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Dental Assistant vs Licensed Vocational Nurse

Dental Assistant vs Licensed Vocational Nurse

Vocational training is a great option for individuals who want to enter the healthcare field but don't have the time or resources to pursue a traditional four-year degree. Two popular vocational training programs in the healthcare field are dental assistant and licensed vocational nurse (LVN). While both professions provide opportunities to work in healthcare, they have distinct differences in terms of job responsibilities, education and training requirements, and career outlook. In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between dental assistants and LVNs to help you make an informed decision about which career path is right for you.

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What is a Dental Assistant and Licensed Vocational Nurse?

Dental Assistant: A dental assistant is a healthcare professional who works closely with dentists to provide patient care and assist with dental procedures. They perform a variety of tasks, including taking x-rays, preparing patients for dental procedures, sterilizing instruments, and providing chairside assistance during procedures. Dental assistants also handle administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, maintaining patient records, and managing billing and insurance claims.

Licensed Vocational Nurse: A licensed vocational nurse (LVN), also known as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) in some states, is an entry-level nurse who provides basic patient care under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and physicians. They assist patients with activities of daily living, administer medications, monitor vital signs, collect samples for testing, and provide emotional support to patients and their families. LVNs also assist with medical procedures and perform basic medical tests.

Difference between a Dental Assistant and Licensed Vocational Nurse

While both dental assistants and LVNs work in the healthcare field, there are several key differences between the two professions:

Scope of Practice: Dental assistants primarily work in dental offices and focus on dental care, while LVNs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics, and provide general healthcare services.

Job Responsibilities: Dental assistants primarily assist dentists with patient care and perform administrative tasks, while LVNs provide direct patient care and perform a wider range of medical procedures under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians.

Supervision: Dental assistants work under the direct supervision of dentists, while LVNs work under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians.

Licensure: Dental assistants are not required to be licensed, although some states have certification or registration requirements. LVNs, on the other hand, must complete a state-approved nursing program and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) to become licensed.

Career Advancement: Dental assistants can pursue additional certifications or specialize in areas such as orthodontics or oral surgery to advance their careers. LVNs can pursue further education to become registered nurses or specialize in areas such as pediatrics or geriatrics.

Dental Assistant vs Licensed Vocational Nurse: Job Description

Dental Assistant: As a dental assistant, you will work closely with dentists to provide patient care and assist with dental procedures. Your job responsibilities may include:

  • Preparing patients for dental procedures by taking their medical history and vital signs
  • Assisting dentists during dental procedures by passing instruments and providing suction
  • Taking and developing dental x-rays
  • Sterilizing instruments and disinfecting treatment areas
  • Educating patients on oral hygiene and post-treatment care
  • Managing patient records and scheduling appointments

Licensed Vocational Nurse: As an LVN, your job responsibilities will vary depending on the healthcare setting you work in. Some common tasks include:

  • Assisting patients with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and eating
  • Administering medications and injections
  • Monitoring patients' vital signs and reporting any changes to registered nurses or physicians
  • Collecting samples for testing and performing basic medical tests
  • Assisting with medical procedures, such as wound care or catheter insertion
  • Providing emotional support to patients and their families

Dental Assistant vs Licensed Vocational Nurse: Education and Training

Dental Assistant: Dental assisting programs are typically offered at community colleges or vocational schools and can be completed in less than a year. These programs provide both classroom instruction and hands-on training in dental offices. While formal education is not always required to become a dental assistant, completing an accredited program can increase job prospects and earning potential. Some states also have certification or registration requirements, which may include passing a written or practical exam.

Licensed Vocational Nurse: To become an LVN, you must complete a state-approved nursing program, which typically takes about one year. These programs are offered at community colleges and vocational schools and include both classroom instruction and clinical training. After completing the program, you must pass the NCLEX-PN to become licensed. Some states may also have additional requirements, such as a criminal background check or fingerprinting.

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Dental Assistant vs Licensed Vocational Nurse: Career Outlook and Salary

Dental Assistant: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 7 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is attributed to an increasing demand for dental services and the expanding role of dental assistants in dental practices. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for dental assistants was $40,080.

Licensed Vocational Nurse: The employment of licensed vocational nurses is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by the aging population and the increasing demand for healthcare services. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for LVNs was $48,820.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a career as a dental assistant or a licensed vocational nurse depends on your interests, career goals, and personal preferences. Both professions offer rewarding opportunities to work in the healthcare field and make a difference in patients' lives. Consider factors such as job responsibilities, education and training requirements, and career outlook when making your decision. Regardless of which path you choose, a career in healthcare can provide stability, job satisfaction, and opportunities for advancement.

Explore Dreambound's program accessibility across different locations. Immerse yourself in these blogs for a detailed exploration of the two vocations, unraveling specific requirements and gaining insightful perspectives on how to embark on your journey:

Pia Yapjoco
Written by
Pia Yapjoco

Pia Yapjoco is part of the school growth and sales team at Dreambound. She helps facilitate school partnerships that expand educational opportunities for aspiring students in allied health and other trades. Beyond work, she curates her pup's Instagram, hunts for hidden coffee gems, and escapes into cozy gaming.

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