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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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$ 26,000 - $ 57,000
$ 40,000
37,600+
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)
A Day In the Life
Image
Josefina Barco, dental assistant ambassador
A Day In the Life

"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.

Job 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
Platt College logo

Dental Assisting

Platt College
Tulsa (68.6 Miles)
Grayson College logo

Dental Assisting, A.A.S.

Grayson College
Denison (239.5 Miles)
Grayson College logo

Dental Assisting Certificate

Grayson College
Denison (239.5 Miles)
University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College logo

Dental Assisting, A.A.S.

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
North Little Rock (248.8 Miles)
University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College logo

Dental Assisting Certificate

University of Arkansas - Pulaski Technical College
North Little Rock (248.8 Miles)
Dallas College logo

Dental Assisting Non-Credit Certificate

Dallas College
Farmers Branch (294.7 Miles)
Dallas College logo

Dental Assisting Non-Credit Certificate

Dallas College
Dallas (308.9 Miles)
Lewis and Clark Community College logo

Dental Assistant Certificate of Proficiency

Lewis and Clark Community College
Godfrey (326.6 Miles)
Des Moines Area Community College logo

Dental Assistant Diploma

Des Moines Area Community College
Ankey (338.2 Miles)
Amarillo College logo

Dental Assistant Certificate

Amarillo College
Amarillo (366.5 Miles)
Western Iowa Tech Community College logo

Nitrous Oxide/Oxygen Sedation Monitoring - Dental Assistant Certificate

Western Iowa Tech Community College
Sioux City (374.1 Miles)
Western Iowa Tech Community College logo

Dental Assistant Diploma

Western Iowa Tech Community College
Sioux City (374.1 Miles)

Find Dental Assistant Jobs in Your Area

Coordinates

Dental Assistant (General Dentistry Practice)

Aspen Dental
Wichita ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 9 months 1 week ago

Dental Assistant

American Dental Partners, Inc.
West Bend ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 3 weeks ago

Dental Assistant

American Dental Partners, Inc.
Greensboro ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 3 weeks ago

Dental Assistant

Heartland Dental
Bartlesville ( 27.3 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 4 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (EF)

Indian Health Service
Claremore ( 53.7 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 1 week ago

Dental Assistant (EF)

Indian Health Service
Claremore ( 53.7 ) Miles
Posted 7 months 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (EF)

Indian Health Service
Claremore ( 53.7 ) Miles
Posted 7 months 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant (EF)

Indian Health Service
Claremore ( 53.7 ) Miles
Posted 8 months 1 week ago