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Become a Dental Assistant

Do you want to make a big difference in people’s lives? Becoming a dental assistant is a great way to do just that! As a dental assistant, you’ll be on the front lines of providing care and helping patients achieve their goal of having healthy smiles. You’ll work closely with dentists and other members of the dental team, preparing patients for treatment and assisting them throughout their visit. Plus, you can earn competitive salaries and get the satisfaction of knowing how much your work helps others. So if this sounds like an exciting career path for you, read on to learn more about becoming a dental assistant!

Step-By-Step Guide to Becoming a Certified Dental Assistant

Step 1: Understanding the Role of a Dental Assistant

As a dental assistant, you will work with dentists and their patients. Dental assistants perform administrative duties at the dental office to assist the dentist in providing services to patients. You are the first person that patients see in a dental office. This is why it is important for you to have good customer service skills and be welcoming for every patient that comes into the dentist’s office.

With your degree as a dental assistant, it can open up so many more opportunities such as being an instructor or working for insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies. You just never know where this job can take you with hard work and determination!

Step 2: Choosing the Right School

The right school is very important when trying to become certified as a dental assistant because , without the proper schooling, you will not be able to obtain your certification. The first thing you should look for in a school is if they have a good reputation with their students and within the dental field. If the school has horrible ratings or reviews by its students, it’s best that you don’t attend that particular school. Also make sure that there are many graduates from this specific program each year because if not, then maybe the school isn’t popular in the area or isn’t trusted enough as a good program for learning how to be a dental assistant.

The cost of tuition is another factor to consider when choosing which dental assistant program to attend. We all know college can get very expensive so try looking at programs around your area and see what they are charging for their tuition. If you can find a program that’s pretty cheap compared to others, then it might be a good choice to take into consideration.

Step 3: Preparing for the Dental Assistant Interview/Test

There is only one requirement in order to receive your certification and/or license as a dental assistant and that is passing the exam provided by the state board. In order pass the exam there are many things you should do such as studying and practicing, but that will all come later on! The first thing you need to do is schedule your interview/test with the state board so make sure you do this early because slots fill up very fast depending on which state you live in. When making an appointment it usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks before you can take your exam. Make sure you don’t wait until the last minute, because if you do than it will be harder to get an appointment and have time to study.

Step 4: Study, Practice and Prepare for Your Exam

Once your exam date is coming up it’s time for studying! There are many ways on how to study such as going through flashcards or taking online practice exams. I recommend taking some form of practice tests (that will also help) but make sure not to overdo it with all the studying because that can actually hurt you more than doing good. Also try talking about dental work with family members, friends and co-workers so that way when the day comes where you’re actually taking the exam you won’t have to think about anything because it will all come out naturally.

Step 5: Pass Your Exam and Obtain Your Dental Assistant Certification!

Based on how well you’ve done on your test, you’ll be given a grade of either pass or fail. If you’ve passed then congratulations! You can now proudly say that you’re certified as a dental assistant with no problem at all! Don’t forget to fill out some paperwork so that way once everything is in order, they’ll let you know when to pick up your certificate. Congratulations again to becoming certified!  This job is very rewarding and fun but don’t forget that it does require lots of work and effort if your looking forward to attaining the job. These are all the steps you need to take in order to become a certified dental assistant and I hope you now have an idea on what it takes to get this certification. Good luck!

Step 6: Get licensed in your state

Its typically required within one year after getting certified by passing another exam and meeting all other licensing requirements set forth by your state’s dental board.  The International Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry offers a licensure prep course that will teach you everything you need to know.

Step 7: Get a job

Get a job in a dental office and begin assisting the dentist by performing duties such as taking x-rays, preparing patients, sterilizing instruments, and working with composite resin fillings.

Step 8: Work your way up

Work your way up from an assistant to a dental hygienist or to become the office manager/office administrator!

Dental Assistant Salaries: Facts & Tools

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, dental assistants made an average annual salary of $42,180, with those in the 90th percentile earning $59,390. While level of experience and geographic location affects wages, becoming a dental assistant can be both professionally and financially rewarding. Prospective dental assistants should be aware that the states offering the highest salaries often require the highest levels of training.

Dental Assistant Job Growth, Prospects And Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for dental assistants is expected to grow by 19% between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. In addition, the agency predicts that employment opportunities will be excellent in practice settings where dentists are present because small practices are more likely to hire a part-time assistant than large medical centers.

Pros And Cons Of Working As A Dental Assistant  

I love helping people feel comfortable when they’re not at home, especially because it’s my job now. As long as you enjoy people then you’ll be good for this position. Also, I like being able to help patients feel at ease about their dental care, because they’re already going through a lot so I like to put them at ease.

The bad news about being a dental assistant is it’s not exactly an occupation with tons of upward potential. The most you can expect is possibly becoming a hygienist, but as you know there isn’t always room on staff for another hygienist. Unless someone quits or retires, then there’s a chance for advancement.

The good news is you’ll always have work as a dental assistant. They’re not going anywhere and neither is dentistry. So if you don’t see yourself as someone who can go up the ladder into management, or if you just like this job too much to ever leave it, working as a dental assistant can be very satisfying. You get to do what you love and help people feel better in the process.

The Pros: It’s an easy job Entry-level Dental Assistant jobs usually pay quite well, more than almost any other medical field out there and the hours are normally pretty flexible The Downsides: It’s often hard to advance from here many offices hire assistants right out of school and there’s no room for growth It can be a pretty physical job, especially when working with patients who are nervous or scared A lot of grunt work, in general, goes along with the job

Tips To Get The Most Out Of Your Career As A Dental Assistant

Be Comfortable With Pain:  Some people think that because they’re not dentists, treating pain isn’t their responsibility. They just keep the patient numb up until it’s time to make an adjustment or do a cleaning. This is totally wrong because if you don’t turn off the pain the patient will grumble about everything going on when really he/she should be enjoying having all those things being done at once. But even though you’ve been taught how to turn off the pain, you’ll still have to step up and do it when something isn’t working.  But don’t worry about this because you’d probably be doing it anyway if you were a dentist because they need to know how their patients are feeling in order to make them as comfortable as possible so that they can work on their mouths comfortably. Be Comfortable With Gross Things: Dentists poke around in peoples’ tooth baths all day long and they’re used to touching nasty stuff like blood or pus, but assistants aren’t used to those things yet. As an assistant, you’re going to have a lot of gross situations thrown at you and some of them will surely surprise you. You must learn how to handle these limits with ease! Be Comfortable With Things Going Wrong: This is a very physical job. You take x-rays and molds, clean the teeth and remove tartar build-ups. These are tasks that can go wrong at any moment. There’s not much you can do when your arm goes through someone’s mouth, but it does happen so don’t panic or get frustrated if something like this happens to you while working as an assistant. Get used to handling these types of situations with ease!

Be Comfortable Working Independently: Dentists typically give assistants instructions on what they need done and sometimes those instructions will be specific to each patient, but for the most part they’ll just tell you what needs to be done in general terms and leave it up to you to figure out exactly how to do it. This is why you should always follow the instructions of your dentist no matter how silly they may seem at times. When you become an assistant, there’ll be plenty of moments where you’ll have to work independently and when this happens, just remember that if something goes wrong or if the patient feels pain after a procedure, they’re going to blame the dental assistant first rather than their own dentist. Don’t Forget The Personal Touch: Some assistants think that because being a great assistant means always getting back as soon as possible with answers for your doctor’s questions that there’s no room for personality at all. They figure since dentists don’t get personal with their patients then neither should they (that makes sense right?) But this is wrong because you’re going to be spending a good amount of time with your patients every day. Being able to talk and get along with them is just as important as being able to answer the phone on the first ring!

Be Comfortable With Working In A Team: Dentists are paid by the hour, so they don’t have much motivation to hurry through procedures. They’ll take their time in order to do things right and make a profit. Therefore, it’s up to the assistant team (you!) To make sure everything gets done quickly so that there’s more money coming in at the end of each day. This means that you must be comfortable with working in groups or else you’ll always find yourself behind schedule!

Be Comfortable With Dealing With Rejection: Most patients will reject assistants. This is because most of the time assistants are just there to help their dentists and not vice-versa (plus it’s rare for a dentist to hire an assistant that has the same personality as them). But you must learn how to deal with this rejection no matter how uncomfortable it may make you feel. Remember, being an assistant means helping out in any way possible!

Be Comfortable With The Unexpected: As stated before, dental procedures always have the potential of going wrong. Even though your job sounds simple enough, something is always bound to happen that will catch you off guard at some point during your career. It’s best if you can handle these situations with ease so that you don’t embarrass yourself or your dentist in front of a patient.

Be Comfortable Taking Instructions: Dentistry is not an easy job and it will often require a lot of multitasking. These tasks are going to be given to you by your dentists and they want them done right away. Therefore, you must learn how to follow instructions and get the task done as soon as possible! Always Have A Positive Attitude: If something goes wrong during a procedure, the last thing you want to do is sulk about it or make your patients feel bad for having made it go wrong. Instead, you should always be able to laugh it off and move on from there as if nothing ever happened (it’s pretty much one of the most important qualities you can have as an assistant!)

Be Comfortable With Working In Tight Spaces: Assistants are often required to work in very tight positions. Sometimes they’re even put in places where it’s difficult for them to breathe or move their arms. This is why you must be comfortable with working in these conditions if you ever want to succeed as an assistant!

Be Comfortable Dealing With Sick People: As a dental assistant, there will be times when your patients are feeling sick (which is why they went to the dentist in the first place). Some assistants shy away from this sort of thing because they don’t like getting sick, but you must always remind yourself that contracting illnesses from patients isn’t going to harm you… so it’s all good!

Be Comfortable With The Dentist As Your Boss: As an assistant, you’re going to have to work closely with your dentist. This means that he will be ordering you around and telling you exactly what needs to be done (sometimes even in front of patients). You must always remember that he is the boss, and this goes both ways; if you also make requests of him then there should never be any problem communicating!

Be Comfortable With Dealing With The Public: As an assistant, a lot of your job involves dealing directly with customers who are not members of the dental team. Therefore, it’s important for assistants to always maintain a positive attitude and get along well with their patients even when they are in a stressful situation.

Be Comfortable With Working In An Office: Sometimes dentists will hire assistants because they need help with their official duties. Therefore, it’s important for you to be comfortable working in an office environment if you ever want to succeed as an assistant!

Be Comfortable Taking Phone Calls: A big part of being a dental assistant is the office work side of things. This means that sometimes you’ll have to talk on the phone with patients who are booking appointments or trying to get more information about procedures. Therefore, it’s important for assistants to be able to hold professional conversations over the phone! Be Comfortable With Dealing With Dental Equipment: Assistants must learn how to deal with dental equipment so that they can work well with new and old equipment alike. Therefore, it’s important for assistants to know how to use dental equipment in the right way so that they won’t injure their dentist or a patient! Be Comfortable With Dealing With Laughing Gas: Dentists often give laughing gas to patients before they perform certain procedures on them. As such, it is now your responsibility to learn how to handle this substance properly so that you don’t cause any harm!


Q: I really want to become a dental assistant, but I don’t want to deal with patients in the nicest of ways. Do you have any advice?

A: Ask your dentist if it’s possible for you to work exclusively as an office assistant. This will still allow you to help out your dentist but mean that you won’t have to interact directly with patients!

Q: There is no way my dentist will hire me because I’m a little on the heavier side and/or do not look very professional. Do you think these things are important?

A: Yes, they’re both important. We live in a society where looks are so highly valued that many dentists feel uncomfortable hiring people who aren’t traditionally good-looking. However, you never know what your dentist will think of hiring someone who is overweight or doesn’t dress in a very professional manner. In fact, many people have gotten hired this way!

Q: I’m really great at medical terminology but I don’t know the first thing about being a dental assistant. Is it possible to transition from one field into another?

A: Yes! Most fields have some crossover anyway (for example, most doctors also work as dentists). Therefore, if you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant then all you need to do is go for an interview and see how things go!

Q: I have no dental experience, so how can I even apply to become a dental assistant?

A: You need to get some work experience in the field before you can start looking for jobs. Luckily, there are many places where you can work as an assistant; however, your best bet is going to be working under a dentist (most dentists will want to see assistants who already have experience).