Dental assisting is an allied health profession that involves hands-on work to help dentists and their patients.  It’s also a career with a healthy job outlook: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts much faster than average job growth in the coming years for dental assistants, making it an excellent time to enter this field.  
Dental Assistant Definition
Dental assistants play an important role in dental practices, helping to increase efficiency through their facilitation of dental procedures and patient care. The state and type of practice they work in can influence their specific job responsibilities, but they generally perform all clinical duties under the supervision of a dentist. 
What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistant responsibilities range from assisting with dental treatments, to communicating after-care instructions to patients following dental procedures, to prepping the instruments and equipment for the next patient.  Learn more about what a dental assistant does.
While the BLS predicts an average growth rate of 7% for all occupations in the U.S., the agency projects dental assisting jobs will increase at a rate of 19% through 2026.
Job Growth Factors
- Evidence of the relationship between oral and general health increasing demand for preventative dental care
- Providing treatment to an aging population that is keeping more original teeth than was typical of past generations 
- Advancements in treatments, procedures, and prevention, as well as cosmetic dentistry 
Top Employers by Industry
- Physicians’ practices
- Dentists’ offices
- Outpatient care centers
- Executive branch of the federal government
- Vocational schools, colleges, and universities 
Top Employment by State
- New York
- Illinois 
Dental assistant pay can vary depending on location, industry, experience, and certification. Specialty hospitals, state governments, enterprise management, the executive branch of the federal government and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals are the top paying industries, notes the BLS. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts are the highest paying states.  Those with Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification can earn more than non-certified dental assistants, indicates a DANB Salary Survey. 
Midwest Technical Institute prepares students of its dental assistant training program for the Radiology Health & Safety (RHS) and the Infection Control (ICE) exams necessary to obtain DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certification. Meeting the work experience requirements and passing the General Chairside Assisting (GC) exam is also necessary to complete the certification process.  Graduates of MTI’s dental assisting programs in Illinois and Missouri typically make $19,066 a year. 
Dental Assistant Skills
Similar to medical assistants, dental assistants perform tasks in the front and back of the office, so they also need a combination of clerical and clinical skills.
- Customer service
- Digital record keeping
- Computing & keyboarding
- Software programs: accounting, email, medical, office
- Billing & coding
- Managing insurance claims
- Scheduling patient appointments  
- Dental terminology
- Medical instruments 
- Radiograph technology (X-rays)
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Infection control 
Expanded Functions Dental Assistants (EFDA) Skills
Also known as registered dental assistants, licensed dental assistants, or certified dental assistants, these professionals perform procedures that require that they pass specific exams and earn the credentials that accompany their titles. Requirements vary by state. 
- Topical anesthetic application
- Coronal polishing
- Fluoride application
- Sealant application 
Qualities & Traits Dental Assistants Need
Certain personality traits and natural abilities can prove beneficial to dental assistants.
- Active listener 
- Attention to detail
- Good at working with their hands
- Sensitive to social situations 
- Near vision
- Works well with others
- Critical thinker
- Multitasker 
Education Requirements & Certification Needed to Become a Dental Assistant
Entering the dental assisting profession requires a combination of natural abilities and learned skills.
The educational requirements for becoming a dental assistant vary by state. While some individuals are permitted to learn the trade on the job, others must graduate from an accredited allied health training program in dental assisting and pass an exam for certification or licensure.  Learn more about how to become a dental assistant.
Dental assistant training, certification, and work experience can lead to additional career opportunities.
- Dental office manager
- Dental product sales 
- Expanded Functions Dental Assistants (EFDA)
Licenses & Certification
As noted above, licensing and certification requirements for dental assistants depend on the state in which they work. However, Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) certification can lead to greater career opportunities, higher pay, and benefits.  Certification or licensure is also required to perform expanded duties, such as coronal polishing. 
The main difference between a certified dental assistant (CDA) and a registered dental assistant (RDA) is the organization providing the credential. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) grants the CDA title that the American Dental Association recognizes. State licensing boards oversee the licensing process and exams necessary to become a RDA, but sometimes they delegate administration of exams to outside organizations, such as DANB. 
Some dental assistant schools require students to take DANB certification exams as part of their dental assistant programs. This is the case at MTI, which also has students take the Radiology Health & Safety and Infection Control exams. MTI has campuses offering dental assistant training in the cities of Springfield, Illinois, East Peoria, Illinois, and Moline, Illinois, as well as Springfield, Missouri. Neither state requires certification for dental assistants; however, certification can improve career opportunities.  
Similar Professions to a Dental Assistant
- Dental Hygienists
- Medical Assistants
- Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
- Pharmacy Technicians
- Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
- Surgical Technologists
- Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers 
MTI’s Dental Assisting Program
Are you interested in taking the next step toward becoming a dental assistant? Delta Tech’s dental assistant training is 35 weeks (9 months) and offers both daytime and evening classes* (availability of night time classes varies by campus). Learn more about our Dental Assisting Program.
-  http://www.asahp.org/what-is/
-  http://www.asahp.org/what-is/