Starting a Career as a Dental Assistant

dental assistantDentistry is a growing profession and the number of jobs within this field is expected to increase 16% by the year 2022. While this might not seem like a big number; it is quite significant for people who are interested in this line of work. The dental profession is going to produce 23,000 jobs by 2023. The number of jobs for support positions within this field will be a part of this growing trend.

Positions for dental assistants, technicians and hygienists will be necessary to help dentists provide care to patients. This is especially true for dental assistants because their employment outlook is going to rise 22% before the year 2025. What must a person do to get a job within this particular field. The following information will explain how this can be accomplished.

Job Duties for Dental Assistants

Some will ask the question, what does a dental assistant do? Dental assistants perform a wide variety of tasks and functions within the dental office. They help dentists with various duties which includes treating patients, performing x-ray procedures and evaluating patient medical history. Assistants also perform routine medical procedures such as taking blood pressure and pulse and they also might be responsible for making an impression of a patient’s teeth. Dental assistants could even function in alternate roles where they will have to act as a receptionist, supply manager or perform billing procedures.

Work Environment

Dental assistants work inside of offices and some carry out their duties within clinics or hospitals. Dental also work with hygienists and/or technicians providing patient care. They are required to wear personal protection clothing when they help out with patients. This type of clothing usually consists of a face mask, lab coat and gloves. Most assistants work full time but at least a third of them are employed on a part time basis.

The work day for an assistant starts between 6 and 9 in the morning and it usually last until 4 or 5 pm. Some assistants will work longer hours and could end up working as late as 7 pm. Third shift overnight hours are also available for dental workers that work in 24 hour emergency dental clinics. Weekends are not uncommon in many practices and assistants might be required to work holidays.


When a person decides to become a dental assistant they will have to complete a two-year degree. Some accelerated programs can be finished within a year or less. A few universities offer a four-year training degree for this profession. Assistants who complete a four-year bachelor’s degree will usually receive higher pay and be placed into a more advanced position once they are employed.

Much of the coursework that is designed for dental assistant students includes lots of science and mathematical classes. Students will also have clinical training where they work directly with patients while they are in school. On-the-job training is also available for dental assistants as well. Dental students will also need to have or to acquire attention to detail, have interpersonal skills, listening skills and they should have organizational skills as well.

Certification for Assistants

All states require assistants to be certified. Certification criteria will vary by state. Most certification standards require dental assistant students to pass a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam. Students should be enrolled in an accredited school to be eligible for the CDA. CPR certification is also another requirement for workers to be licensed within this field.

Dental Assistant Salary

How much does a dental assistant make? The average salary for a dental assistant is about $34,000 annually. Low paid assistants earn around $23,000 a year and some assistants make as much as $47,000 a year depending on experience, position and education. Most assistants are paid on a bi-weekly basis but pay periods will vary by independent offices. Regardless of their earnings, many workers within this field are satisfied with the pay that they receive.