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What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental assistants make dental offices run more efficiently and help patients feel comfortable. They schedule appointments, maintain dental records, help patients get settled in the chair and clean dental tools. They may also assist with areas of office management. Dental assistants work under the supervision of a dentist and work closely with dental hygienists. 

State regulations vary on what a dental assistant can do. Some are specially trained in taking X-rays while others assist with procedures such fillings, extractions or crowns. 

Some dental assistants work part-time. Some work night or weekends. The job outlook for dental assistants is expected to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029.

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Median Salary $
41,000
Jobs Available
10,900+
A dental assistant prepares dental equipment for a procedure
Dental assistants perform a variety of tasks, from helping out in the exam room to working in office management. (Credit: Arlou_Andrei/Shutterstock)
Duties + Responsibilities
  • Prepare patients and the work area for examinations
  • Update patient's medical history 
  • Hand the dentist tools during procedures
  • Provide chair-side support to patients
  • Sterilize dental instruments and equipment
  • Use suction tubes to keep patients’ mouths dry
  • Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
  • Keep records
  • Schedule appointments
  • Work with patients on billing issues
EDUCATION + TRAINING

There are several ways to become a dental assistant. Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Other states focus on on-the-job training. Community colleges and some technical schools offer training programs, which vary in length. Some take a year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Other programs last two years and lead to an associate degree. 

Many programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Accredited programs include classroom and lab work. Students learn about dental instruments, dental terminology, teeth, gums and other areas of the mouth. These programs also include supervised practical experience.

Most states don’t require a license, but being licensed or registered may create job opportunities. Depending on the state, a separate license may be required to take X-rays.

YOU MAY BE A GOOD FIT FOR THIS POSITION IF YOU
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Have dexterity
  • Have good communication skills
  • Are tech-savvy
  • Have strong organizational skills
  • Able to move smoothly and quickly from one task to another

Dental Assistant training in your area

Coordinates

Dental Assisting Certificate Level 3

San Jose City College
San Jose (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant Continuing Education Certificate

Community College of Baltimore County
Baltimore (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Technical Credit Certificate

Pasco-Hernando State College
New Port Richey (0.0 Miles)

Dental Technology, A.A.S

Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Non-Credit Certificate

Mountain View College
Dallas (0.0 Miles)

Expanded Duty Dental Assisting Diploma

Spartanburg Community College
Spartanburg (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant Certificate

Wichita State University Tech WSU Tech
Wichita (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Diploma

St. Cloud Technical and Community College
St Cloud (0.0 Miles)
Triton College

Dental Assistant Career Certificate

Triton College
River Grove (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Associate Degree

Cerritos College
Norwalk (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant, A.A.S.

Northwestern Michigan College
Traverse City (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Certificate

Monroe Community College - SUNY
Rochester (0.0 Miles)
Meet Ambassador Josefina Barco
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Josefina Barco, dental assistant ambassador
Meet Ambassador Josefina Barco

"To be honest I like everything about my job," says Josefina Barco, who has been a dental assistant since 2010. 

She learned her trade by training with “a very strict and perfectionist dentist,” and that eye for detail comes into play every day. Find out why Josefina can’t see herself doing anything else.

Find Dental Assistant Jobs in Your Area

Coordinates

Dental Assistant (12724-200)

American Dental Partners, Inc.
Loveland ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 3 weeks ago

Dental Assistant

Kool Smiles
Leon Valley ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 3 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (General Dentistry Practice)

Aspen Dental
Des Moines ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 3 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (General Dentistry Practice)

Aspen Dental
Huber Heights ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (Westgate Family & Cosmetic Dentistry & Hall Street Family Dental-Spartanburg,SC)

Vital Smiles
Spartanburg ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (General Dentistry Practice)

Aspen Dental
Hazleton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant II: Radiology

Temple University
Philadelphia ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago

Expanded Function Dental Assistant

Heartland Dental
Windermere ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago