Start A Career In Dental Assisting

Thinking of a career change? Why not try dental assisting for a lucrative and satisfying career?  

If you are considering advancing or changing your career, you might want to consider becoming a Dental Assistant. The United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that the job demand will increase by 20% by 2036. The demand for qualified dental assistants is expected to continue because modern resources have allowed people to keep their natural teeth longer. Additionally, more people have access to dental care. More and more people are continuing to seek dental care. Lastly, many of today's dental workforce plans to retire in the next few years creating more demand for qualified dental professionals. 

Dental Assistant Vs. Dental Hygienist 

Duties performed by Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists do overlap. However, they are not the same job. A Dental Assistant functions as an office assistant and point-person for assisting the rest of the dental staff.

A Dental Assistant job description:

  • Scheduling Patients.

  • Updating Patient Records.

  • Reviewing Insurance Forms.

  • Ordering Inventory.

  • Educating Patients. 

  • Providing Sealant Treatments.

  • Sterilizing Equipment.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for dental assisting is $35,000 per year. Keep in mind that salary ranges vary per geographic region. The best way to determine what the average rate is for your state is to go to your state’s secretary of state website and view the data available.

Dental Hygienists perform more advanced dental treatments and work to treat and maintain the dental hygiene of patients. Dental Hygienists have to accomplish more education requirements and earn a license from an institute accredited by the American Dental Association. 

A Dental Hygienist job description:

  • Cleaning & Polishing Patient Teeth.

  • Examining Patient Oral Health.

  • Review Patient Dental History. 

  • Providing Risk Assessments. 

  • Taking Patient Radiographs. 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for dental hygienists is $70,000 per year. Keep in mind that salary ranges vary per geographic region. 

There is an obvious demand for dental assistants but there are several other reasons why becoming a dental assistant could be a rewarding career: 

Short Education Track 

Most dental assisting programs can be accomplished in 1 calendar year. However, there are some accelerated dental assisting programs available offering 8-week programs. Your options for programs will depend on the education opportunities in your city. Some dental programs can be taken online, or as a hybrid class.

Flexible Hours 

Dental Assistants can find work at a variety of different public and private dental practices. They have the option to choose employment based on the hours they prefer working. Additionally, most dental practices do not require staff to work holidays. In large practices it is possible to negotiate for flex hours so you can be home for children, or coordinate with a spouse’s work schedule.

Competitive Pay 

Dental Assistants receive a competitive salary reasonable to the amount of time they have invested in their education. Compare this to other industries where it often takes years to recoup the money invested, Dental Assistants begin making good money from the start. Most Dental Assistants who remain on the job for several years can expect pay increases commiserate with the success of the dental practice. 

Career Advancement Opportunities 

Becoming a Dental Assistant is an excellent idea if you want to continue advancing your career in the dental industry. Some individuals choose to become Dental Assistants while they are on their way to becoming qualified Dental Hygienists. Most Dental Hygienist programs take 2 years to complete. Dental Hygienists have options to expand their education, job description, and salary by acquiring an Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary Certificate (EFDA). 

Who Should Be a Dental Assistant? 

Dental Assisting provides people with a fulfilling career opportunity, but some people make better Dental Assistants than others. Do you have the following characteristics?

Hands-On Work

Someone who enjoys performing both technical and administrative work would enjoy working as a dental assistant. Dental Assisting provides individuals with a combination of mental and physical activities. Every workday could look slightly different. People who enjoy variety would enjoy the typical workday as a Dental Assistant.  

Enjoy People

Dental Assistants must work alongside patients and colleagues. People who enjoy interacting with people make better Dental Assistants. This is because you often must provide not only assistance to the dentist during procedures, but also provide a calming influence on patients who may be nervous or fearful. If you tend to be “unflappable” and do well under pressure, then a career in the dental industry could be for you.


The best Dental Assistants have comprehensive communication skills. When interacting with patients and colleagues, Dental Assistants need to know how to communicate medical terminology into easy-to-understand terminology. If you know how to communicate complex topics in a simple way, you would be an excellent contribution to a dental practice.