Dental Assistant vs. Medical Assistant – Which Should You Go For?

Are you interested in pursuing a career in healthcare but have difficulty choosing between dental assisting and medical assisting?

You’re not alone.

Many people encounter such difficulties, especially when the names sound the same. Many wrong assumptions are made about what these medical fields are about.

We’ve attempted to provide valuable answers to often-asked questions.

Dental Assistant vs. Medical Assistant

Which is better for you, medical assistant or dental assistant? It all depends on your capacity and goals.

By going through this article, you’re provided with clear answers on similarities and differences between dental and medical assistants.

In comparing the two, key factors include certifications, salary, and job outlook.

What is a Dental Assistant?

Starting with basic definitions, this medical position is occupied by a trained dental professional.

A dental assistant is a member of a dental team who assists a dentist with preparatory work before a patient or client is taken care of.

In other words, dental assistants support dental operators in providing or administering efficient dental treatment. Most importantly, dental assistants are in charge of general patient care and administrative support.

To be more specific, dental assistants are responsible for office and laboratory duties in a dentist’s office. These professionals anticipate the order of operations and hand a dentist whatever tools are necessary for a procedure.

As expected, the dental assistant’s role is mainly collaborative. They work closely with other dental professionals like dentists and dental hygienists.

More about other aspects of their job will be discussed shortly.

Who is a Medical Assistant?

Also known as clinical assistants, medical assistants play a vital supportive role as they work closely with other medical professionals like physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants,

The medical assistant position generally functions under a physician.

To ensure the smooth running of a doctor’s office, medical assistants must be involved in its operation. Their duties are split between administrative and clinical.

They help by directing patients to the exam room, giving injections, checking their weight, and taking vital signs, amongst other responsibilities.

Medical assistants often work in outpatient or ambulatory care facilities such as medical offices and clinics.

From the brief introduction, it’s evident that medical assistants serve an important function and are essential players in the healthcare industry.

Medical Assistant vs. Dental Assistant

In trying to decide what path to follow between dental and medical assisting, you must first understand the similarities and differences between the two.

The matter of choice is entirely up to you. In other words, it’s a personal decision you have to make after finding out what they’re about.

A thorough understanding of the uniqueness of each of these healthcare professions depends on covering or discussing key aspects like differences in duties or responsibilities and educational requirements.

More areas covered include salary & job outlook, skill sets necessary for the adequate performance of responsibilities, and work settings. Supervision is another exciting aspect of their jobs we’ll need to cover.

The same applies to the length of training.

i. Duties and Responsibilities

We begin with the roles of both of these professionals.

In the case of dental assistants, these professionals help with educating patients on proper oral hygiene. They also perform proper sterilization according to health and safety standards.

Dental assistants prepare patients for dental procedures alongside instruments needed for that.

These professionals manage patient billing while helping process payments from patients and insurance companies. They also help process X-rays of the patient’s mouth and jaw.

The maintenance of accurate and complete patient records is another role of dental assistants.

Others include managing inventory and supply orders, performing proper sterilizations, and other delegated tasks they may be given.

On the other hand, medical assistants have unique responsibilities ranging from administering medication under the supervision of nurses or physicians.

More roles include sterilizing equipment, tools & instruments and helping to process insurance claims.

Medical assistants will help schedule appointments for patients & doctors, prepare patients and their rooms for doctor’s visits and inspect a medical office’s inventory of medical supplies.

These professionals assist physicians with patient examination and also take vitals.

ii. Educational Requirements

There are multiple paths to becoming a dental assistant. Your state may require you to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam.

In some cases, formal education may not be needed, as on-the-job training may suffice.

For medical assistant training, postsecondary education is essential. Others start their journey with a high school diploma while acquiring on-the-job training.

It depends on the state you live in.

iii. Salary & Job Outlook

Who makes more money, medical assistant or dental assistant?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), dental assistants earn an average hourly wage of $20 and an annual average salary of $41,000.

Medical assistants earn a little less as they earn an average hourly wage of $18 and an average yearly salary of $37,000.

iv. Skill Sets

There are lots of similarities when it comes to the skill sets required by both of these professions.

Because they’re all involved in direct patient care, they must be dependable and have good communication and organization skills.

Also, time management, listening, compassion, attention to detail, and teamwork capabilities are essential.

v. Work Settings

In terms of work settings, you’ll find dental assistants employed in dentists, doctor’s offices, and government facilities.

Here is a complete list of where dental assistants work.

Medical assistants work in hospitals, private healthcare facilities, physician offices, independent clinics, industrial firms, laboratories, etc.

vi. Supervision

Both dental and medical assistants work under close supervision.

The only difference is who they take direction from. In the case of dental assistants, they’re supervised by dentists and support dental hygienists, while medical assistants take orders from physicians.

vii. Length of Training

To become a dental assistant, you’ll need to undergo training that lasts around a year or less.

In the case of medical assisting, the path you choose will determine how long training lasts. This may take anywhere from 9 months to about a year to complete.

So, there you have it. Critical comparisons between dental and medical assistants have been made. You’ll have to determine what serves your needs best.