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Dental Assistant Job Description

Dental assistants provide patients with dental care and assist dentists and dental hygienists. Dental assistants perform a variety of tasks in a dental office. In addition to assisting hygienists and dentists, they can also provide services to patients in the areas of billing and appointment setting. Depending on the state where the dental assistant works, he or she might also be able to perform several procedures on patients such as fluoride application, coronal polishing, and sealant application.
Normally, dental assistants work alongside dentists and dental hygienists in dentists’ offices and dental clinics. They normally work a typical, full-time Monday through Friday schedule, but some dental offices are open at night and on the weekends, so dental assistants may be required to work a more varied schedule.
It is important that dental assistants possess good communication skills since they come into contact with patients and other employees throughout their day, and it is essential that they have a compassionate nature because many patients are nervous about dental procedures. Since they are often performing tasks ordered by dentists and hygienists, dental assistants also need to have the ability to follow directions and be well organized.

Dental Assistant Duties

On a daily basis, dental assistants might perform the following duties:

  • Assist dentists during procedures
  • Sterilize instruments dentists use for procedures
  • Handle billing and payments

How To Become A Dental Assistant

There are two ways to become a dental assistant. The first option is to graduate from an accredited dental assistant program and become state certified. The second way to become a dental assistant is to learn through on the job training. This can be accomplished by having a trained professional in a dental office teach a prospective dental assistant all of the specifics of the position while he or she is working on the job.

How Long Does It take to Become A Dental Assistant?

It usually takes about one year to earn a certification or diploma as a dental assistant. If one chooses an associate’s degree program, then it will take about two years to receive a degree as a dental assistant.

Education Requirements

If a prospective dental assistant chooses to go to school to obtain certification, then he or she must be accepted into an accredited dental assisting program. These programs are offered at community or state colleges or career colleges. All schools require that applicants to the program have a high school diploma or equivalency. Once in a dental assistant program, students will spend their time taking classes learning about teeth and gums, proper usage of dental tools, and laboratory work. In addition, students will take classes in dental office administration, radiography, and dental pharmacology. All programs include a clinical component where students will gain experience working with patients so that they will be able to effectively go into the workforce after graduating.


Many states require dental assistants to be certified; however, the rules are different in each state. In order to become certified, one must graduate from an accredited school and pass the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). If a dental assistant does not complete schooling, then he or she must have the necessary number of training hours while working in a dental office and then pass the CDA exam. The certification exam is four hours long and consists of 320 questions. Dental assistants must also be CPR certified in order to qualify for dental assistant certification.
Even in states where certification is not mandatory, it shows a commitment and competency in the field, and becoming certified can increase employment opportunities and salary.


Each state has individual licensing requirements for dental assistants, but some states require licensing for dental assistants in other specialty areas. For example, a state might necessitate that dental assistants obtain a special license in coronal polishing in order to perform that particular procedure in a dental office.

Job Outlook

The future job prospects for dental assistants are excellent. The field is expected to grow at an extremely fast rate, and jobs will increase by 25%. By 2022, it is expected that there will be 74,400 new jobs for dental assistants.
The growth in jobs is due to the need for more dental services because of new healthcare legislation and the subsequent availability of dental care to more of the population. In addition, the older population will need more dental services since they are keeping more of their own teeth which will increase the need for more trained professionals in the field. Also, as dentists’ practices grow, they will need dental assistants to perform various duties, so that they can concentrate on more complicated procedures. Furthermore, there is new evidence that good dental health has been linked with better overall health, and that information has inspired more people to go to the dentist regularly. Detailed Dental Assistant salary data is available here.

States With Highest Employment Levels

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