Dental Assisting Career Explorer

Job Description

What they do

Dental assistants help dentists provide quality oral health care, educate patients, prepare and sterilize dental instruments and perform administrative work.

A person in this career:

  • Sterilizes instruments and sets up instrument trays
  • Takes and records medical/dental histories and vital signs of patients
  • Records treatment information in patient records
  • Takes and develops dental X-rays/digital images
  • Gives dental care instructions to patients
  • Makes preliminary impressions of teeth to prepare models
  • Pours, trims and polishes models
  • Cleans and polishes removable appliances
  • Helps dentist manage medical and dental emergencies
  • Provides post-operative instructions as prescribed by dentist 

Working conditions and physical demands

  • Handle loads of up to 10 pounds, sometimes up to 20 pounds. Dental assistants might be required to do a lot of walking or sitting or to use their arms and legs to control equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves using one's hands to hold, control and feel objects more than one-third of the time.
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time.
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time.
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time.
  • Work with radiation more than once a month.

Working in this career involves the following physical activities:

  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Seeing clearly close up

Work hours and travel

  • Regular work hours

Career at a Glance

Salary Range
$31,366 to $44,762

Skills Needed
Enjoy working with people
Enjoy hands-on patient care
Good problem-solving and communication skills

Job Duties
Reviews patient health
Obtain dental radiographs
Make impressions of teeth and gums

Work Locations
Dental offices
Public health departments
Dental schools
Dental clinics