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OCCUPATION: DENTAL ASSISTANT

Researched by DALLAS M. JACKSON / Los Angeles Times

Name: Claudia Centeno

Company: Russell Chang, DDS

Thumbs up: “I like working with patients. I work for an orthodontist and the patients we work with need braces. We straighten crooked teeth, and they come away with great smiles. I like that I’m helping someone. It’s not stressful, and everyone is happy at the end.”

Thumbs down: “There’s nothing I dislike about the job.”

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Next step: “I went from being a dental assistant to being a registered dental assistant. You have more duties when you’re licensed.”

Advice: “I would suggest taking classes to introduce yourself to the basics. The classes give you an overview of what you will be getting into, then if you’re still interested, enroll in a dental assistant program. There are some quickie three- or six-month courses out there, but I don’t recommend those. If you’re really interested, go through the yearlong program at a city college.”

Salary range: Hourly wages range from $5 for new hires with no experience to $13 for experienced dental assistants.

Fringe benefits: In most cases, paid vacation, sick leave, medical and dental insurance; in some cases, retirement plans.

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Hours: Most dental assistants work full time.. Educational and training requirements: Graduation from an approved one- to two-year training program, or having performed satisfactory work as a dental assistant for 18 months. Registered dental assistants must pass the California Board of Dental Examiners’ written and practical examination. Size of work force: Medium. In Orange County, 2,100 to 2,400 people, or 0.2% of the labor force, work as dental assistants.

Expected demand: Growth is expected to remain stable.

Job description: Assist the dentist at the chair by preparing patients and equipment, keeping records, and performing related duties as required.

For more information: Call the California Board of Dental Examiners Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at (916) 920-7451.

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