How To Choose Between Dental Assisting Vs. Medical Assisting

September 26, 2013 General 0 Comments

Dental Vs Medical AssistingAre you committed to helping others? Are you a team player with a knack for noticing the details? Are you interested in hands-on work in healthcare field? If so, you might want to consider pursuing a path in the Allied health field.

Allied health refers to technician and assistant positions, such as medical assisting and dental assisting. These specialties involve working closely with physicians or dentists, handling and caring for medical tools and equipment, completing administrative tasks, and more.

But if you’re interested in both medical and dental assistant training, how do you choose the one that’s right for you?

Start by considering the work environments and different responsibilities of each path. Take a look below to see how medical assisting and dental assisting compare.

Which Environment Interests You?

Most dental assistants work in dentists’ offices, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In dentists’ offices, they spend time in labs and surgical rooms as well as exam rooms.

Medical assistants have more flexibility, although it usually means specializing in a particular area of medicine. They can find opportunities in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors and more.

In fact, since the two roles are so similar, the dental assistant is essentially a medical assistant in a dental setting. Students, however, can pursue either type of training, so those interested in dental assisting may want to choose a dental assistant program rather than a medical assistant program to develop more focused skills.

The Duties of Medical Assistants vs. Dental Assistants

The two professions have several responsibilities in common. They may:

  • Schedule appointments
  • Prepare exam room for treatments
  • Assist with exams
  • Sterilize instruments
  • Explain prescribed treatments to patients

Another similarity is that dental and medical assistants may handle either direct (clinical) or indirect patient care depending on their training, preferences, and location.

The major difference between the two roles is the subject matter. Dental assistants can process x-rays, keep patients’ mouths dry with suction hoses, and other duties related only to dental care, while medical assistants may focus on taking patients’ vital signs and other more general forms of patient care. 

The different work environments and responsibilities represent different options for those considering medical assisting or dental assisting. But aspiring or current healthcare students also need to remember that the specifics of each role depend on state laws and office type as well as level of education and experience. So consider your interests closely and the types of opportunities you might be open to when you choose between the medical and dental assisting fields.


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