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Become A Dental Assistant

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Working As A Dental Assistant

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Repetitive

  • $37,920

    Average Salary

What Does A Dental Assistant Do

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. 


Dental assistants typically do the following:

  • Ensure that patients are comfortable in the dental chair
  • Prepare patients and the work area for treatments and procedures
  • Sterilize dental instruments
  • Help dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
  • Keep patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses and other equipment
  • Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
  • Process x rays and complete lab tasks, under the direction of a dentist
  • Keep records of dental treatments
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Work with patients on billing and payment

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
  • Sealant application
  • Fluoride application
  • Topical anesthetic application

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.

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How To Become A Dental Assistant

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.


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.


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.

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Dental Assistant jobs

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Dental Assistant Demographics


  • Female

  • Male

  • Unknown



  • White

  • Hispanic or Latino

  • Asian

  • Unknown

  • Black or African American

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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

  • Polish

  • Russian

  • French

  • Arabic

  • Hindi

  • Vietnamese

  • Portuguese

  • Mandarin

  • German

  • Korean

  • Chinese

  • Cantonese

  • Italian

  • Ukrainian

  • Urdu

  • Tagalog

  • Armenian

  • Gujarati

  • Japanese

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Dental Assistant Education

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Real Dental Assistant Salaries

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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Top Skills for A Dental Assistant


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Top Dental Assistant Skills

  1. Dental Procedures
  2. General Dentistry
  3. Lab Cases
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Counseled patients, including explanation of dental procedures
  • Assist dentist with all general dentistry and root canals.
  • Track incoming and outgoing lab cases with staff.
  • Maintained Accurate patients records and provided and instructed patients with proper Oral hygiene information.
  • Provided chair side and laboratory assistant.

Top Dental Assistant Employers

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