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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 Vocational Certificate

Gulf Coast State College
Panama City (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Certificate of Achievement

Cypress College
Cypress (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant Career Certificate

South Florida State College
Avon Park (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting, A.A.S.

Wallace State Community College
Hanceville (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Certificate

Calhoun Community College
Tanner (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant Certificate

Carroll Community College
Westminster (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting

Austin Community College District
Austin (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting

Sinclair Community College
Dayton (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Post Secondary Adult Vocational Certificate

Hillsborough Community College
Tampa (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting, A.A.S.

Phoenix College
Phoenix (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Certificate

Prairie State College
Chicago Heights (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Technology and Management Applied Technology Diploma

Tallahassee Community College
Tallahassee (0.0 Miles)
Image
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

Heartland Dental
Sioux City ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 1 week ago

Endodontist Assistant (Dental Practice)

Aspen Dental
Modesto ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 1 week ago

Registered Dental Assistant - Orthodontic

Smile Brands
Rohnert Park ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Specialty DA: Perio and O/S

Smilebuilderz
Lancaster ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant

Mary's Center
Washington ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 3 weeks ago

Dental Assistant I: Posting #20406

Sea Mar Community Health Centers
Bellingham ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months 4 weeks ago

Dental Assistant I: Posting #20390

Sea Mar Community Health Centers
Oakland ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months ago

Oral Surgery Dental Assistant - Part Time

Smile Brands
Fresno ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 1 week ago