How to Be a Dental Assistant

The Dental Assistant Job Overview:

A dental assistant is someone who performs office and laboratory procedures in conjunction with a dentist or by themselves. They oftentimes deal with patient care before, during and after dental procedures as well as provide assistance to dentists by being on hand for procedures requiring a second pair of hands.

Education Needed to be a Dental Assistant:

The educational requirements are different for every country and/or region, but for countries like the US, UK, AU and CA the minimum requirements are generally completion of a board certified dental assistance program with a certain amount of hours in the classroom and/or a lengthy on the job training that meets a certain amount of months or hours working in the dental assistant field. Once those two are completed a certification exam is needed to get certified to work as a dental assistant professionally.

Other Requirements to be a Dental Assistant:

Like with many jobs, a dental assistant must be hard-working, reliable, dedicated to their job and have good manual dexterity due to constant use of tools in small tight places. Also they need to be generally socially capable of dealing with patients day-in and day-out environment such as a dental office. Dental assistants who perform more complicated duties such as radiology procedures may need to be board certified to use the radiology equipment through a Radiation Health and Safety examination or a training course on radiology, procedures and the use of radiology equipment.

Advancement as a Dental Assistant:

Many dental assistants grow into other positions in dental offices such as office managers or dental hygienists if they choose to go back to school for training as a dental hygienist. There is also the possibility of taking the experience as a dental assistant and using the experience as an instructor at RDA (registered dental assistant) schools, however the room for advancement in the dental assistant field is fairly limited compared to others.

Future Prospect for Jobs as a Dental Assistant:

The medical industry as a whole is in a constant state of growth as the population grows and as things such as poor dental health become more common. The outlook for the dental assistant job market is very good and is expected to increase in the years to come so jobs should be plentiful.

Expected Salary as a Dental Assistant:

The average annual salary is about $33,000 in the US, £18,107 in the UK, $45,000 in Canada and about $34,000 in Australia. The actual salary amount can fluctuate based upon experience, training, geographic location and whether or not a person has a full-time or part-time working status.

A Day-in-the-Life of a Dental Assistant:

On a typical day for a dental assistant the job duties can be varying based upon education, position within the dental office and so forth.

  • For those dealing mainly with patient care a typical day can include helping patients into dental chairs, obtaining patient records, getting them ready for procedures by doing initial preparation for such as laying out tools, putting in swabs, etc. It also can include handing tools and instruments to the dentists, using suction and other devices to keep the patient's mouth clean and dry, sterilizing equipment after use, instructing patient's on oral care after or before a procedure, making impressions or casts of teeth and creating temporary crowns for the patient's teeth.
  • For those who perform mainly office duties the typical day would include scheduling and confirming appointments, receiving patients, record keeping, billing and accepting payments, and ordering of supplies for the dental office.


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