dental Assistant?


Dental assistants need no formal qualifications and can find employment after high school. Thus, becoming a dental assistant is a relatively fast process. However, finding job opportunities without experience or a certificate can be challenging.


Completing a 1-year Online/On-Campus Certificate III in Dental Assisting at TAFE QLD after leaving high school will ease your road to break in the dental industry.


You may even study further and complete a 1-year self-paced Certificate IV in Dental Assisting at TAFE NSW for better career prospects. 



8. Who Provides The Dental Assistant Training In Australia?


The primary vocational training for dental assisting National Vocational Qualification is the Certificate III in Dental Assisting.


Applicants who wish to further their skills may undertake Certificate IV in Dental Assisting and choose from specific streams such as general anesthesia, dental radiography, oral health promotion, conscious sedation, and practice administration.


Only registered training organizations like Dental Assistants Professional Association (RTO Provider No 90424) can deliver these qualifications. The Association specializes in dental assistant training with over 40 years of experience in providing these training courses.



9. Is Studying Dental Assistant Hard?


With no mandatory education requirement like other career paths and no need for registration with a regularity body, it is relatively easy to become a dental assistant.


Since dental assistant courses are shorter than degree programs, dental assistants can start their careers sooner than professionals in other fields.



10. Is Being A Dental Assistant Worth It?


Yes. Trained dental assistants are a valuable part of a dental team for their abilities to comfort the patient, anticipate the dentist's needs, and perform to the highest standards.


This gratifying job offers plenty of plentiful opportunities in private practices or public clinics, which makes your job search relatively simple.


Further study can open the door to career options like becoming a dental hygienist. If you develop administrative qualifications and experience, you can even progress to practice management roles.



11. Job Outlook For Dental Assistants In Australia


Are dental assistants in demand? A dental assisting occupation (ANZSCO code: 4232) offers many remarkable work opportunities and variations in duties and environment. The skills and knowledge you develop can lead to numerous workforce opportunities.


In Australia, there is a rising demand for dental assistants at present. Growth factors include:


  • An aging population.

  • Heightened awareness of preventive dental care.

  • Continuing research on oral and general health.


As per the Labour Market Insights, the job opportunities and the number of workers expect to grow moderately from 35,800 in 2021 to 38,100 in 2026.



Working Arrangements


Around 46% of Dental Assistants work full-time for an average of 40 hours per week. It is 4 hours less than the average of all other jobs, i.e., 44 hours per week.



Main Industries


Around 98.6% of Dental Assistants work in the Health care and social assistance industry. Out of the remaining, 1% of workers work in Administrative and Support Services and 0.3% in Public Administration and Safety.



Employment Across Australia


The below regions have the largest number of workers:


  • Gold Coast

  • Melbourne - South East

  • Melbourne - Outer East

  • Melbourne - West

  • Perth - North West


State-wise employment percentage of workers:


  • NSW - 30.7%

  • VIC - 24.4%

  • QLD - 22.5%

  • SA - 7.7%

  • WA - 10.1%

  • TAS - 2.2%

  • NT - 0.6%

  • ACT - 1.6%



Worker Profile


The average age of Dental Assistants is 31 years, which is much less than that of all other jobs, i.e., 40 years. Most workers are between the age group of 25 and 34 years.


Females constitute 98% of the workforce which is 50 percentage points more than the all-jobs average of 48%.



12. Working Conditions For A Dental Assistant


Dental assistants may work one-on-one with the dentist or in a team in the government sector, general dental practice or private dental practice.


They work in a hands-on environment with dental patients, providing secondary support to the dentist and performing business-support functions in a dental clinic.


Dental assistants may work under pressure as most treatments require completion within a specified timeframe.



13. How Can Overseas Dental Assistants Work In Australia?


If you are a qualified dental assistant and want to work in Australia, you will first have to get a visa that permits you to undertake paid work there.


You should know that dental assisting isn't included on the skilled migration list, and getting a sponsorship is tough.


Despite this, it is optional to possess a formal qualification, registration, or certificate with any organization to work as a dental assistant in Australia. Thus, lesser requirements make the role attainable for overseas workers.


However, dental assistants who have a qualification from their home country earn a higher rate than unqualified ones.


It is advisable to bring a copy of your qualification and experience certificate to the country while applying for dental assistant positions to showcase your clinical experience and advanced knowledge.


Candidates with similar training overseas can apply for recognition of prior learning with an RTO such as TAFE if they want to gain a certificate in dental assisting in Australia.



14. How Much Do Dentist Assistants Earn In Australia?


According to Pay Scale, the average Dental Assistant's salary is AU$49,628. The most common factors that determine their salary include work experience, geographical location, skillset, seniority of the role, and their employer.



Average Hourly Salary Based On Experience


  • Entry-level Dental Assistants (1-year experience)- AU$21.94 

  • Early career Dental Assistants (1-4 years of experience) - AU$23.97 

  • Mid-career Dental Assistants (5-9 years of experience) - AU$26.32 

  • Experienced Dental Assistants with (10-19 years of experience) - AU$27.28 

  • Dental Assistants in their late career (20 years and above) - AU$28. 



Average Hourly Salary Based On Location


Dental Assistants have the highest salaries in the following cities:


  • West End QLD - $25.66 per hour

  • Heatherton VIC - $25.31 per hour

  • Canberra ACT - $20.68 per hour

  • Newcastle NSW - $20.19 per hour

  • Edgecliff NSW - $19.89 per hour

  • Sydney NSW - $19.80 per hour

  • Melbourne VIC - $18.87 per hour

  • Gold Coast QLD - $18.82 per hour

  • Perth WA - $18.70 per hour



 15. What's The Lowest A Dental Assistant Can Make?


Entry-level Dental Assistants with less than one year of experience can expect to earn an average pay of AU$ 21.94. Their salary increases as they build more experience and take on senior roles. 



16. Conclusion


Dental assistants have an essential role to play in a dental team.


Though the responsibilities may be challenging, this career is enriching and allows you to impact your patients' lives and health positively.


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