Dental Assistant Career

dental-assistant-500Dental assistants perform various duties related to the dental office, patient care, and the dental laboratory. They gather and update dental records and disinfect, sterilize, lay out, and prepare materials and instruments used for treatment.

During a dental procedure, the assistant helps the dentist, handing over materials and instruments and using suction to keep the patient’s mouth dry. As directed, the assistant may process x-rays, use impressions to make casts of the mouth and teeth, schedule appointments, handle billing, and order dental supplies.

Dental Assistant Career Assessment

Take our Dental Assistant career assessment. This 30 question quiz let’s you know if you’re cut out for a career in dental assisting by analyzing your abilities, skills, and interests.

1. Do you enjoy coming into contact with people from all walks of life?

2. Are you a person who likes to help others?

3. In general, do you have good organizational skills?

4. Do you respond OK to people who are stressed or uncomfortable?

5. Would you enjoy assisting a dentist during a dental procedure, such as holding suction tools, keeping a patient’s mouth clear, or using swabs?

6. Are you able to sterilize and disinfect tools, instruments, and equipment?

7. Would you consistently take measures to reduce the possibility of exposure to infectious diseases?

8. Are you able to set up and remove equipment and tools necessary for a dental procedure?

9. Do you have an interest in providing excellent customer service, such as answering the phone, receiving payments, and scheduling appointments?

10. Are you able to ask the right questions to gain information about a patient’s health?

11. Are you able to consistently follow guidelines for protection against radiation exposure while taking x-rays?

12. Do you have excellent written communication skills?

13. Would you be able to maintain electronic medical records?

14. Would you be comfortable with advising patients on how to care for their teeth?

15. Are you willing to be responsible for tracking paperwork, including filling out insurance forms and reviewing patient medical documents?

16. Do you have good manual dexterity?

17. Do you work well with others in an office setting?

18. Are you a person who is able to communicate information to others effectively and clearly?

19. Can you maintain your composure in a stressful situation?

20. Are you comfortable assisting in a procedure that may cause pain or trauma for a patient?

21. Would you find it satisfying to create study casts of a patient’s teeth?

22. Would you enjoy greeting a patient and putting them at ease?

23. Are you able to use equipment such as an x-ray machine in a safe and consistent manner?

24. Is patient safety and comfort important to you?

25. Do you have a friendly, empathetic, and positive personality?

26. Are you someone who enjoys keeping up to date on changes and new developments in your career?

27. Are you able to multi-task, i.e., monitoring a patient’s vital signs while supporting a dentist during a procedure?

28. Are you able to readily switch between tasks/multi-task?

29. Would you be able to set up an operating room with the necessary sterile equipment?

30. Can you recognize basic dental or medical emergencies?

Dental Assistant Snapshot

A dental assistant works exclusively in a dentist’s office. Much of the day will be spent standing and interacting with patients, dentists, and other dental office employees. Dental assistants may work part-time to full-time and the hours are generally during the day, with little evening, weekend, and holiday work.

The following outlines more details on a career in dental assisting (statistics from Bureau of Labor Statistics and Onet Online):


is the average earnings for dental assistants per year.


increase in employment between 2014 and 2024.


have some college, but no formal degree.

Dental Assistant Education

A wide variety of certifications, diplomas and associate degrees exist in the dental assistanting field. A full 4-year college degree is not necessary. You can get certified within 2 years or possibly even much less.

Duties of a Dental Assistant

A dental assistant interacts with patients. As a dental assistant, your responsibilities will be to take and develop x-rays, make patients feel at ease, teach patient’s oral hygiene, and perform office management.

Dental Assistant Salary

Median salaries for dental assistants is $35,980 a year. The salary range is from $24,950 up to $50,660 a year. Salaries are according to the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program – May 2015. Learn more about dental assistant salaries.

Dental Assistant Job Outlook

Dental assistants are expected to grow 18% between 2014 and 2014 which is higher than the average occupation so there is a bright job outlook for this field.

Dental Assistant Career

The following table lists a few required abilities and skills for dental assistants.

Dental Assistant Skill Set:Required Abilities:Tools Used by Dental Assistants:Typical Work Activities:
•Active Listening
•Reading Comprehension
•Service Orientation
•Critical Thinking

•Oral Comprehension
•Oral Expression
•Speech Recognition
•Near Vision
•Arm-Hand Steadiness
•Speech Clarity
•Finger Dexterity

•Dental Dam Supplies
•Dental Forceps
•Dental Hand Pieces or Accessories
•Orthodontic Pliers
•Steam Autoclaves or Sterilizers

•Assisting and Caring for Others
•Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
•Getting Information
•Using Relevant Knowledge

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