Dental assistants in New Mexico are entry-level health workers who help dentists with routine dental procedures and administrative tasks around the dentist’s office. While it is actually possible for men and women with a high school diploma to learn this job by means of on-the-job training, most employers prefer to hire candidates who have finished a 12-month dental assistant certification training program.

The demand for dental assistants in New Mexico is projected to rise dramatically in the coming years, so it is a good option for all those who are beginning their careers. The 2016 Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% increase in new opportunities for dental assistants through 2026.

What do dental assistants do in New Mexico?

The major responsibilities of the dental assistant in New Mexico center around the duties that help the office service its customers and provide basic dental care. While some employers might require even more duties, the link here illustrates the primary function of most dental assistants.

What is the procedure to become a dental assistant in New Mexico?

The four-step procedure for becoming a dental assistant in New Mexico is displayed below.

Step 1 – Earn your high school diploma or GED

Receiving your high school diploma is one of the critical foundations to becoming employed in any type of skilled position. This is the case when considering most positions in medicine and health. You can find positions in the field that can be secured without a high school education, but they generally provide very little room for growth.

On top of that, the majority of dental assistant courses call for students to be high school graduates or G.E.D. holders as part of their admissions prerequisites. And so, whatever your ultimate professional career goals, make sure that you finish this first step.

Step 2: Register for a CODA-accredited training program

If you have chosen to earn your professional certification, the next move is to enroll in a dental assistant training program that is recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Dental assisting programs around the country are governed by the CODA, who operates to standardize education in the trade around the country.

The importance of CODA accreditation

It is simply vital that you graduate from a training program accredited by the CODA, as only those students who have completed an accredited training program are eligible to take either of the national certification exams.

Online dental assistant school

As is the case with the majority of online learning offerings, online dental assistant programs are a popular alternative for pupils who are juggling more than one obligations. These programs may also be perfect for those who do not live close to an institution that has dental assisting education.

To clarify a common misconception, even though online programs enable students to complete their academic studies through online learning, the clinical, hands-on portion of their education has to be completed at a physical location.

Step 3: Meet all requisite internship hours and graduate from the program

Graduating from the accredited program you selected in the preceding step will be your next objective. Although each program is somewhat different, it is quite common for trainees to complete their classroom education and internship in just 12 months.

The classroom part of your coursework will most likely include all of the theory and procedural-type information that is going to be a part of the certification assessment. The internship, on the other hand, will present you with the opportunity to put what you learn into practice in a live, professional setting.

Step 4: Pass one of the national certification examinations

There are two highly-popular dental assistant certification tests – the NELDA and CDA. You must graduate from a program approved by the CODA in order to be qualified to challenge one of these tests. Students who pass either test obtain the nationally-recognized title of Certified Dental Assistant (CDA).

Here is a short explanation of both assessments.

National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA)

One of the primary national tests is the National Entry Level Dental Assistant Exam (NELDA), which is a three-part assessment administered all over the country. The NELDA is made of three component exams (the RHS, ICE and AMP) given in a one-hour, 50-minute timed structure. Individuals who pass the examination earn the distinction National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA).

Becoming eligible to challenge the examination requires the pupil having the ability to meet either of the next two requirements:

  • Completed a CODA-accredited dental assistant program, or
  • Obtained comparable on-the-job experience as a dental assistant

CDA Exam

The other primary national certification exam is the CDA, and is sponsored by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). There are 60 multiple-choice questions on this one-hour, 45-minute timed test.

You must be able to satisfy one of the following prerequisites before you can take the assessment:

  • Graduated from a CODE-accredited dental assistant program, or
  • Acquired comparable on-the-job experience as a dental assistant

What is the typical dental assistant salary in New Mexico?

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a dental assistant in the United States was $37,630 as of May 2017.

The table below features the latest data on salary available in New Mexico.

LocationPay TypeLowMedianHigh
United StatesHourly$12.24$17.76$25.00
New MexicoHourly$11.64$15.67$21.77
Santa Fe, NM MSAHourly$12.53$18.08$24.21
Farmington, NM MSAHourly$13.07$17.51$22.52
Los Alamos BOSHourly$11.54$15.84$19.52
North and West Central New Mexico BOSHourly$9.93$15.41$22.52
Las Cruces, NM MSAHourly$12.04$15.38$45.03
Albuquerque, NM MSAHourly$11.98$15.12$19.68
Eastern New Mexico BOSHourly$9.56$14.93$18.91
Southwestern New Mexico BOSHourly$9.51$13.75$20.26