Dentist Assistants

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Dentist Assistants

Dentist Assistants


Education

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.

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    State City / Region Typical Salary Salary Range Job Count % of All Jobs
    AK Anchorage $45620 $30K – $57K 570 0.33%
    AK Fairbanks $33530 $24K – $53K 130 0.36%
    AL Anniston – Oxford $33210 $23K – $45K 60 0.15%
    AL Auburn – Opelika $30320 $18K – $37K 80 0.16%
    AL Birmingham – Hoover $32450 $22K – $37K 860 0.18%
    AL Decatur $33710 $21K – $44K 70 0.13%
    AL Dothan $28090 $21K – $46K 100 0.19%
    AL Florence – Muscle Shoals $30810 $25K – $39K 120 0.22%
    AL Gadsden $29050 $22K – $38K 60 0.16%
    AL Huntsville $31600 $22K – $43K 360 0.18%
    AL Mobile $29230 $22K – $37K 310 0.19%
    AL Montgomery $23030 $18K – $37K 190 0.12%
    AL Tuscaloosa $33220 $20K – $38K 110 0.13%
    AR Fayetteville – Springdale – Rogers $29530 $24K – $37K 500 0.25%
    AR Fort Smith $29180 $22K – $37K 210 0.19%
    AR Hot Springs $32680 $26K – $38K 90 0.26%
    AR Jonesboro $31370 $24K – $37K 140 0.29%
    AR Little Rock – North Little Rock – Conway $27880 $19K – $38K 690 0.21%
    AR Pine Bluff $29270 $19K – $47K 80 0.24%
    AZ Flagstaff $30950 $26K – $42K 130 0.23%
    AZ Lake Havasu City $ Kingman $31520 $24K – $45K 140 0.33%
    AZ Phoenix – Mesa – Glendale $34760 $26K – $45K 4370 0.25%
    AZ Prescott $34070 $18K – $43K 190 0.37%
    AZ Tucson $35400 $28K – $45K 870 0.25%
    AZ Yuma $33810 $21K – $41K 80 0.14%
    CA Bakersfield – Delano $26980 $19K – $46K 810 0.29%
    CA Chico $35160 $23K – $46K N/A N/A
    CA El Centro $37630 $25K – $50K 120 0.24%
    CA Fresno $30350 $23K – $53K 800 0.25%
    CA Hanford – Corcoran $44920 $23K – $54K 160 0.42%
    CA Los Angeles – Long Beach – Glendale (Metro Area) $33860 $23K – $48K 10340 0.27%
    CA Madera – Chowchilla $41690 $24K – $56K 120 0.31%
    CA Merced $29650 $25K – $49K 190 0.32%
    CA Modesto $34460 $23K – $45K 550 0.36%
    CA Napa $37020 $28K – $54K N/A N/A
    CA Oakland – Fremont – Hayward (Metro Area) $37670 $26K – $57K 2980 0.31%
    CA Oxnard – Thousand Oaks – Ventura $32780 $25K – $43K 1000 0.35%
    CA Redding $34580 $25K – $51K 210 0.37%
    CA Riverside – San Bernardino – Ontario $32730 $22K – $45K 4560 0.39%
    CA Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Roseville $36000 $26K – $50K 2840 0.35%
    CA Salinas $38290 $25K – $48K 410 0.26%
    CA San Diego – Carlsbad – San Marcos $36780 $25K – $52K 3250 0.26%
    CA San Francisco – San Mateo – Redwood City (Metro Area) $49680 $31K – $60K 2320 0.23%
    CA San Jose – Sunnyvale – Santa Clara $41050 $20K – $56K 2760 0.31%
    CA San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles $36390 $30K – $47K 320 0.32%
    CA Santa Ana – Anaheim – Irvine (Metro Area) $36720 $24K – $48K 5000 0.35%
    CA Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta $32740 $26K – $45K 520 0.31%
    CA Santa Cruz – Watsonville $36630 $27K – $46K 380 0.45%
    CA Santa Rosa – Petaluma $45310 $31K – $57K 610 0.35%
    CA Stockton $33170 $20K – $48K 650 0.34%
    CA Vallejo – Fairfield $42670 $33K – $54K 610 0.51%
    CA Visalia – Porterville $33680 $25K – $47K 450 0.34%
    CA Yuba City $34030 $25K – $50K 140 0.39%
    CO Boulder $35500 $24K – $47K 410 0.26%
    CO Colorado Springs $33680 $19K – $53K 850 0.35%
    CO Denver – Aurora – Broomfield $40890 $26K – $54K 3150 0.26%
    CO Fort Collins – Loveland $32150 $25K – $45K 500 0.38%
    CO Grand Junction $35530 $26K – $49K 110 0.19%
    CO Greeley $35060 $25K – $48K 200 0.25%
    CO Pueblo $34360 $26K – $44K 130 0.24%
    CT Bridgeport – Stamford – Norwalk $41920 $31K – $56K 1170 0.28%
    CT Danbury $40010 $19K – $47K 270 0.41%
    CT Hartford – West Hartford – East Hartford $42420 $32K – $54K 1800 0.33%
    CT New Haven $37360 $31K – $52K 590 0.22%
    CT Norwich – New London $38280 $32K – $49K 280 0.22%
    CT Waterbury $37650 $26K – $47K 140 0.22%
    DC Washington – Arlington – Alexandria (Metro Area) $39170 $26K – $58K 4750 0.20%
    DE Dover $29280 $19K – $44K 130 0.23%
    DE Wilmington (Metro Area) $33710 $21K – $46K 820 0.26%
    FL Cape Coral – Fort Myers $34760 $27K – $44K 470 0.23%
    FL Crestview – Fort Walton Beach – Destin $37720 $26K – $54K 240 0.33%
    FL Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach $33870 $25K – $44K 340 0.22%
    FL Fort Lauderdale – Pompano Beach – Deerfield Beach (Metro Area) $33980 $24K – $48K 1310 0.18%
    FL Gainesville $35250 $24K – $47K 330 0.28%
    FL Jacksonville $36900 $25K – $47K 1220 0.21%
    FL Lakeland – Winter Haven $36250 $28K – $45K 400 0.21%
    FL Miami – Miami Beach – Kendall (Metro Area) $27100 $20K – $38K 2320 0.23%
    FL Naples – Marco Island $38740 $32K – $52K 240 0.21%
    FL North Port – Bradenton – Sarasota $35120 $29K – $45K 830 0.35%
    FL Ocala $29940 $22K – $43K 170 0.19%
    FL Orlando – Kissimmee – Sanford $31940 $25K – $42K 1910 0.19%
    FL Palm Bay – Melbourne – Titusville $33100 $22K – $43K 600 0.31%
    FL Palm Coast $36660 $27K – $46K 60 0.34%
    FL Panama City – Lynn Haven – Panama City Beach $31970 $23K – $38K 180 0.27%
    FL Pensacola – Ferry Pass – Brent $31840 $23K – $42K 370 0.25%
    FL Port St. Lucie $37310 $26K – $46K 220 0.18%
    FL Punta Gorda $32690 $25K – $39K 120 0.31%
    FL Sebastian – Vero Beach $33100 $26K – $44K 220 0.49%
    FL Tallahassee $32460 $24K – $47K 210 0.14%
    FL Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater $36670 $29K – $46K 2360 0.21%
    FL West Palm Beach – Boca Raton – Boynton Beach (Metro Area) $34710 $26K – $46K 1300 0.26%
    GA Albany $28540 $21K – $41K 110 0.19%
    GA Athens – Clarke County $34480 $20K – $51K 220 0.28%
    GA Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Marietta $36190 $25K – $53K 5120 0.23%
    GA Augusta – Richmond County $31670 $24K – $43K 600 0.30%
    GA Brunswick $28610 $17K – $44K 110 0.29%
    GA Columbus $29660 $24K – $40K 270 0.25%
    GA Dalton $29490 $20K – $46K 50 0.09%
    GA Gainesville $33110 $20K – $45K 210 0.29%
    GA Hinesville – Fort Stewart $30790 $24K – $41K 100 0.58%
    GA Macon $33300 $22K – $44K 160 0.17%
    GA Rome $27160 $17K – $40K 70 0.21%
    GA Savannah $40040 $19K – $48K 330 0.22%
    GA Valdosta $29940 $17K – $37K 110 0.22%
    GA Warner Robins $30500 $24K – $43K 160 1120 0.26%
    IA Ames $37640 $27K – $48K 120 0.29%
    IA Cedar Rapids $41510 $29K – $47K 250 0.18%
    IA Davenport – Moline – Rock Island $31810 $23K – $42K 290 0.16%
    IA Des Moines – West Des Moines $41730 $33K – $53K 350 0.11%
    IA Dubuque $31080 $26K – $42K 170 0.31%
    IA Iowa City $37020 $31K – $47K 200 0.24%
    IA Sioux City $30920 $25K – $39K 150 0.21%
    IA Waterloo – Cedar Falls $36020 $27K – $45K 170 0.19%
    ID Boise City – Nampa $33960 $24K – $44K 770 0.29%
    ID Coeur d’Alene ID $33650 $26K – $49K 180 0.36%
    ID Idaho Falls $29410 $20K – $37K 270 0.56%
    ID Lewiston $34460 $23K – $56K 50 0.21%
    ID Pocatello $24020 $17K – $37K 130 0.41%
    IL Bloomington – Normal $35340 $22K – $44K 130 0.15%
    IL Champaign – Urbana $35030 $26K – $53K 190 0.20%
    IL Chicago – Joliet – Naperville (Metro Area) $32990 $20K – $47K 9180 0.25%
    IL Decatur $32460 $24K – $44K 60 0.12%
    IL Kankakee – Bradley $31790 $21K – $54K 90 0.23%
    IL Lake County – Kenosha County (Metro Area) $31680 $23K – $45K 1110 0.30%
    IL Peoria $29640 $25K – $44K 280 0.16%
    IL Rockford $31410 $23K – $45K 480 0.34%
    IL Springfield $28410 $21K – $46K 200 0.19%
    IN Anderson $37900 $29K – $47K 80 0.20%
    IN Bloomington $29730 $18K – $41K 190 0.26%
    IN Columbus $29180 $20K – $42K 70 0.16%
    IN Elkhart – Goshen $39040 $31K – $48K 130 0.12%
    IN Evansville $34990 $23K – $47K 270 0.16%
    IN Fort Wayne $34430 $26K – $46K 470 0.24%
    IN Gary (Metro Area) $35670 $26K – $52K 720 0.27%
    IN Indianapolis – Carmel $35360 $26K – $47K 1920 0.22%
    IN Kokomo $34860 $25K – $54K 100 0.24%
    IN Lafayette $34040 $27K – $44K 280 0.32%
    IN Michigan City – La Porte $34830 $27K – $45K 70 0.16%
    IN Muncie $31620 $24K – $37K 110 0.24%
    IN South Bend – Mishawaka $38270 $30K – $60K 290 0.23%
    IN Terre Haute $30910 $22K – $44K 130 0.19%
    KS Lawrence $33640 $27K – $39K 130 0.29%
    KS Manhattan $31320 $25K – $40K 120 0.24%
    KS Topeka $30200 $23K – $42K 260 0.24%
    KS Wichita $34800 $27K – $44K 610 0.22%
    KY Bowling Green $34930 $27K – $47K 110 0.19%
    KY Elizabethtown $29350 $24K – $40K 120 0.27%
    KY Lexington – Fayette $29710 $25K – $45K 630 0.26%
    KY Louisville – Jefferson County $33870 $26K – $46K 1420 0.24%
    KY Owensboro $28310 $23K – $36K 110 0.22%
    LA Alexandria $29260 $19K – $38K 100 0.16%
    LA Baton Rouge $29670 $21K – $40K 640 0.18%
    LA Houma – Bayou Cane – Thibodaux $24340 $19K – $30K 170 0.18%
    LA Lafayette $25530 $20K – $35K 280 0.18%
    LA Lake Charles $27710 $20K – $44K 180 0.21%
    LA Monroe $32570 $23K – $43K 240 0.33%
    LA New Orleans – Metairie – Kenner $29650 $22K – $37K 1150 0.22%
    LA Shreveport – Bossier City $30500 $24K – $42K 320 0.18%
    MA Barnstable Town $43710 $35K – $55K 230 0.24%
    MA Boston – Cambridge – Quincy (Metro Area) $42270 $31K – $57K 3170 0.19%
    MA Brockton – Bridgewater – Easton (Metro Area) $39110 $26K – $47K 310 0.36%
    MA Framingham (Metro Area) $39960 $32K – $55K 320 0.20%
    MA Haverhill – North Andover – Amesbury (Metro Area) $46320 $32K – $60K 190 0.24%
    MA Lawrence – Methuen – Salem (Metro Area) $36850 $29K – $48K 100 0.17%
    MA Leominster – Fitchburg – Gardner $36590 $24K – $98K 110 0.24%
    MA Lowell – Billerica – Chelmsford (Metro Area) $46140 $29K – $57K 290 0.25%
    MA New Bedford $31760 $21K – $38K 150 0.23%
    MA Peabody (Metro Area) $41520 $32K – $53K 320 0.32%
    MA Pittsfield $32200 $26K – $45K 140 0.41%
    MA Springfield $36330 $27K – $48K 830 0.29%
    MA Taunton – Norton – Raynham (Metro Area) $37320 $20K – $53K 90 0.20%
    MA Worcester $47400 $31K – $58K 500 0.20%
    MD Baltimore – Towson $36910 $23K – $48K 2750 0.22%
    MD Bethesda – Rockville – Frederick (Metro Area) $40110 $27K – $54K 1290 0.23%
    MD Cumberland $32690 $24K – $40K 80 0.22%
    MD Hagerstown – Martinsburg $34120 $26K – $45K 180 0.19%
    MD Salisbury $24860 $21K – $36K 90 0.18%
    ME Bangor $35010 $28K – $47K 160 0.26%
    ME Lewiston – Auburn $36110 $26K – $58K 60 0.14%
    ME Portland – South Portland – Biddeford $41670 $32K – $48K 430 0.22%
    MI Ann Arbor $34660 $25K – $47K 400 0.21%
    MI Battle Creek $29360 $22K – $44K 160 0.31%
    MI Bay City $36530 $32K – $46K 90 0.28%
    MI Detroit – Livonia – Dearborn (Metro Area) $30260 $20K – $44K 1360 0.20%
    MI Flint $33190 $25K – $46K 410 0.32%
    MI Grand Rapids – Wyoming $36020 $26K – $47K 900 0.23%
    MI Holland – Grand Haven $36810 $27K – $51K N/A N/A
    MI Jackson $35510 $28K – $44K 110 0.21%
    MI Kalamazoo – Portage $34100 $23K – $45K 240 0.18%
    MI Lansing – East Lansing $35680 $26K – $46K 430 0.22%
    MI Monroe $33810 $26K – $44K 80 0.21%
    MI Muskegon – Norton Shores $33610 $26K – $41K 150 0.27%
    MI Niles – Benton Harbor $37330 $31K – $46K 80 0.15%
    MI Saginaw – Saginaw Township North $33100 $20K – $40K 180 0.22%
    MI Warren – Troy – Farmington Hills (Metro Area) $34270 $26K – $43K 2690 0.25%
    MN Duluth $35900 $28K – $45K 250 0.20%
    MN Mankato – North Mankato $41560 $32K – $48K 130 0.27%
    MN Minneapolis – St. Paul – Bloomington $43840 $35K – $56K 3310 0.19%
    MN Rochester $44430 $34K – $57K 200 0.20%
    MN St. Cloud $40390 $32K – $48K 230 0.24%
    MO Cape Girardeau – Jackson $23330 $18K – $36K 90 0.21%
    MO Columbia $30380 $21K – $43K 180 0.20%
    MO Jefferson City $29240 $25K – $43K 80 0.12%
    MO Joplin $29380 $18K – $38K 150 0.20%
    MO Kansas City $33950 $24K – $45K 1850 0.19%
    MO Springfield $30180 $22K – $46K 590 0.32%
    MO St. Joseph $29040 $22K – $42K 80 0.15%
    MO St. Louis $35770 $25K – $47K 2510 0.20%
    MS Gulfport – Biloxi $30150 $25K – $39K 190 0.18%
    MS Hattiesburg $27570 $25K – $32K 130 0.22%
    MS Jackson $32550 $22K – $44K 510 0.20%
    MS Pascagoula $27520 $17K – $42K 130 0.25%
    MT Billings $31180 $24K – $44K 200 0.25%
    MT Great Falls $29110 $24K – $37K 90 0.25%
    MT Missoula $31890 $19K – $39K 150 0.27%
    NC Asheville $37290 $27K – $46K 350 0.21%
    NC Burlington $36140 $27K – $49K 120 0.22%
    NC Charlotte – Gastonia – Rock Hill $38630 $28K – $52K 1560 0.18%
    NC Durham – Chapel Hill $35760 $31K – $47K 690 0.25%
    NC Fayetteville $36470 $27K – $45K 480 0.38%
    NC Goldsboro $35580 $28K – $53K 70 0.17%
    NC Greensboro – High Point $36630 $28K – $47K 630 0.18%
    NC Greenville $33860 $23K – $44K 160 0.21%
    NC Hickory – Lenoir – Morganton $34140 $26K – $46K 370 0.26%
    NC Jacksonville $34390 $26K – $44K 260 0.60%
    NC Raleigh – Cary $38450 $31K – $50K