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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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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

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.

  • 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


Dental Assistant Certificate

Kishwaukee College
Malta (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting, A.A.S

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

Dental Assistant Technical Diploma

Chippewa Valley Technical College
Eau Claire (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting-Registered, A.S.

Orange Coast College
Costa Mesa (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant Certificate of Achievement

Northwestern Michigan College
Traverse City (0.0 Miles)
Palm Beach State College

Dental Assisting Post Secondary Adult Vocational Certificate

Palm Beach State College
Lake Worth (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant Diploma

Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids (0.0 Miles)

Expanded Duty Dental Assisting, D.A.S.

Greenville Technical College
Greenville (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting, A.S.

San Jose City College
San Jose (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assistant, A.A.S.

Wichita State University Tech WSU Tech
Wichita (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Non-Credit Certificate

Mountain View College
Dallas (0.0 Miles)

Dental Assisting Diploma

St. Cloud Technical and Community College
St Cloud (0.0 Miles)
Meet Ambassador Josefina Barco
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


Dental Assistant

University of Utah
Salt Lake City ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 4 months 1 week ago

Dental Assistant

Lifetime Dental
Atlantic City ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months ago

Dentist Consultant in DA Dental Clinic

University of Alaska System
Anchorage ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 1 week ago

Oral Surgeon Assistant (Dental Practice)

Aspen Dental
Springfield ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 2 weeks ago

Dental Assistant

Smile Brands
Oceanside ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 5 months 4 weeks ago

Endodontist Assistant (Dental Practice)

Aspen Dental
Medford ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 6 months 1 week ago

Endodontist Assistant (Dental Practice)

Aspen Dental
Rowlett ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 7 months ago

Expanded Function Dental Assistant -- SIGN-ON BONUS

Ephrata ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 10 months ago