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What Does it Take to Be a Dental Assistant?

Dental Assistant Example Assist dentist, set up equipment, prepare patient for treatment, and keep records.

Daily Life Of a Dental Assistant

  • Clean teeth, using dental instruments.
  • Order and monitor dental supplies and equipment inventory.
  • Apply protective coating of fluoride to teeth.
  • Clean and polish removable appliances.
  • Record treatment information in patient records.
  • Provide postoperative instructions prescribed by dentist.

What Every Dental Assistant Should Know

These are the skills Dental Assistants say are the most useful in their careers:

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Service Orientation: Actively looking for ways to help people.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Active Learning: Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.

  • Orthodontic Assistant (Ortho Assistant)
  • Certified Registered Dental Assistant
  • Certified Dental Assistant (CDA)
  • Surgical Dental Assistant
  • Dental Assistant (DA)

Job Demand for Dental Assistants

In the United States, there were 332,000 jobs for Dental Assistant in 2016. New jobs are being produced at a rate of 19.5% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 64,600 new jobs for Dental Assistant by 2026. Due to new job openings and attrition, there will be an average of 45,900 job openings in this field each year.


The states with the most job growth for Dental Assistant are Arizona, Maryland, and Utah. Watch out if you plan on working in Rhode Island, Mississippi, or Kansas. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

What is the Average Salary of a Dental Assistant

The salary for Dental Assistants ranges between about $26,940 and $54,800 a year.


Dental Assistants who work in Minnesota, New Hampshire, or District of Columbia, make the highest salaries.

Below is a list of the median annual salaries for Dental Assistants in different U.S. states.

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $33,650
Alaska $47,330
Arizona $40,680
Arkansas $34,080
California $41,030
Colorado $40,390
Connecticut $44,520
Delaware $41,060
District of Columbia $49,220
Florida $39,590
Georgia $36,710
Hawaii $38,860
Idaho $34,800
Illinois $39,370
Indiana $40,790
Iowa $41,100
Kansas $37,040
Kentucky $36,060
Louisiana $32,340
Maine $42,250
Maryland $42,080
Massachusetts $46,070
Michigan $37,140
Minnesota $49,880
Mississippi $32,900
Missouri $38,350
Montana $37,310
Nebraska $36,860
Nevada $38,240
New Hampshire $48,760
New Jersey $43,110
New Mexico $34,870
New York $39,130
North Carolina $41,790
North Dakota $46,640
Ohio $38,960
Oklahoma $36,550
Oregon $43,440
Pennsylvania $39,200
Rhode Island $43,710
South Carolina $39,750
South Dakota $37,820
Tennessee $37,610
Texas $36,820
Utah $31,280
Vermont $42,640
Virginia $44,640
Washington $43,680
West Virginia $31,410
Wisconsin $38,630
Wyoming $35,220

Tools & Technologies Used by Dental Assistants

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Dental Assistants:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Office
  • Web browser software
  • Email software
  • Word processing software
  • Intuit Quicken
  • Henry Schein Dentrix
  • Patterson Dental Supply Patterson EagleSoft
  • Kodak Dental Systems Kodak SOFTDENT Practice management software PMS

How do I Become a Dental Assistant?

What education is needed to be a Dental Assistant?


How many years of work experience do I need?


Who Employs Dental Assistants?


Below are examples of industries where Dental Assistants work:


Similar Careers

Those interested in being a Dental Assistant may also be interested in:

Are you already one of the many Dental Assistant in the United States? If you’re thinking about changing careers, these fields are worth exploring:


Image Credit: Sgt. Dallas Edwards via Public domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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