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Dental Assistants


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a smiling dental assistant standing in a dental exam room Dental assistants work in dentists' offices and dental clinics; they perform various duties related to office work, patient care, and basic laboratory practices.  Duties may include preparing and organizing dental instruments, gathering dental records, handing instruments to the dentist during dental procedures, performing suction during procedures, preparing materials for x-rays, taking and processing x-rays, removing sutures, making casts for impressions, scheduling and confirming patients, billing patients, and ordering supplies.

A high school diploma is required of dental assistants, though many choose to further their education by taking additional coursework offered by technical institutes and vocational schools, trade schools, and community colleges.  In addition, the Commission on Dental Accreditation has approved many dental-assisting training programs that include classroom work, laboratory work, and practical work.  Some states require dental assistants to be licensed, which includes passing a written and/or practical test.  In some states, dental assistants who perform more advanced work, such as x-rays, must complete additional training.  Dental assistants who wish to advance their careers may take additional coursework and engage in training programs that allow them to become dental hygienists.  Others dental assistants may use the position as a stepping stone to work for insurance companies, to sell dental equipment, or to work as a dental office manager.

Dental assistants typically work in medical settings that are clean and well lit.  They often spend significant amounts of time on their feet, and must wear gloves, masks, goggles, and other protective equipment as needed during some portion of the day.  Dentist assistants usually work 40-hour workweeks, though part-time work is available.  Some dentists' assistants are required to work nights and/or weekends.

In addition to having the proper training and, if needed, the necessary licensure, dental assistants should have good fine-motor skills, should work well as part of a team, should have an excellent bedside manner, and should be very reliable.

Job prospects for dental assistants grow as the need for dental services expands.  The aging population, trends in certain areas of dentistry, and a growing focus on preventative care mean that there are plenty of job opportunities for dental assistants.

For information about becoming a Certified Dental Assistant, visit the Dental Assisting National Board website.  For information about dental assistant careers, visit the American Dental Assistants Association website.

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About Dental Assistants' Job Responsibilities, Educational Requirements, and Working Conditions

Related Occupations:  DentistsDental Hygienists