Dentist Assistants


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Dentist Assistants

Dentist Assistants


What’s Needed: Some states require dentist assistants to graduate from an accredited program and possibly pass a state exam whereas other states don’t have formal education requirements. Those seeking to become a dental assistant in these states receive on-the-job training. Contact your state board of dentistry to get specific requirements.

Most dental assistant programs can be completed in about one year and lead to a diploma or certificate. These programs are provided by community colleges and vocational schools. Although they’re less common some schools offer a two-year associate degree program.

The Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved a large number of dental-assisting training programs. These programs provide supervised practical experience.

What you study:

  • Radiology for dental assistants
  • Dental materials
  • Preventive dentistry
  • Infection control
  • Dental office management
  • Oral pathology
  • Dental anatomy

Video Overview

Briefly shows what dental assistants do in their daily work. Produced by the US Department of Labor.

A Day in the Life

You help the dentist through each step of a procedure.

Without a dentist assistant a dentist office can quickly become disorganized. Dentist assistants are vital assets to dentist offices throughout the nation. As a dental assistant you begin the work day arriving early to the office to stock and prepare everything for the day. You ensure every room is prepared and x-rays charts and the required procedural materials are ready.

After the patient is in the dental chair you help the dentist through each step of the procedure. Throughout the day you’ll perform a broad range of tasks including assisting during surgical dental procedures. You’ll perform tasks such as prepping patients positioning patients applying anaesthetic to teeth and gums making sure a patient’s mouth is kept dry by using suction hoses handing the dentist various tools cleaning and sterilizing equipment and taking x-rays. During some days you’ll prepare materials required to make dental impressions. Before patients leave the dental chair you’ll discuss aftercare instructions with them and answer questions.

Throughout the day you’ll perform a broad range of tasks such as assisting during surgical dental procedures or administrative tasks.

Depending on the dentist office you might take care of administrative tasks such as setting appointments making sure dental records are kept current sending invoices and ordering office supplies. As a dentist assistant you might spend time answering telephones during the day.

Certifications and Licensing

Some states require dentist assistants to be certified and the requirements vary by state. To become certified dental assistants are required to pass the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) exam provided by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). To qualify to take the exam individuals must have graduated from an accredited program or graduated from high school and gained the required amount of on-the-job training. Candidates also need current certification in CPR.

In some states dental assistants are required to be licensed or register with DANB to complete regulated tasks. Contact your state board of dentistry to get the specific requirements.

Job Flexibility

Full-time versus part-time: Many dentist assistants work full-time however almost two out of five work part-time. Some dental assistants work during the evenings or on weekends.

Work location: Almost all dentist assistants work in dentists’ offices. They work in group and solo practices. Some dental assistants work in a specialty practice such as oral and maxillofacial surgery (removal of teeth and correction of facial deformities) periodontics (treatment of gum problems) endodontics (root canal treatment) and pediatric dentistry (treatment of children).

Recommended Websites

  • The American Dental Association website offers a useful dental assistant section which includes a job description and provides a list of career advantages of being a dental assistant. You can also learn about the types of job opportunities. The website also includes an informative dental assistant career video and information about education and training requirements.
  • The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) covers the procedure to become certified and provides tips to build important credentials. The website also includes important information about DANB administered state-specific exams. Also according to DANB renewing certification shows employers and patients you’re continuously improving your clinical knowledge. DANB certification is valid for one year. The DANB allows you to renew your certification online. The website provides useful information about Continuing Dental Education Opportunities.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Handbook offers an overview of the various task performed by dentist assistants. The BLS also provides salary data educational requirements as well as an employment growth forecast.

Salaries by City

See typical salaries and ranges for this career below*. Shift click to sort by more than one column — for example first shift-click on state and then shift-click on salary to find best and worst salaries in each state.

StateCity / RegionTypical SalarySalary RangeJob Count% of All Jobs
AKAnchorage$45620$30K – $57K5700.33%
AKFairbanks$33530$24K – $53K1300.36%
ALAnniston – Oxford$33210$23K – $45K600.15%
ALAuburn – Opelika$30320$18K – $37K800.16%
ALBirmingham – Hoover$32450$22K – $37K8600.18%
ALDecatur$33710$21K – $44K700.13%
ALDothan$28090$21K – $46K1000.19%
ALFlorence – Muscle Shoals$30810$25K – $39K1200.22%
ALGadsden$29050$22K – $38K600.16%
ALHuntsville$31600$22K – $43K3600.18%
ALMobile$29230$22K – $37K3100.19%
ALMontgomery$23030$18K – $37K1900.12%
ALTuscaloosa$33220$20K – $38K1100.13%
ARFayetteville – Springdale – Rogers$29530$24K – $37K5000.25%
ARFort Smith$29180$22K – $37K2100.19%
ARHot Springs$32680$26K – $38K900.26%
ARJonesboro$31370$24K – $37K1400.29%
ARLittle Rock – North Little Rock – Conway$27880$19K – $38K6900.21%
ARPine Bluff$29270$19K – $47K800.24%
AZFlagstaff$30950$26K – $42K1300.23%
AZLake Havasu City $ Kingman$31520$24K – $45K1400.33%
AZPhoenix – Mesa – Glendale$34760$26K – $45K43700.25%
AZPrescott$34070$18K – $43K1900.37%
AZTucson$35400$28K – $45K8700.25%
AZYuma$33810$21K – $41K800.14%
CABakersfield – Delano$26980$19K – $46K8100.29%
CAChico$35160$23K – $46KN/AN/A
CAEl Centro$37630$25K – $50K1200.24%
CAFresno$30350$23K – $53K8000.25%
CAHanford – Corcoran$44920$23K – $54K1600.42%
CALos Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area)$33860$23K – $48K103400.27%
CAMadera – Chowchilla$41690$24K – $56K1200.31%
CAMerced$29650$25K – $49K1900.32%
CAModesto$34460$23K – $45K5500.36%
CANapa$37020$28K – $54KN/AN/A
CAOakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area)$37670$26K – $57K29800.31%
CAOxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura$32780$25K – $43K10000.35%
CARedding$34580$25K – $51K2100.37%
CARiverside – San Bernardino – Ontario$32730$22K – $45K45600.39%
CASacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville$36000$26K – $50K28400.35%
CASalinas$38290$25K – $48K4100.26%
CASan Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos$36780$25K – $52K32500.26%
CASan Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area)$49680$31K – $60K23200.23%
CASan Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara$41050$20K – $56K27600.31%
CASan Luis Obispo – Paso Robles$36390$30K – $47K3200.32%
CASanta Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area)$36720$24K – $48K50000.35%
CASanta Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta$32740$26K – $45K5200.31%
CASanta Cruz – Watsonville$36630$27K – $46K3800.45%
CASanta Rosa – Petaluma$45310$31K – $57K6100.35%
CAStockton$33170$20K – $48K6500.34%
CAVallejo – Fairfield$42670$33K – $54K6100.51%
CAVisalia – Porterville$33680$25K – $47K4500.34%
CAYuba City$34030$25K – $50K1400.39%
COBoulder$35500$24K – $47K4100.26%
COColorado Springs$33680$19K – $53K8500.35%
CODenver – Aurora – Broomfield$40890$26K – $54K31500.26%
COFort Collins – Loveland$32150$25K – $45K5000.38%
COGrand Junction$35530$26K – $49K1100.19%
COGreeley$35060$25K – $48K2000.25%
COPueblo$34360$26K – $44K1300.24%
CTBridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk$41920$31K – $56K11700.28%
CTDanbury$40010$19K – $47K2700.41%
CTHartford – West Hartford – East Hartford$42420$32K – $54K18000.33%
CTNew Haven$37360$31K – $52K5900.22%
CTNorwich – New London$38280$32K – $49K2800.22%
CTWaterbury$37650$26K – $47K1400.22%
DCWashington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area)$39170$26K – $58K47500.20%
DEDover$29280$19K – $44K1300.23%
DEWilmington (Metro Area)$33710$21K – $46K8200.26%
FLCape Coral – Fort Myers$34760$27K – $44K4700.23%
FLCrestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin$37720$26K – $54K2400.33%
FLDeltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach$33870$25K – $44K3400.22%
FLFort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area)$33980$24K – $48K13100.18%
FLGainesville$35250$24K – $47K3300.28%
FLJacksonville$36900$25K – $47K12200.21%
FLLakeland – Winter Haven$36250$28K – $45K4000.21%
FLMiami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area)$27100$20K – $38K23200.23%
FLNaples – Marco Island$38740$32K – $52K2400.21%
FLNorth Port – Bradenton – Sarasota$35120$29K – $45K8300.35%
FLOcala$29940$22K – $43K1700.19%
FLOrlando – Kissimmee – Sanford$31940$25K – $42K19100.19%
FLPalm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville$33100$22K – $43K6000.31%
FLPalm Coast$36660$27K – $46K600.34%
FLPanama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach$31970$23K – $38K1800.27%
FLPensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent$31840$23K – $42K3700.25%
FLPort St. Lucie$37310$26K – $46K2200.18%
FLPunta Gorda$32690$25K – $39K1200.31%
FLSebastian – Vero Beach$33100$26K – $44K2200.49%
FLTallahassee$32460$24K – $47K2100.14%
FLTampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater$36670$29K – $46K23600.21%
FLWest Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area)$34710$26K – $46K13000.26%
GAAlbany$28540$21K – $41K1100.19%
GAAthens – Clarke County$34480$20K – $51K2200.28%
GAAtlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta$36190$25K – $53K51200.23%
GAAugusta – Richmond County$31670$24K – $43K6000.30%
GABrunswick$28610$17K – $44K1100.29%
GAColumbus$29660$24K – $40K2700.25%
GADalton$29490$20K – $46K500.09%
GAGainesville$33110$20K – $45K2100.29%
GAHinesville – Fort Stewart$30790$24K – $41K1000.58%
GAMacon$33300$22K – $44K1600.17%
GARome$27160$17K – $40K700.21%
GASavannah$40040$19K – $48K3300.22%
GAValdosta$29940$17K – $37K1100.22%
GAWarner Robins$30500$24K – $43K16011200.26%
IAAmes$37640$27K – $48K1200.29%
IACedar Rapids$41510$29K – $47K2500.18%
IADavenport – Moline – Rock Island$31810$23K – $42K2900.16%
IADes Moines – West Des Moines$41730$33K – $53K3500.11%
IADubuque$31080$26K – $42K1700.31%
IAIowa City$37020$31K – $47K2000.24%
IASioux City$30920$25K – $39K1500.21%
IAWaterloo – Cedar Falls$36020$27K – $45K1700.19%
IDBoise City – Nampa$33960$24K – $44K7700.29%
IDCoeur d’Alene ID$33650$26K – $49K1800.36%
IDIdaho Falls$29410$20K – $37K2700.56%
IDLewiston$34460$23K – $56K500.21%
IDPocatello$24020$17K – $37K1300.41%
ILBloomington – Normal$35340$22K – $44K1300.15%
ILChampaign – Urbana$35030$26K – $53K1900.20%
ILChicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area)$32990$20K – $47K91800.25%
ILDecatur$32460$24K – $44K600.12%
ILKankakee – Bradley$31790$21K – $54K900.23%
ILLake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area)$31680$23K – $45K11100.30%
ILPeoria$29640$25K – $44K2800.16%
ILRockford$31410$23K – $45K4800.34%
ILSpringfield$28410$21K – $46K2000.19%
INAnderson$37900$29K – $47K800.20%
INBloomington$29730$18K – $41K1900.26%
INColumbus$29180$20K – $42K700.16%
INElkhart – Goshen$39040$31K – $48K1300.12%
INEvansville$34990$23K – $47K2700.16%
INFort Wayne$34430$26K – $46K4700.24%
INGary (Metro Area)$35670$26K – $52K7200.27%
INIndianapolis – Carmel$35360$26K – $47K19200.22%
INKokomo$34860$25K – $54K1000.24%
INLafayette$34040$27K – $44K2800.32%
INMichigan City – La Porte$34830$27K – $45K700.16%
INMuncie$31620$24K – $37K1100.24%
INSouth Bend – Mishawaka$38270$30K – $60K2900.23%
INTerre Haute$30910$22K – $44K1300.19%
KSLawrence$33640$27K – $39K1300.29%
KSManhattan$31320$25K – $40K1200.24%
KSTopeka$30200$23K – $42K2600.24%
KSWichita$34800$27K – $44K6100.22%
KYBowling Green$34930$27K – $47K1100.19%
KYElizabethtown$29350$24K – $40K1200.27%
KYLexington – Fayette$29710$25K – $45K6300.26%
KYLouisville – Jefferson County$33870$26K – $46K14200.24%
KYOwensboro$28310$23K – $36K1100.22%
LAAlexandria$29260$19K – $38K1000.16%
LABaton Rouge$29670$21K – $40K6400.18%
LAHouma – Bayou Cane – Thibodaux$24340$19K – $30K1700.18%
LALafayette$25530$20K – $35K2800.18%
LALake Charles$27710$20K – $44K1800.21%
LAMonroe$32570$23K – $43K2400.33%
LANew Orleans – Metairie – Kenner$29650$22K – $37K11500.22%
LAShreveport – Bossier City$30500$24K – $42K3200.18%
MABarnstable Town$43710$35K – $55K2300.24%
MABoston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area)$42270$31K – $57K31700.19%
MABrockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area)$39110$26K – $47K3100.36%
MAFramingham (Metro Area)$39960$32K – $55K3200.20%
MAHaverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area)$46320$32K – $60K1900.24%
MALawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Area)$36850$29K – $48K1000.17%
MALeominster – Fitchburg – Gardner$36590$24K – $98K1100.24%
MALowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area)$46140$29K – $57K2900.25%
MANew Bedford$31760$21K – $38K1500.23%
MAPeabody (Metro Area)$41520$32K – $53K3200.32%
MAPittsfield$32200$26K – $45K1400.41%
MASpringfield$36330$27K – $48K8300.29%
MATaunton – Norton – Raynham (Metro Area)$37320$20K – $53K900.20%
MAWorcester$47400$31K – $58K5000.20%
MDBaltimore – Towson$36910$23K – $48K27500.22%
MDBethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area)$40110$27K – $54K12900.23%
MDCumberland$32690$24K – $40K800.22%
MDHagerstown – Martinsburg$34120$26K – $45K1800.19%
MDSalisbury$24860$21K – $36K900.18%
MEBangor$35010$28K – $47K1600.26%
MELewiston – Auburn$36110$26K – $58K600.14%
MEPortland – South Portland – Biddeford$41670$32K – $48K4300.22%
MIAnn Arbor$34660$25K – $47K4000.21%
MIBattle Creek$29360$22K – $44K1600.31%
MIBay City$36530$32K – $46K900.28%
MIDetroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area)$30260$20K – $44K13600.20%
MIFlint$33190$25K – $46K4100.32%
MIGrand Rapids – Wyoming$36020$26K – $47K9000.23%
MIHolland – Grand Haven$36810$27K – $51KN/AN/A
MIJackson$35510$28K – $44K1100.21%
MIKalamazoo – Portage$34100$23K – $45K2400.18%
MILansing – East Lansing$35680$26K – $46K4300.22%
MIMonroe$33810$26K – $44K800.21%
MIMuskegon – Norton Shores$33610$26K – $41K1500.27%
MINiles – Benton Harbor$37330$31K – $46K800.15%
MISaginaw – Saginaw Township North$33100$20K – $40K1800.22%
MIWarren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area)$34270$26K – $43K26900.25%
MNDuluth$35900$28K – $45K2500.20%
MNMankato – North Mankato$41560$32K – $48K1300.27%
MNMinneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington$43840$35K – $56K33100.19%
MNRochester$44430$34K – $57K2000.20%
MNSt. Cloud$40390$32K – $48K2300.24%
MOCape Girardeau – Jackson$23330$18K – $36K900.21%
MOColumbia$30380$21K – $43K1800.20%
MOJefferson City$29240$25K – $43K800.12%
MOJoplin$29380$18K – $38K1500.20%
MOKansas City$33950$24K – $45K18500.19%
MOSpringfield$30180$22K – $46K5900.32%
MOSt. Joseph$29040$22K – $42K800.15%
MOSt. Louis$35770$25K – $47K25100.20%
MSGulfport – Biloxi$30150$25K – $39K1900.18%
MSHattiesburg$27570$25K – $32K1300.22%
MSJackson$32550$22K – $44K5100.20%
MSPascagoula$27520$17K – $42K1300.25%
MTBillings$31180$24K – $44K2000.25%
MTGreat Falls$29110$24K – $37K900.25%
MTMissoula$31890$19K – $39K1500.27%
NCAsheville$37290$27K – $46K3500.21%
NCBurlington$36140$27K – $49K1200.22%
NCCharlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill$38630$28K – $52K15600.18%
NCDurham – Chapel Hill$35760$31K – $47K6900.25%
NCFayetteville$36470$27K – $45K4800.38%
NCGoldsboro$35580$28K – $53K700.17%
NCGreensboro – High Point$36630$28K – $47K6300.18%
NCGreenville$33860$23K – $44K1600.21%
NCHickory – Lenoir – Morganton$34140$26K – $46K3700.26%
NCJacksonville$34390$26K – $44K2600.60%
NCRaleigh – Cary$38450$31K – $50K