Dental Assisting Specialties

Dental Assisting Specialties

Dental assistants can specialize in a variety of different types of dentistry. While there are some tasks that all dental assistants are responsible for, like record keeping and x-rays, different types of dentistry require specific skills and knowledge.

What are the different dental specialties?

Pediatric Dentistry

Pediatric dentistry focuses on the oral health and dental needs of children. Aside from your typical procedures, such as filling cavities and cleanings, pediatric dentist offices help kids learn how to take care of their teeth and create an enjoyable environment to help create a positive association with visiting the dentist. While it might be obvious, pediatric dental assistants need to enjoy being around and working with children. 

You might make a great pediatric dental assistant if you:

  • Enjoy working with kids
  • Have a calm and warm demeanor
  • Show empathy for people who are afraid of the dentist
  • Are passionate about helping people establish good oral hygiene from a young age

Oral Surgery

Oral surgery is just what it sounds like–surgery of the mouth. In this type of dentistry, oral surgeons perform procedures like wisdom tooth removal, jaw corrective surgery, and dental implants. 

Dental assistants who specialize in oral surgery will perform tasks including keeping dental tools sterile, monitoring a patient’s vital signs during their procedure, and providing post-operative care for patients. Oral surgery dental assistants have a different daily routine than those who work in a general dentist office. 

You might consider specializing in oral surgery if you:

  • Enjoy learning about more advanced dental procedures
  • Remain calm under pressure
  • Are not interested in working in a traditional dentist’s office


If you’ve had braces, you know all too well what happens at the orthodontist. Orthodontics is a type of dentistry that focuses on shifting the position of teeth. Orthodontists can provide treatment plans that correct teeth placement and install equipment, like spacers and braces.  

Dental assistants who work in orthodontics have a variety of responsibilities. You’ll assist with procedures such as the placement of braces, teach patients how to take care of their orthodontic equipment and monitor patient treatment plans to ensure that they are progressing according to the orthodontist’s orders. One of the major benefits of working in orthodontics is seeing a person gain confidence at the end of a treatment plan. 

You might look into a career as an orthodontic dental assistant if you:

  • Have had orthodontic treatments and are familiar with orthodontics
  • Want to have a positive impact on correcting someone’s smile
  • Are interested in dental procedures outside of traditional cleanings


Have you ever heard of a root canal? Endodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on the prevention and treatment of the conditions inside the tooth. Endodontics work to perform root canals, also known as endodontic treatments. These treatments help to protect the tooth and prevent it from further damage. As an endodontic dental assistant, you will help endodontists to keep instruments sterile, educate patients on root canal procedures and aftercare and assist endodontists during root canals.

You might be a good fit for a career in endodontic dental assisting if you:

  • Have an interest in dental procedures outside of traditional cleanings
  • Enjoy learning about more advanced dental procedures
  • Want to be well-versed in a specific procedure, such as root canals

Periodontal Dentistry

Periodontics is the type of dentistry that specializes in the areas around the tooth, like the gums and the bones. While many people assume that dentistry is all about teeth, periodontics is a very important part of oral health.

A periodontist works on the prevention and treatment of conditions like gum disease and bone loss. This could include procedures like bone or gum grafting, dental implant placement, plaque and tartar removal, and even crown lengthening. 

A dental assistant who works in periodontics might have responsibilities such as supporting the periodontist during these procedures and working with patients to make sure they know what to expect both during and after their treatment. 

A career as a periodontal dental assistant might be a good fit if you are:

  • Fascinated with procedures like bone grafts
  • Have an eye for detail, which can help you spot tartar and plaque 
  • Want to help patients prevent diseases through good oral hygiene


Prosthodontics is a branch of dentistry that focuses on the restoration and rehabilitation of teeth. From missing and damaged teeth to issues with biting, prosthodontists help patients live better lives through oral health. As a dental assistant in a prosthodontic office, you might help the dentist during the installation of dental prostheses and other dental implants, run x-rays to diagnose oral health conditions, and help patients with denture care. 

You might make a great prosthodontic dental assistant if you: 

  • Are passionate about working with and supporting the older population
  • Have an interest in dental prostheses, like dentures, crowns and bridges
  • Enjoy learning about more advanced dental procedures

Cosmetic Dentistry

Just like it sounds, cosmetic dentistry specializes in dental treatments and procedures that improve the outward appearance of a smile. From teeth whitening to dental veneers, cosmetic dentists provide services to help make patients more confident about their smile. As a cosmetic dental assistant, you will help cosmetic dentists with these procedures and educate patients on how to take care of their new smile. 

You might have an interest in cosmetic dental assisting if you:

  • Want to help patients gain confidence through a new smile
  • Love seeing before and after photos of dental cosmetics
  • Believe everyone deserves to have a smile they’re proud to show

What Training is Needed to Become a Specialized Dental Assistant?

Depending on the specialization you choose and which state you plan to work in, you may need to complete additional licensing, training or certifications. For example, if you want to become an orthodontic dental assistant or a surgical dental assistant, more training and skills must be developed beyond the fundamental administrative and clinical duties. 

To learn more about specialized dental assistant training and duties, check out the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) requirements by state.

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Success Story from a Dental Assistant

Midwest Technical Institute (MTI)’s Dental Assisting Program Director Lisa Hays has quite the story when it comes to her journey as a pediatric dental assistant. While in Guam at age 19, Hays took an American Red Cross course on dental assisting basics that led her to a career as a pediatric dental assistant. While she was initially nervous about working with children, she soon realized that gaining a young patient’s trust was the key. 

Lisa says her time as a pediatric dental assistant was the most rewarding. She remembers parents coming up to her and thanking her because she was the one who got their children to brush and floss their teeth and to no longer be afraid of going to the dentist. 

Now, Lisa not only directs the Dental Assisting Program at MTI’s Springfield, MO campus, but she also instructs and serves as the Placement and Externship Coordinator. Lisa teaches students through hands-on training that prepares them to succeed in a dental assisting career. Her best piece of advice for aspiring dental assistants is to follow MTI’s core values of P.R.I.D.E:

  • Positive Attitude
  • Respect
  • Initiative
  • Dedication 
  • Excellence

Lisa was a guest on the Dental Assistant Nation Podcast episode 246: the future of dental assisting from the classroom’s perspective.

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