|2015 Median Pay||$35,980 per year/ $17.30 per hour|
|Entry Level Education||Diploma|
|Number of Jobs, 2014||318,800|
|Job growth, 2014-24||18% (much faster than average)|
Nature of the Work
Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. They sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, provide appropriate instruments and materials required to treat each patient, and obtain and update patients’ dental records. Assistants make patients comfortable in the dental chair and prepare them for treatment. During dental procedures, assistants work alongside the dentist to provide assistance. They hand instruments and materials to dentists and keep patients’ mouths dry and clear by using suction hoses or other devices. They also instruct patients on postoperative and general oral healthcare.
Dental assistants may prepare materials for impressions and restorations and process dental x-rays as directed by a dentist. They also may remove sutures, apply topical anesthetics to gums or cavity-preventive agents to teeth, remove excess cement used in the filling process, and place dental dams to isolate teeth for treatment. Dental assistants with laboratory duties make casts of the teeth and mouth from impressions, clean and polish removable appliances, and make temporary crowns. Those with office duties schedule and confirm appointments, receive patients, keep treatment records, send bills, receive payments, and order dental supplies and materials.
Dental assistants work in a well-lighted, clean environment. Their work area is usually near the dental chair so that they can arrange instruments, materials, and medication and hand them to the dentist when needed. Dental assistants wear personal protective equipment as recommended for infectious disease prevention and are trained in the CDC recommendations for sharps injury prevention, and radiology health and safety.
Most dental assistants work full time. However, nearly 1 in 3 assistants worked part time in 2014. Some may work evenings or weekends.
The employment opportunities include general dentistry; group practice; specific dental specialties such as oral surgery, endodontics, orthodontics, prosthetics, periodontics, and periodontics; dental school clinics; federal, state, and community clinics. Other opportunities include managing a dental business office, working in a major dental manufacturing or insurance company, serving in the armed forces, or teaching or working in research and development at a college or other agency.
Dental assistants held about 318,800 jobs nationally in 2014. About 93 percent of all jobs for dental assistants were in offices of dentists. Employment is expected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Median annual wages nationally of dental assistants were $35,980 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $50,660. Benefits vary substantially by practice setting and may be contingent upon fulltime employment.