Dental Assistant

A dental assistant performs a wide range of activities ranging from office work to helping dentists in their procedures or cleaning and sterilizing equipment. Although most people confuse them with dental hygienists, dental assistants are professionals who take care of various aspects of running an office and they are responsible for providing different forms of patient care.

Job Overview

Dental assistants are responsible for numerous activities related to a dentist’s office.

  • On a normal work day, a dental assistant would deal with various aspects such as ensuring that patients are feeling comfortable and that they are prepared to for treatment. They will also make sure that the patient is seated correctly into the dental chair.
  • Dental assistants also help dentists by handing them the appropriate equipment and by ensuring that the patients’ mouth stays dry and clear by using various suction devices.
  • Besides helping the dentist through various procedures, a dental assistant is also responsible of ensuring that all equipment and instruments are properly disinfected and sterilized, and also prepare tray setups in advance which are required for a specific type of procedure.
  • Dental assistants may often perform more specialized activities such as preparing materials that are required for dental impressions, or to remove sutures and apply anesthetics. They might also be required to remove any excess cement after filling procedures or to individually isolate teeth and prepare them for treatment.
  • Besides being a direct aid for the dentist, a dental assistant may also perform laboratory duties such as making teeth casts and mouth impressions, cleaning and polishing various detachable appliances.
  • The versatility of a dental assistant does not stop here, as they can also be in charge of clerical duties such as making phone calls and scheduling appointments, greeting patients and keeping track of treatment records and billings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistant jobs will see a constant rise in the next ten years, with a growth rate faster than many other similar occupations that imply only training and experience on the job.


With an median annual average of $34,000 in 2011, dental assistant jobs offer good financial rewards compared to many similar jobs. At the low end, inexperienced dental assistants received wages of around $23,080, while the highest paid salaries reached about $47,420. Highest paid wages were associated with metropolitan areas such as Manchester and San Francisco.


Qualifying for a dental assistant job usually takes just training on the job, and many dentists’ offices offer prospective candidates the chances of learning the required skills and of gaining experience by working with patients. However, there are some programs which aim to prepare individuals for a dental assistant career. Aspiring high school students should make sure to take science classes such as biology, chemistry and health.

Dental assistants must possess great organizational skills and be capable of multi tasking, since they will be required to perform various activities throughout the day, and may be required to switch from one activity to another.

Reviews & Advice

Although there are no requirements for obtaining a dental assistant job, individuals planning on opening opportunities for advancement and better positions should follow accredited training programs. A dental assistant who undertakes additional education and training may advance to a dental hygienist.

Even though it is not required, obtaining a license is very important not only to obtain better positions and to receive better wages, but also to reassure patients that an accredited person is taking care of their mouths and that they are benefiting from the best care services.

Being a dental assistant may be stressful on occasions, and a large portion of the day will be spent standing, but the trade-off is that there is also the option to work part-time.

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