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Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.Duties
Dental assistants typically do the following:
Assistants who perform lab tasks, such as taking impressions of a patient’s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They may prepare materials for dental impressions or to create temporary crowns.
All dental assistants complete certain tasks, such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records. Dental assistants are allowed to perform the following procedures in some states:
Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, a dental assistant paints a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anticavity measure. Some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of a patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area to help prepare a patient for procedures.
Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants.
There are several possible paths to becoming a dental assistant. Some states require assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. In other states, there are no formal educational requirements.Education
Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Most programs are offered by community colleges, although they also may be offered by vocational or technical schools. Most programs take about 1 year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Programs that last 2 years are less common and lead to an associate’s degree. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), part of the American Dental Association, accredited nearly 300 dental assisting training programs in 2015.
Accredited programs include classroom and laboratory work in which students learn about teeth, gums, jaws, and other areas that dentists work on and the instruments that dentists use. These programs also include supervised practical experience.
High school students interested in a career as a dental assistant should take courses in biology, chemistry, and anatomy.Training
Dental assistants who do not have formal education in dental assisting may learn their duties through on-the-job training. A dental assistant or dentist in the office teaches the new assistant dental terminology, the names of the instruments, how to complete daily tasks, how to interact with patients, and other activities necessary to help keep the dental office running smoothly.Important Qualities
Detail oriented. Dental assistants must follow specific rules and protocols, such as infection control procedures, when helping dentists treat patients. Assistants also must be aware of what tasks they are allowed to complete in the state where they work.
Dexterity. Dental assistants must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, using very precise tools and instruments.
Interpersonal skills. Dental assistants must work closely with dentists and patients. Sometimes, patients are in extreme pain and/or mental stress, so the assistant should be sensitive to their emotions.
Listening skills. Dental assistants should be able to listen to patients and other healthcare workers. They need to follow directions from a dentist or dental hygienist, so they can help treat patients and do tasks, such as taking an x ray.
Organizational skills. Dental assistants should have excellent organizational skills. They should have the correct tools in place for a dentist or dental hygienist to use when treating a patient.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some states require dental assistants to be licensed, registered, or certified. In other states, there are no formal requirements to become an entry-level dental assistant.
States that allow assistants to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing, require that they be licensed, registered, or hold certifications from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To earn certification from DANB, applicants must pass an exam. The educational requirements for DANB certification are that dental assistants must either have graduated from an accredited program or have a high school diploma and complete the required amount of work experience. Applicants also must have current certification in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
In addition, many states require assistants to meet specific education or training requirements in order to work with radiography (x ray) equipment. Requirements vary by state. Contact state boards of dentistry for specific requirements.
Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Dental Assistant
Top Careers After Dental Assistant
Hispanic or Latino16.8%
Black or African American0.5%
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University of Phoenix13.2%
Concorde Career College9.5%
Northern Virginia Community College8.0%
Ross Medical Education Center5.9%
Porter and Chester Institute4.8%
Concorde Career Institute3.9%
Anne Arundel Community College3.8%
University of Florida3.6%
Ultimate Medical Academy - Clearwater3.5%
San Joaquin Valley College3.3%
Virginia Commonwealth University3.2%
Kirkwood Community College3.2%
Hudson Valley Community College3.2%
Community College of Rhode Island3.1%
Unfortunately we don’t have enough data for this section.
|Job Title||Company||Location||Start Date||Salary|
|Physician/Dental Assistant||A.R. Sedighian D.D.S., P.A.||Ellicott City, MD||Jul 15, 2010||$65,000|
|Dental Assistants||DR. Eugene V. Espiritu, A Professional Dental Corp||San Bruno, CA||Dec 21, 2009||$50,318|
|Dental Assistant Instructor||KIMC-Houston Northwest LLC||Houston, TX||Aug 15, 2013||$49,920|
|Dental Assistant Instructor||KIMC Investments Inc.||Houston, TX||Jun 17, 2013||$49,920|
|Dental Assistant Instructor||KIMC-Houston Northwest LLC||Houston, TX||Sep 25, 2014||$49,920|
|Pediatric Dental Assistant||University of Rochester||Rochester, NY||Jul 01, 2010||$49,019|
|Dental Assistant||Savannah J. Kim DDS Ms Inc.||Belmont, CA||Oct 28, 2015||$48,859|
|Dental Assistant||Matos Orthodontics Inc.||Elizabeth, NJ||Aug 12, 2015||$47,299|
|Dental Assistant||Carol A. Blake, DDS, PLLC||Washington, DC||Jan 14, 2016||$46,592|
|Dental Assistants||Ali Y. Ghatri, DDS, PC||Fairfax, VA||Oct 29, 2012||$46,176|
|Dental Assistant||TENY Abrahamian, D.D.S||Washington, DC||Oct 30, 2008||$45,184 -
|Dental Assistant||Daniel N. Howard, D.D.S P.C.||Washington, DC||Sep 18, 2015||$44,408|
|Dental Assistant||Yassim Santos Dental Corporation||Los Angeles, CA||Feb 12, 2016||$43,763|
|Dental Assistants||Savannah J. Kim DDS Ms Inc.||Belmont, CA||Nov 07, 2012||$43,639|
|Orthodontic Dental Assistant||Brian H. Miller||Norton Center, MA||Sep 08, 2010||$38,397|
|Orthodontic Dental Assistant||Brian H. Miller, D.D.S.||Newton, MA||Oct 01, 2010||$38,397|
|Pediatric Dental Assistant||Children's Dental Care||Stoneham, MA||Sep 07, 2010||$38,397|
|Dental Assistants||Comfort Dental Weymouth. PC||Weymouth Town, MA||Apr 26, 2011||$38,397|
|Dental Surgery Assistant||Allied Family Dentistry||Brea, CA||Apr 24, 2008||$38,088|
|Dental Assistant||Porfirio S. Maravilla Jr.||Los Angeles, CA||Jun 20, 2016||$38,002|
|Dental Assistant||Smile Dental Clinic||Falls Church, VA||Jan 21, 2009||$37,983|
|Dental Assistants||Ajandeh & Said D.D.S., PC||Springfield, VA||Mar 23, 2011||$37,983|
|Dental Assistant||Growing Smiles||Irvine, CA||Sep 06, 2016||$34,944|
|Dental Assistant||Port Richmond Dental Center||Philadelphia, PA||Jun 02, 2015||$34,590|
|Dental Assistants||DR. Bryant Norman, Jr. DDS Pa||Salisbury, NC||May 13, 2010||$34,394|
|Dental Assistant||Michael R. Barnard, D.D.S, P.A.||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Aug 19, 2009||$34,331|
|Dental Assistants||Angel Dental Group, Inc.||Los Angeles, CA||Sep 19, 2014||$34,008|
|Dental Assistants||Ely Uy||Culver City, CA||Apr 10, 2008||$33,684|
|Dental Assistant||Lisa B. Tabora, DDS, Inc.||Glendale, CA||Jun 10, 2008||$33,684|
|Dental Assistants||Puente Hills Dental Center||Rowland Heights, CA||May 28, 2008||$33,684|
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