How To Become A Dental Assistant

A dental assistant helps in a dental office. They work under the supervision of the dentists and dental hygienists. Some of their responsibilities include prepping the room and prepping equipment for each new patient. They help dentists during procedures. Dental assistants receive their education through on-the-job training.

Why Become A Dental Assistant

Dental assistants work under the supervision of dentists in a dental office. They perform a wide range of tasks. Some of their responsibilities include bringing the patients into the room, cleaning the rooms and preparing equipment for each visit, handing instruments to dentists during procedures, processing x-rays, completing work in the dental laboratory, answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and doing billing and payment with patients. This is an entry-level job that is great for those who might want to become a dental hygienist or a dentist.

This is a good job for people just starting their career in healthcare. It is a good job for people who are compassionate, enjoy directly working with patients, and want to help give advice about good oral health.

Dental Assistants should possess the following qualities and skills:

Dental Assistant Work Environment

Almost all dental assistants work in a dental office. They assist the dentists in the office with tasks that need to be done. They clean rooms and prep equipment before each new patient. This job involves working directly with patients. It is important to be compassionate and patient, because many people do not enjoy going to the dentist.

This job involves being on your feet throughout the entire day. Dental assistants wear face masks, gloves, and other protective gear because they are coming into close contact with bodily fluids while working. They consult with dentists about what they find.

Dental Assistant Salary

The median salary for dental assistants was $38,000 in 2017, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are many factors that determine wage in any given occupation. Dental assistants who work in dental offices made a median salary of $38,000 in 2017. Those who work for the government earned a median salary of $42,000.

About one-third of dental assistants work part-time. They may work other jobs or work in multiple dental offices in order to earn additional income. Those who work full time will earn a higher income. Some may work evenings or weekends to accommodate patients.

Average Dental Assistant Annual Salary


The average annual salary for dental assistants is $38,690 a year. Salaries start at $26,170 a year and go up to $53,130 a year.

Average Dental Assistant Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a dental assistant is $18.60. Hourly wages are between $12.58 and $25.54 an hour.

Stats were based out of 337,160 employed dental assistants in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Dental Assistants

Top Paying Cities For Dental Assistants

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Dental Assistant Career Outlook

The employment rate for dental assistants is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is a much faster rate of growth compared to other jobs in the United States. Overall this will account for 65,000 new jobs as dental assistants over the next 10 years. People who wish to become dental assistants should have no problems finding a job in this field.

The healthcare field will always be one that is expanding and where professionals are needed. Recently, new health care laws have allowed more people access to health care coverage. More people than before have access to quality dental coverage for themselves. These people will seek out dental offices for routine exams, such as cleanings, x-rays, and dental procedures.

Dentists will hire dental assistants to help out with most of the routine work around the office. Assistants will continue to become more necessary as the healthcare field grows and dentists take on additional responsibilities. They will delegate more work to their dental assistants.

Dental Assistant Degree

There are numerous ways to become a dental assistant. The first step is to earn a high school diploma. There are some states that require dental assistants to be certified, and some that do not. It is important to check your state requirements to see what is necessary in your state in order to pursue this profession.

In the states where certification is not required, many dental offices will hire a dental assistant simply with a high school diploma. They will offer them on-the-job training at the dental office.

Other states require certification as a dental assistant. These programs can easily be found through community colleges, vocational schools, or online programs. Dental assistant programs can be completed in as little as one year. During this program, students take classes and lectures related to dental assisting.

Dental Assistant Coursework

Oral Anatomy and Physiology: In this course students will learn anatomical identification and discussion of the structures of the oral cavity and the face and head. Clinical applications will be discussed as they relate to dentistry. Students will learn about occlusion, anesthesia, mastication, radiographic interpretation, and variations of anatomy. Students will be able to identify oral anatomy, explain their functions, contrast the appearance of healthy and unhealthy dental anatomies, and more.

Dental Equipment and Instruments: In this course students will learn the equipment and instruments that are used in the field of dentistry. They will learn about the various tools used for cleaning teeth, both handheld and power operated. They will learn about the tools used for dental procedures. They will learn about taking castings and molds. This is very important as these are the tools they will be using each day at work.

Clinical Practice in Dentistry: This course will help students become acquainted with assisting in a dental practice. Students will be able to practice their bedside manner in a dental setting. They will learn about pain management techniques, how to take a patient medical history and properly record data, how to take vital signs, and how assist with a clinical exam and how to create a dental chart. Students will help with delivering local anesthesia. They will learn about operating equipment.

Dental Assistant Career Path

A dental assistant helps both dentists and dental hygienists with the daily tasks in an office. This is a great entry-level job that will help you decide if a career as a dentist is a good match for you. It is also a good lead into other healthcare professions.

Career Overview Responsibilities Education Required Benefits
Dental Hygienist A dental hygienist works as an assistant to a dentist in an office. Their responsibilities include cleaning teeth, taking x-rays, taking medical histories, and other parts of dental care. In order to become a dental hygienist, a person needs an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. They also must be licensed in the state in which they plan to work. This is a great way to advance in the world of dentistry and take on more responsibilities.
Dentist A dentist is a medical professional, who is an expert in the treatment and care of the teeth, gums, and mouth. Their responsibilities include examining patients, diagnosing and treating problems related to the teeth and mouth. A person must earn a doctorate from a dental school, plus be licensed in the state in which they want to work. This is a great way to move up the career ladder in the world of dentistry. Dentists also make great salaries.

Related Dental Assistant Careers

Dental assistants are a great entry-level career inside of the healthcare industry. If you are interested in this career, there are others you may be interested in as well. Below we have listed a few similar careers. Please keep in mind that these are just a few of the similar careers.

Dental Hygienist: A dental hygienist assists in a dental office, doing routine work such as cleanings, exams, x-rays, and other types of dental procedures, under the supervision of a dentist.

Phlebotomist: A phlebotomist draws blood as requested by doctors and other medical professionals. The blood is sent to a lab where it is examined and analyzed. They may also collect blood samples for research or donations.

Medical Assistant: A medical assistant carries out both administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians and hospitals. They may take blood pressure, weight, height, other vital signs, and check over medical history. They may also be responsible for answering phones, making appointments, and medical billing.

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