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Why Be A Dental Assistant

If you’re looking for a healthcare career that provides great variety and outstanding opportunities, you might consider becoming a dental assistant.

Dental assistants have many responsibilities, ranging from patient care to record keeping, in a dental office. They work under the supervision of dentists and perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. More than half work full time.

During dental procedures, assistants work right alongside the dentist. Tasks that they might perform include the following:1

  • Prepare patient, sterilize or disinfect instruments, set up instrument trays, prepare materials, or assist dentist during dental procedures.
  • Expose dental diagnostic x-rays.
  • Record treatment information in patient records.
  • Provide postoperative instructions prescribed by dentist.
  • Assist the dentist in management of medical or dental emergencies.
  • Take and record medical and dental histories and vital signs of patients.
  • Instruct patients in oral hygiene and plaque control programs.
  • Order and monitor dental supplies and equipment inventory.
  • Clean and polish removable appliances.
  • Make preliminary impressions for study casts and occlusal registrations for mounting study casts.

Depending on the requirements of the state in which they work, dental assistants may also perform other procedures such as coronal polishing, sealant application, fluoride application, or topical anesthetics application.1

The job outlook for dental assistants is bright. Employment is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The demand for preventive dental services will likely continue as the public realizes the importance of oral health. Dentists will continue to hire more dental assistants to complete routine tasks, allowing the dentists to see more patients in their practice and spend their time on more complex procedures. As dental practices grow, more dental assistants will be needed.

Also, as the large baby boomer population ages, and as people keep more of their original teeth than did previous generations, the need to maintain and treat teeth will continue to increase the need for dental assistants.2

How do you become a dental assistant? Along with on-the-job training, dental assistants receive their formal education through academic programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes, universities, or dental schools. Graduates of these programs usually receive certificates.

In addition, dental assistants can become certified by passing a national examination. Most dental assistants who choose to become nationally certified take the Dental Assisting National Board’s Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination. Being a CDA is a boost to your career as it assures the public that as a dental assistant you are prepared to assist competently in providing dental care.3   

The dental assisting program at Charter College can give you a head start as you enter this fast-growing field. Graduates are prepared for entry-level employment in dental settings with a job title that could also include Dental X-Ray Technician. Charter College offers the program at nine campuses in California and Washington. It’s a fast-track program that takes 10 months to complete.

It’s becoming increasingly recognized that good oral health plays a major role in overall health and wellbeing. As a dental assistant you have the opportunity to contribute to healthcare in a meaningful, gratifying way.


1. O*NET OnLine, created for the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, by the National Center for O*NET Development. “Dental Assistants,” (visited May 7, 2013.)

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Dental Assistants, 
on the Internet at (visited 5/22/15).  

3. American Dental Association, Education & Careers, Dental Team, Careers, Dental Assistant, Education & Training Requirements, (visited May 9, 2013)