Updated on March 7, 2024
3 min read

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

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What Is a Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant is the main person who helps a dentist care for patients. They usually prepare a dentist’s instruments and attend to other needs in the dental office.1,3

Dental assistants work closely with other dental professionals. For example, they work with dental hygienists and administrative staff in a dentist’s office. This helps ensure everyone is informed about patient schedules and other special considerations.

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental assistants have varying responsibilities, depending on state regulations. According to the American Dental Association, the daily tasks of a dental assistant are:4

  • Taking dental X-rays and impressions of a patient’s teeth
  • Educating patients about proper dental care
  • Helping patients feel comfortable during a dentist visit
  • Maintaining dental records of patients
  • Scheduling dental appointments 
  • Attending to other administrative tasks around the dental clinic

Most dental assistants start their day by reviewing patient information and treatment schedules. They’ll also help welcome incoming patients. 

Once the dentists start treating a patient, a dental assistant cleans and prepares the tools needed for the procedure. After the procedure, dental assistants inform patients about aftercare practices.

Dental assistants can also take care of payment, insurance claims, and other administrative tasks related to a patient’s visit. 

How Do You Become a Dental Assistant?

Attending a dental assistant program is the first step to becoming a dental assistant. You don’t need a college degree to become a dental assistant.

Dental assistant programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools. These programs teach you about the following:

  • Dental procedures
  • Dental anatomy
  • Dental insurance claims
  • Other office procedures in dental offices 

After completing the program, take a test from the Dental Assisting National Board. This proves you have the knowledge and skills to become a registered dental assistant.6 

Remember that the requirements to become a certified dental assistant vary per state. Check with your state’s Commission of Dental Accreditation (CODA) to know more.

What Skills Are Essential for Dental Assistants?

Becoming a dental assistant requires you to possess the following skills: 

  • Organizational skills ⁠ Strong organizational skills ensure dental assistants can handle various responsibilities, from preparing treatment rooms to managing patient information.
  • Communication — Dental assistants must clearly communicate with patients to gather information about their medical histories and explain procedures. 
  • Technical skills Dental assistants must know how to use dental instruments, equipment, and technology to assist other dental professionals effectively. 
  • Ability to multitask Multitasking is crucial for dental assistants to meet the demands of a busy dental office. 

What Is the Salary Range for a Dental Assistant?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, the median annual dental assistant salary was $44,820.2 

A dental assistant’s salary will depend on where they practice. For instance, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that dental assistants in the government earn more than those who work at physicians’ offices.2

Career Outlook for Dental Assistants

The career outlook for dental assistants looks positive. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the dental assistant employment rate will grow 7% from 2022 to 2032.2

Other dental assistants can advance to other dental careers as well. Dental assisting offers them a stepping stone to other dental career paths such as:

  • Dental laboratory technologist
  • Dental hygienist
  • Dental educator or trainer
  • Dentist


Dental assistants play a crucial role in ensuring the smooth operation of dental practices. They perform various tasks, from handling administrative tasks to assisting during dental procedures.

If you have the skillset needed to become a dental assistant, this career path may suit you. The job outlook looks promising, and you can advance to other dental career paths in the future.

Last updated on March 7, 2024
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on March 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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