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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

  • $37,000

    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. 

Duties

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.

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.

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Dental Assistant Career Paths

Dental Assistant
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Average Length of Employment
Dental Technician 5.9 years
Dental Officer 5.3 years
Dental Nurse 3.9 years
Dental Assistant 3.0 years
Dental Secretary 2.9 years
Dental Aide 2.5 years
Top Careers Before Dental Assistant
Cashier 15.4%
Internship 5.4%
Server 4.6%
Assistant 4.1%
Waitress 3.1%
Volunteer 3.0%
Dentist 2.5%
Top Careers After Dental Assistant
Cashier 8.6%
Assistant 4.6%
Server 3.9%
Internship 2.8%

Do you work as a Dental Assistant?

Average Yearly Salary
$37,000
Show Salaries
$29,000
Min 10%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$37,000
Median 50%
$47,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Moda Health
Highest Paying City
Rochester, MN
Highest Paying State
Minnesota
Avg Experience Level
3.3 years
How much does a Dental Assistant make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Dental Assistant in the United States is $37,649 per year or $18 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $30,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $47,000.

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
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 -
$52,175
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
Dental Assistants Marc Alexander, D.D.S. Healdsburg, CA Jun 20, 2008 $43,305
Dental Assistant Consuelo . Nogoy, DDS, Inc. Los Angeles, CA May 29, 2008 $42,658
Dental Assistant Orthodontics for Children and Adults Redwood City, CA Sep 12, 2008 $42,658 -
$45,914
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 Hamilton Dental Associates, Pa Hamilton, NJ Feb 11, 2010 $37,963
Dental Assistant Delicate Dental Care, Pa Houston, TX Jul 15, 2015 $37,960
Dental Assistants David M. Diaz, D.D.S. and Associates Newport Beach, CA May 27, 2011 $37,879
Dental Assistant Girish Banaji DDS PC Fairfax, VA May 21, 2010 $37,856
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 Assistant Oscar R. Trigoso DDS, Inc. Pico Rivera, CA May 16, 2008 $33,684 -
$35,771
Dental Assistant Lisa B. Tabora, DDS, Inc. Glendale, CA Jan 27, 2009 $33,684
Dental Assistant Emerenciana Gabriel Long Beach, CA Feb 07, 2008 $33,684
Dental Assistants Puente Hills Dental Center Rowland Heights, CA May 28, 2008 $33,684
Dental Assistants Ely Uy Culver City, CA Apr 10, 2008 $33,684

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Top Skills for A Dental Assistant

  1. Dental Procedures
  2. Patient Care
  3. Oral Hygiene
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provided excellent support passing instruments to dentist during various dental procedures in an efficient and organized manner.
  • Provided patient care and service while resolving daily complications, projecting a positive attitude, developing positive patient rapports.
  • Educated and promoted proper oral hygiene through educational programs in local preschools and at local community events.
  • Assist in composite restorations and child cleanings specializing in children's dentistry with minimal orthodontic assisting experience.
  • Prepared patient, sterilized and disinfected instruments; digital x-rays, provided post-operative instructions.

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Top 10 Best States for Dental Assistants

  1. Minnesota
  2. Oregon
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Alaska
  5. Vermont
  6. Maine
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Washington
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Wisconsin
  • (260 jobs)
  • (125 jobs)
  • (24 jobs)
  • (16 jobs)
  • (9 jobs)
  • (15 jobs)
  • (105 jobs)
  • (235 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (189 jobs)

Dental Assistant Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 95,640 Dental Assistant resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Dental Assistant Resume

View Resume Examples

Dental Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

78.2%

Male

11.4%

Unknown

10.4%
Ethnicity

White

57.0%

Hispanic or Latino

21.2%

Black or African American

10.5%

Asian

7.5%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

60.8%

Polish

10.8%

Russian

3.6%

French

2.8%

Arabic

2.6%

Portuguese

2.3%

Hindi

2.0%

Mandarin

2.0%

German

1.7%

Korean

1.6%

Vietnamese

1.5%

Chinese

1.4%

Cantonese

1.3%

Italian

1.1%

Ukrainian

1.0%

Urdu

0.9%

Tagalog

0.8%

Japanese

0.8%

Armenian

0.5%

Gujarati

0.5%
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Dental Assistant Education

Schools

Everest Institute

12.9%

Concorde Career College

10.4%

University of Phoenix

10.4%

Ross Medical Education Center

6.3%

The Academy

5.3%

Porter and Chester Institute

5.1%

Northern Virginia Community College

5.1%

Concorde Career Institute

4.6%

Remington College

4.4%

All American Career College

4.3%

Kaplan University

3.7%

Boston University

3.5%

United Education Institute - Huntington Park Campus

3.3%

Missouri College

3.2%

San Joaquin Valley College

3.2%

Charter College

3.1%

Heald College - Central Administrative Office

3.0%

New York University

2.9%

Ashford University

2.5%

Eastern College of Health Vocations - Little Rock

2.5%
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Majors

Dental Assisting

48.5%

Business

6.8%

Nursing

4.8%

Biology

4.2%

Health Care Administration

3.7%

Nuclear And Industrial Radiologic Technologies

3.7%

Advanced Dentistry And Oral Sciences

3.5%

General Studies

3.5%

Medical Assisting Services

3.4%

Dentistry

3.1%

Psychology

2.5%

Education

1.9%

Liberal Arts

1.6%

Medical Technician

1.6%

Criminal Justice

1.5%

Health Sciences And Services

1.2%

Accounting

1.2%

Nursing Assistants

1.1%

Medicine

1.1%

Cosmetology

1.1%
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Degrees

Other

38.0%

Associate

17.2%

Bachelors

16.8%

Certificate

14.4%

Diploma

6.5%

Masters

3.2%

Doctorate

2.8%

License

1.2%
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Top Dental Assistant Employers

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Updated May 19, 2020