Dental Assistant Career Information

The following information is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental Assistants. Please visit the website for a more comprehensive breakdown of the data.



Dental assistants’ duties may vary depending on the dental clinic, but the following is a general list of duties that dental assistants can expect to encounter on the job.

Job Duties

  • Sterilize dental instruments
  • Prepare patients and the work area for treatments and procedures
  • Make sure patients are comfortable in the dental chair
  • Hand instruments to dentists during procedures
  • Dry patients’ mouths using suction hoses and other equipment
  • Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
  • Process x-rays and complete lab tasks under the direction of a dentist
  • Keep records of dental treatments
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Work with patients on billing and payment


National Average Annual Pay (2019): $41,170

Top 5 States

1. Minnesota


2. Alaska


3. New Hampshire


4. Massachusetts


5. North Dakota


Bottom 5 States

50. West Virginia


49. Utah


48. Mississippi


47. Louisiana


46. Alabama



The steps to become a Dental Assistant vary state by state. In some states, there are no education requirements to become a Dental Assistant and one can receive on-the-job training. Here are some requirements that some states have:

  • Radiography Requirement: This is in order to legally operate x-ray equipment

  • Education Requirement: Attending a Dental Assisting program

  • Licensure: Taking the test to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)
  • 1. Enter a Dental Assisting Program

    Most Dental Assisting programs take around 1 year to complete.

  • 2. Become Certified as a CDA

    Take the Dental Assisting National Board Examination (DANB) to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA). This is a requirement for 38 states in the U.S.

  • 3. Find a Job as a Dental Assistant

    Use the connections you made through your Dental Assisting program to help find out which clinics are hiring.


Detail Oriented

Dental assistants must follow specific rules and protocols when helping dentists treat patients.


Dental assistants must be good at working with their hands and be able to use precise tools and instruments.

Interpersonal Skills

Dental assistants work closely with both dentists and patients. They need to be considerate in working with patients who are sensitive to pain or have a fear of undergoing dental treatment.

Listening Skills

Dental assistants must pay attention to patients and other healthcare workers. They need to follow directions from a dentist or dental hygienist so they can help treat patients and do tasks such as taking x-rays.

Organizational Skills

Dental assistants need to have the correct tools in place for a dentist or dental hygienist to use when treating a patient, and they need to maintain patient schedules and office records.

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