Dental Assistants

Dental assistants are trained professionals who perform several functions such as patient care, laboratory duties and office work. They usually assist a dentist or other dental operators in providing dental treatment in a more efficient way. By working as an extra pair of hands, the dental assistants help the dental operators to focus more on the dental procedure and get it done effectively. Dental assistants mostly work under the supervision of dentists in dentist’s offices. Almost all dental assistants work full time while a few of them do work part time.

What Do Dental Assistants Do

dental assistant_02Dental assistants carry out a variety of duties. Apart from assisting the dentists in various treatment procedures, they also perform functions such as taking pulse and blood pressure, taking the medical history of patients, preparing the patients for treatment and making them feel calm and comfortable, educating patients on the importance of oral hygiene, and maintaining treatment records.  They also order dental materials and supplies, send bills and collect money. Dental assistants sterilize the equipments, prepare the work area and lay out the materials and instruments required by the dentist to perform the procedure. The additional responsibilities of a dental assistant may vary depending on the state where he/she works. Some of these professionals may also process x-rays, remove sutures, expose radiographs, and give anesthesia, all under the guidance of a dentist.

Educational Requirements And Training

High school diploma is the minimum requirement to become a dental assistant. Those who want to take up this profession should choose courses that include chemistry, biology and anatomy. In addition to a high school diploma, some states require that the candidate complete a training program from an accredited institution and pass an exam conducted by the state. Upon completion of these training programs, which probably take almost a year to complete, the candidate obtains a diploma or certificate. There are also 2 year programs which on completion offer an associate’s degree.

Certification is another requirement that some states demand for becoming a dental assistant. Certification can be obtained by passing a test called the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam conducted by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). The requirements for taking this exam are that the assistants must possess a high school diploma or must graduate from an accredited training program. They must also have adequate on the job training and a recent certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In some states, the candidate should obtain a state license to work as a dental assistant.


The average annual income of dental assistants as of 2012 is around $33,337. The lowest 10% assistants made less than $22,680 per year while the highest 10% received more than $47,090 per year. As with any other occupation, the salary of a dental assistant also depends on many factors such as job location, experience of the professional, additional certifications or training.

Job Outlook

The employment opportunities of dental assistants are expected to continue growing at a rate of 31% through 2020. As the opportunities grow, there will more demand for these professionals. As such the career prospects of a dental assistant are looking extremely good.