Dental Radiology Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
Do you think you'd like to pursue a dental radiology career? Get real job descriptions and education requirements to see if a dental radiology career is right for you.
View available schools

Careers in Dental Radiology

Dental radiology is the process of taking x-ray images of the teeth and mouth in order to reveal oral health issues. Professionals commonly trained in dental radiology include dental hygienists, dental assistants and oral and maxillofacial radiologists (OMRs). A comparison of these occupations is shown below:

Dental HygienistDental Assistant Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist
Career Overview Dental hygienists clean teeth and educate clients about dental care Dental assistants help dentists with patient care and perform clerical tasks OMRs are dentists who specialize in dental radiology and offer services to clients or teach at dental colleges
Education Requirements Associate's degree High school diploma or postsecondary non-degree award, depending on the state Dental degree
Program Length2 years Around 1 year for postsecondary award4 years in addition to a bachelor's degree
Additional Training None; entry-level On-the-job training required for untrained hygienists Completion of at least 2 years of dental residency required
Certification and/or Licensing License required License or certificate required in some states License required
Job Outlook for 2014-2024Much-faster-than-average job growth (19%)*Much-faster-than-average job growth (18%)*Much Faster-than-average job growth (18%; outlook applies to all dentists)*
Mean Annual Salary (2014)Around $72,000*Around $36,000* $168,000 (applies to all miscellaneous dental specialties)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists clean teeth and examine patients' oral cavities to look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease and other problems. They document the work performed on each patient and take x-rays that dentists can use to determine any problems that cannot be seen with a visual inspection. Dental hygienists apply dental sealants and fluoride treatments to protect teeth against decay and teach patients how to care for teeth and gums. They are employed in dental offices, and, although some full-time jobs are available, most dental hygienists work part time.

Requirements

Most dental hygienists begin their careers with an associate's degree in the discipline. Associate's programs in dental hygiene provide courses in dental radiology, dental materials, oral pathology, dental health and dental pharmacology. You must also obtain a license to practice dental hygiene in any state. Requirements for licensure typically include a dental hygiene degree and passing grades on written and practical exams, although state requirements can vary.

Get an idea of what employers sought in dental hygienists by reviewing these December 2012 job listings:

  • A Maryland dental office wanted to hire a licensed dental hygienist on a part-time basis with the likelihood of the position becoming full-time in the future. New graduates as well as experienced hygienists were encouraged to apply.
  • A pediatric dental practice in Dallas was seeking a dental hygienist with at least 1 year of experience to work part time.
  • A dental service provider in Oregon was looking for a full-time dental hygienist. A license to practice in Oregon and at least 1 year of experience were required.

Standing Out

Since the majority of dental hygienists have associate's degrees, adding a bachelor's degree in dental hygiene to your resume can give you an edge over the competition. These bachelor's programs are typically geared toward licensed dental hygienists who would like to advance in their careers. This degree can open the door to employment in the fields of education, public health, management and research.

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants perform a variety of duties in dental offices. They schedule appointments, handle billing, develop x-rays and maintain patient records. They also perform some laboratory procedures, like making molds of teeth. Dental assistants aid dentists during procedures and, in some states, are allowed to provide limited patient care, such as applying fluoride treatments and sealants, polishing crowns and applying topical anesthetics to prepare patients for procedures.

Requirements

The requirements to work as a dental assistant vary by state. Some states don't regulate the occupation, in which case you might obtain employment with a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training. Other states require dental assistants to be certified. Certification typically requires completion of an accredited dental assisting program or a high school diploma along with a specified number of hours of on-the-job training. Postsecondary dental assistant programs provide courses on dental materials, dental radiology, dental emergencies and clinical assisting. Completion of a clinical externship is also required for graduation.

Below are a few job listings for dental assistants available in December 2012:

  • A dental office in Illinois was looking for dental assistants to work full- or part-time. At least 1 year of experience was required, and bilingual ability was a plus.
  • A Wisconsin dental office sought a dental assistant with at least 1 year of experience to work full time. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification was required, and certification by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) was preferred.
  • A dental practice in Pennsylvania wanted to hire a dental assistant with at least 1 year of experience. Pennsylvania x-ray certification was required.

Standing Out

Since dental assistants can be required to perform a variety of tasks, obtaining certification in several specialties from the DANB can set you apart from the competition. The DANB offers 3 national certifications: the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant and Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) credentials. The exams for each of these certifications include several component exams. For example, the CDA exam requires knowledge about radiation health and safety, infection control and general chairside assisting, while the exam to become a CPFDA requires you to answer questions about topical anesthetics, sealants and teeth polishing. You must pass all of the component exams to receive a certificate in a specialty from the DANB.

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist

OMRs are specialists who have received training in both dentistry and radiology. They use various diagnostic imaging technologies, like x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography, to diagnose diseases and abnormal conditions in the mouth, jaw and facial area. OMRs are able to prescribe imaging modalities and interpret the images, and they also have the expertise to determine radiation-safety criteria. Along with providing dental care, OMRs can work in the fields of research, consulting and teaching.

Requirements

The first step to becoming an OMR is to earn a dental degree, which usually takes 4 years after earning a 4-year bachelor's degree. In the first 2 years of dental school, you'll learn about dental anatomy, immunology and other biomedical sciences, while the last 2 years focus on clinical rotations. Graduates of dental school can then become licensed to practice in the profession, though those who want to specialize in oral and maxillofacial radiology must go on to complete about 2 years of residency training in the specialty. The residency program, which consists of didactic instruction and clinical rotations in OMR procedures and often results in a certificate, must be accredited by the American Dental Association (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Here's a sample of what employers were looking for in December 2012:

  • A dental college in Utah was seeking an OMR to develop a dental radiology curriculum. This full-time faculty position required completion of an approved dental program as well as certification or the eligibility to become certified. Candidates also needed to obtain state licensure within 3 months of being hired.
  • The dental college of a New York City university had a full-time faculty position available in its Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Radiology and Medicine. Duties included teaching clinical practice and supervising dental students.
  • A Maryland university sought a dental radiologist for a faculty position. Requirements included a dental degree and certification by the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology (ABOMR) or eligibility to obtain this certification. Candidates with teaching and research experience were preferred.

Standing Out

You can demonstrate your proficiency in OMR procedures by becoming certified by the ABOMR. You must have completed an oral and maxillofacial radiology program that has been accredited by the ADA CODA in order to sit for the 2-part certification exam. After you are certified, you must earn 50 continuing education credits every 3 years.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • RN to BSN
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    4. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Queens University of Charlotte

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care
      • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science
      • BS in Health Care Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Health Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Health Care Management
      • Masters in Health Care Administration
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Acute Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Long Term Care
      • Online Master of Science in Health Care Administration - Service Organization

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Health Administration in Health Systems Management
  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • RN to BSN
  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Concentration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Are you a US citizen?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MBA: Health Systems Management
  • BS in Health Sciences: Professional Development & Advanced Patient Care

What is your highest level of education?