What Do Dental Assistants Do?

Dental Assistant

What Do Dental Assistants Do?

Does the thought of clean teeth and a straight smile make you grin from ear to ear? If so, a career as a dental assistant might be the perfect fit for you!


As a dental assistant, you’re a vital member of a dental care team with a variety of important duties to perform each day. A strong expertise in areas of technical, administrative, and people skills are essential for all dental assistants so they can support both dentist and patient throughout procedures. The field of dentistry can be fast paced and challenging, so it’s important to be ready for the responsibilities that come with the job.


If becoming a dental assistant is something that you’re interested in, read below to find out what they do and what skill sets you’ll need in order to find dental assistant success.

Dental Assistant Duties

Dental assistants usually work in a dental office on a full-time basis. They’re there to support the dentist and keep the office running efficiently. Most dental assistants perform many tasks throughout the day, including patient record keeping, scheduling appointments, and performing x-rays. The jobs you could perform as a dental assistant will vary based upon the office you work at and the number of patients the dentist serves.


A job as a dental assistant is typically an entry-level position with a median annual wage of $38,660 or $19.56 an hour, according to nationwide data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Due to the aging population and an increased awareness of oral health, a higher-than-average job growth (19% over the next ten years) is expected in the field.


Depending on where you live, the path to becoming a dental assistant will vary. Some states require dental assistants to hold a certificate and pass an exam before they’re able to work in this job. Other states allow those interested in this career the ability to intern at an office in order to gain the knowledge needed.

Skill Sets Needed

While working as a dental assistant, you’ll have a variety of responsibilities. Here are some of the most important skill sets you’ll need.


Technical Skills

Dental assistants will often be asked to work side-by-side with a dentist while they’re performing a procedure. They need to know the names of all the equipment that a dentist uses so they can hand them these instruments. Dental assistants are also in charge of the patient’s comfort; they will be checking in with patients while a procedure is going on and comforting patients when they’re nervous or upset.


Dentists also rely on dental assistants to help them with more complex tasks like assisting with fillings, crowns, and root canals. Dental assistants may also make molds and impressions of the mouth and teeth. Some states do require advanced education in order to perform tasks like these, so be sure to check your state’s regulations for more information about dental assistants’ responsibilities and requirements.


Administrative Duties

Like most professions, being a dental assistant requires some administrative tasks while on the job. Those who work in this field should have a basic understanding of computers and using specific programs that will support office management. Dental assistants may be asked to create appointments, manage work schedules, sort our billing issues, and even make reminder calls to patients.


While these duties might not seem like a lot of work, they could take up a good chunk of your day. This means that dental assistants’ schedules could differ from day to day, depending on how the dental office they work in is run.


People Skills

It’s no secret that many people do not like going to the dentist. This dislike (and often discomfort) can lead to patient anxiety. The dental assistant is the first person that patients interact with when they enter the office. This makes it even more important for dental assistants to seem calm and welcoming. Patients will also look to their dental assistant for reassurance throughout their cleaning and other procedures. They will also need to communicate oral hygiene and care instructions before a patient leaves the office. It’s important that they have good communication skills and are able to answer any and all questions patients might have before they leave.

Dental assistants also need to be good listeners: They need to be able to communicate their patients’ needs to the dentist and, at times, more personably explain what will happen during the procedure. Nervous people often talk more and dental assistants should be ready to listen to their concerns and reassure them that everything will be okay.


If you’re thinking about a career in dental assisting, now is a great time to start your journey! In just a short time, you could be on a new career path. Now that sounds like something to smile about!

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