If you want to become a dental assistant in the United States you can do it two ways. That is by attending formal training at an accredited dental assisting program, or through on the job training through your employer. The time could not be much better to become a dental assistant with bls.gov predicting that the field of dental assisting will see 19% growth over the next decade, which is well above the national average! Plus, dental work is a field that does not get smaller due to population growth, so growth is very consistent and sustained.
What is the process to become an Dental Assistant?
In some states it is mandatory to take accredited training before employment as a dental assistant. In other states you can learn on the job to be a dental assistant with on the job training by the dentist. Below we will show you the path with accredited training since the on the job training speaks for itself.
Find Dental Assistant Schools Near You Today
What does a Dental Assistant do?
Dental assistants are really important to the dental office and to the dentist. There are many tasks that they are responsible for. Below we cover them in detail.
Dental Assisting Job Duties
Dental assistants typically do the following:
Greet and make all patients feel comfortable
Prep all patients for treatments/procedures
Prep work are for procedures/treatments
Sterilize all necessary dental equipment and instruments
Hand instruments to dentists during procedures
Keep mouth of patient dry with suction
Show patients proper oral hygiene
Process any x-rays and lab tasks
Maintain records of dental work
Handle Patient billing and payments
It is common for some dental assistants to be able to do some higher level procedures in some states and with extra certifications. These are procedures like fluoride treatments and sealants.
STEP 1 – Have or get your H.S. diploma or GED
You cannot even start down the path without step 1 being completed.
STEP 2 – Take accredited Dental Assistant Training Classes
Most states in the nation do actually require all their dental assistants to complete an accredited program and pass a certification exam. You will find that most programs are offered at local community colleges, but they are also offered at vocational/trade or technical schools. Most dental assistant programs are 1 year in length and culminate with a certificate or diploma. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA), part of the American Dental Association accredited nearly 300 dental assisting training programs in 2017.
Here is a database of Accredited Dental Assistant Schools from the ADA.
About Online Dental Assisting classes
Online education is available in the dental assistant field. Be sure to check with your school to see what their availability is for online dental assistant training. Most schools and programs allow general education courses online at the minimum.
Step 3 – Complete the program
Successful completion of your accredited training is critical to advancing to the next step in the process to becoming a dental assistant.
Step 4 – Get your Dental Assisting Certification
At the end of your program there is a certification exam. Passing this test gets you right on the doorstep of success! You are as close as you can be to your goal once you do this!
About Dental Asst. salary
With tremendous expected growth in the field as a whole, becoming a dental assistant seems smart. But with above average pay it is an even better idea!
What is the average salary for a Dental Assistant?
According to the latest government statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), the median salary is $37,630 per year and $18.09 per hour. Both are above average for allied health positions.
Dental Assistant Salary by State
Area Name / Hourly Avg. Wage / Annual Avg Salary
Alabama / 16.1 / 33490
Alaska / 22.07 / 45900
Arizona / 19.03 / 39580
Arkansas / 16.28 / 33860
California / 19.2 / 39930
Colorado / 18.59 / 38660
Connecticut / 21.06 / 43800
Delaware / 19.76 / 41090
Florida / 18.23 / 37920
Georgia / 17.78 / 36980
Hawaii / 17.93 / 37290
Idaho / 16.64 / 34620
Illinois / 18.76 / 39030
Indiana / 18.78 / 39070
Iowa / 19.18 / 39900
Kansas / 17.12 / 35610
Kentucky / 16.78 / 34900
Louisiana / 14.26 / 29660
Maine / 19.71 / 40990
Maryland / 20.1 / 41820
Massachusetts / 21.52 / 44770
Michigan / 17.54 / 36480
Minnesota / 23.45 / 48770
Mississippi / 16.04 / 33360
Missouri / 17.74 / 36900
Montana / 17.81 / 37050
Nebraska / 16.98 / 35310
Nevada / 17.62 / 36650
New Hampshire / 22.68 / 47170
New Jersey / 20.4 / 42440
New Mexico / 16.77 / 34880
New York / 17.87 / 37170
North Carolina / 19.77 / 41130
North Dakota / 21.93 / 45600
Ohio / 18.44 / 38360
Oklahoma / 16.91 / 35180
Oregon / 20.42 / 42470
Pennsylvania / 18.21 / 37870
Rhode Island / 19.95 / 41490
South Carolina / 18.32 / 38110
South Dakota / 18.46 / 38410
Tennessee / 17.35 / 36090
Texas / 17.27 / 35920
Utah / 14.55 / 30270
Vermont / 21.1 / 43900
Virginia / 16.83 / 35010
Washington / 20.6 / 42850
West Virginia / 20.45 / 42540
Wisconsin / 14.36 / 29860
Wyoming / 18.49 / 38450
Wyoming / 16.48 / 34280
What is the job outlook for Dental Assistants?
There were 332,000 jobs in 2016 for dental assistants and most of those jobs are in dental offices, As you can see from the table below.
Dentists Office 91%
Government Office 2%
Physicians Office 2%
As we wrote about above, the current job outlook is great at a 19% growth over the next decade!! Becoming a dental assistant is an outstanding choice for a medical field career.