What is a Dental Assistant?

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dental assisting training

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.

Career Overview

While the BLS predicts an average growth rate of 4% for all occupations in the U.S., the agency projects dental assisting jobs will increase at a rate of 14% through 2029.

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

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. New York
  4. Florida
  5. Illinois 


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.

Clerical Skills

  • Customer service
  • Digital record keeping
  • Computing & keyboarding
  • Software programs: accounting, email, medical, office
  • Billing & coding
  • Managing insurance claims
  • Scheduling patient appointments 

Clinical Skills

  • Dental terminology
  • Medical instruments
  • Radiograph technology (X-rays)
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Sterilization
  • Infection control 

Expanded Functions Dental Assistants (EFDA) Skills

  • 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.

  • Organized
  • 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.

Career Opportunities

Dental assistant training, certification, and work experience can lead to additional career opportunities.

  • Dental office manager
  • Educator
  • Dental product sales 
  • Expanded Functions Dental Assistants (EFDA)

Licenses & Certification

Similar Professions to a Dental Assistant

  • Dental Hygienists
  • Medical Assistants
  • Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
  • Pharmacy Technicians
  • Phlebotomists
  • 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.