Dental Assistant

Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x-rays to record keeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.

Dental Assistant

Average Hourly Earnings



Post-secondary non-degree award


  • Help patients feel comfortable in the dental chair and prepare them for treatments and procedures
  • Sterilize dental instruments
  • Prepare the work area for patient treatment by setting out instruments and materials
  • Help dentists by handing them instruments and keeping patients' mouths dry during procedures
  • Instruct patients in proper dental hygiene
  • Process x-rays and complete lab tasks, under the direction of a dentist
  • Keep records of dental treatments
  • Schedule patient appointments and work with patients on billing and payment options

Work Environment

Dental assistants wear safety glasses, surgical masks, protective clothing, and gloves to protect themselves and patients from infectious diseases. They must also follow safety procedures to minimize risks associated with x-ray machines. Most dental assistants work full time. Some work evenings or weekends, depending on the office where they work.

Key Traits

Conventional. Often involves following set procedures and routines. May include working with data and details more than with ideas. Usually have a clear line of authority to follow.