Dental assistants can be found working in dentists offices, performing a variety of tasks and functions. The duties that they perform are integral to the successful operation of any dental practice. Their responsibilities range from assisting the dentist during dental procedures to managing the day-to-day operations of the office. It is not uncommon to find a dental assistant taking x-rays for one patient and then handling appointments and billing for another. The requirements for becoming a dental assistant vary by state with some requiring the completion of a certification program from an accredited school.
National Average Dental Assistant Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $23.82 $49,540
Median: $17.02 $35,390
Lower: $11.82 $24,580
States With Highest Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- New Hampshire $21.43 $44,580
- Alaska $20.94 $43,550
- Minnesota $20.75 $43,160
- Massachusetts $20.00 $41,590
- North Dakota $19.71 $40,990
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
A dental assistant can be found doing a great variety of jobs within a dentist’s office. As can be assumed from the job title, they act as assistants for dentists during dental procedures. This can include everything from preparing an examination room and sterilizing dental instruments, to taking x-rays of the patients teeth.
They also perform organizational duties such as the scheduling of appointments, record keeping, and billing. This profession shares some of the same responsibilities as surgical techs, nurses, office managers, radiology technicians, and several other health care professions.
Some of their responsibilities include:
- Preparing examination rooms
- Preparing the mixture used for taking impressions of teeth
- The sterilization of dental tools
- Handing the dentist necessary tools during dental procedures
- Assisting with dental procedures
- Discussing dental related issues with patients
- Calming patients who are nervous
- Scheduling appointments
- Taking x-rays
- Bill Processing
Dental assistants work alongside dentists and dental hygienists, with the majority working regular full-time hours. A dentist can specialize in a specific area of dentistry, therefore someone may be employed by an office that specializes in pediatric dentistry while another person works in an office that serves patients of all ages. Jobs are also available working for cosmetic dentists and orthodontists. This career offers a choice if one wants to work in a specialty office.
A person who goes through dental assistant training learns how to use various types of equipment. One example is an air and water syringe. This tool is used to spray water on a tooth to rinse it as dental work is being performed. Air can also be sprayed onto a tooth to dry it during a procedure. Another piece of equipment is a small suction hose. This tool removes saliva from a patient’s mouth as he or she is being examined. An x-ray machine is another important piece of equipment used in this profession.
Safety is part of the curriculum taught in dental assistant schools. It’s important for these professionals to protect themselves and their patients from germs. Consequently, they wear rubber gloves, surgical masks and safety glasses when they work with a patient’s teeth. They also wear scrubs to protect themselves from bacteria. When x-ray of a patient’s teeth are taken, he or she steps out of the examination room. This helps to protect them against any unnecessary exposure to radiation.
How To Become A Dental Assistant:
Dental Assistant Schools:
The educational requirements for this career varies according to the state in which they will be working, some states requiring the completion of an accredited training program while other states do not require any formal training at all. In states without any requirements most training is completed while on the job. Of course, people who have graduated from an accredited dental assistant training program are more desirable to potential employers.
Individuals who attend dental assistant schools take courses on how to use various types of equipment and tools. There are other courses that teach students about the anatomy of the mouth, how to prevent infection, how to properly file patient records and more. Most programs are completed within one to two years, with students receiving either certification or an Associates degree.
Dental Assistant Certification and Licensing:
In order to become certified, eligible candidates must pass an examination. In order to take the test successful completion of an accredited program is necessary, though in some states the only prerequisite for taking the exam is receiving on-the-job training. Some states require a dental assistant to obtain a license to perform certain procedures. Someone interested in this career would be wise to check the requirements of his or her own state.
Who Should Become a Dental Assistant?
A major part of this work involves dealing with patients. Consequently, anyone considering this career should enjoy interacting with people. Oftentimes, a they must deal with patients who are nervous or hesitant about visiting the dentist’s office. An individual who is both patient and understanding will likely find success in this occupation.
Organizational skills are helpful when working with patient records and completing administrative tasks. One of the most valuable traits that someone in this profession can have is a friendly nature. A professional with a friendly demeanor is a welcome sight for any patient entering a dental office.
How Much Does A Dental Assistant Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual dental assistant salary is $36,260. Salaries can range from $24,580 for the bottom 10% of earners to $49,540 for those in the 90th percentile. The state with the highest average salary is New Hampshire with an annual mean salary of $44,580.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
There are a few factors that can affect the salary of someone working in this field. For instance, if the individual has taken the national exam to become a Certified Dental Assistant, he or she can earn more than someone who doesn’t have this qualification. In addition, someone with several years of experience is likely to earn more than someone who is just starting out in the career. An individual who has several years under their belt has observed and helped with more dental procedures. He or she has also been able to establish a reputation for thorough, reliable work.
Someone working in a busy pediatric dentistry office located in a big city will command a higher salary than someone working in a dentist’s office located in a less populated area. Certainly, well-trained, efficient dental assistants are appreciated in any dentist’s office.
Someone working in this career has opportunities for promotion. He or she can study for an associate or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene to become a dental hygienist. Someone who finds this work extremely rewarding may want to garner more education and pursue a career as a dentist.
Organizational skills and years of experience dealing with patients can transfer over to a successful career as a medical assistant in a physician’s office. The person would still be serving patients, but in another area of the healthcare field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for dental assistants is expected to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2024. is is much higher than the national average of 7% during the same time frame. Due to an aging population the healthcare industry as a whole will continue to see healthy growth in the coming years.
Dental Assistant Schools
At American Institute, we believe you can become whatever you want to be, and we’re ready to help you get there. We pride ourselves on working hard to deliver quality, innovative education to our students that gives them the skills to begin or enhance their careers. We try to help our students meet their goals of changing or enhancing their careers, and also help prospective employers of our graduates in meeting the workforce needs of the 21st century while actively participating in the communities we operate within.
- Dental Assisting
- Medical Assisting
Get a hands-on education at Lincoln Tech. Designed for today’s tough job market, our in-depth programs cover many fields including: Health Sciences, Business and Information Technology, Hospitality, Automotive Technology, HVAC Technology and Electrical Systems Technology. Financial Aid is available for those who qualify. Programs vary by campus.
- Dental Assistant
- Medical Assistant
Altierus is a non-profit, higher educational school system with 21 campuses in 11 states, operated as Altierus Career College or Career Education. And being a student here is different. Because we don't see you as just a student. We see you as an individual within our community with your own reasons for being here.
- Diploma - Dental Assistant
- Diploma - Medical Administrative Assistant
- Diploma - Medical Assistant
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- Dental Assistant (10-Month diploma program)
- Medical Assistant Technician (10-Month diploma program)
Experience the Rewards of Caring, With ECPI’s Medical Careers Institute, you can Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree in 2.5 Years or Your Associate’s Even Sooner through Our Year-Round Schedule!
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- Dental Assisting - Associate's
- Medical Assisting - Diploma
- Medical Assisting - Associate's
- Dental Assistant
- Medical Assistant
At Brightwood Career Institute, we offer accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience focused on helping you gain skills for your chosen career.
We keep education relevant by employing instructors with real-world experience in the field, who bring their career backgrounds to the classroom. Our programs are continually assessed by faculty, staff and members of the business and education communities to help ensure your studies align with your career goals. Programs offered by Brightwood Career Institute focus on local employment needs, in areas such as allied health, nursing and technical and professional programs.
- Dental Assistant
- Medical Assistant
The Metropolitan Institute of Health and Technology (MIHT) is dedicated to educating men and women to serve with confidence in the health and technology industry. MIHT provides career training for students to move forward in their chosen field of study, changing their lives for the better. MIHT strives to provide quality education with affordable tuition. Our staff works to determine the best financial options for students on an individualized level.
- Dental Assisting
- Clinical Medical Assisting
- Electronic Health Records
Berks Technical Institute (BTI) has a history of helping students succeed through hands-on education and career training. Our faculty and staff work to ensure that when you’ve completed your program, you’re truly ready to begin your career.
- Dental Assisting - Associate in Specialized Technology
- Medical Assisting - Associate in Specialized Business
Blue Cliff College was founded in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1987 with the goal of becoming one of the most respected and innovative Massage Therapy training centers in the nation. In June of 1989, the College in Louisiana received its Proprietary School License from the state. In 1998, the Continuing Education College was proud to receive accreditation from the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). The Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) is a recognized accrediting agency by the US Department of Education.
- Dental Assistant - Diploma
- Clinical Medical Assisting - Diploma