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Dental Assistants: What They Do & How Much They Earn

Job Descriptions November 5, 2012

Dentists rely on dental assistants to ensure that their offices are administered properly and the dental procedures can be performed efficiently. Aspiring individuals need an associate degree in dental assisting or certification before they can start working as dental assistants.

Job Profile

During a dental procedure, the dentist is assisted by the dental assistant who helps to position the patient and hands the dentist the tools needed; dental assistant helps maintain a patient’s mouth dry – they place and remove suction hoses from the patient’s mouth in order to accomplish this task. A dental assistant helps apply anesthetic to patient’s teeth and gums and prepares materials the dentist may need in making dental impressions, the assistant places dental dams whenever required. In some states, a dental assistant is required to perform additional work such as coronal polishing; however, such duties would only be required by assistants with the necessary training. A dental assistant has to ensure that the patient is instructed on post-procedure care of their teeth.

Dental assistant’s responsibilities are rounded off with tasks relating to office administration. These responsibilities include up-to-date maintenance and organization of medical record for every patient. Ordinarily, a dental assistant is assigned the task of placing orders for dental materials and supplies. The assistant is required to plan the dentist’s appointments with patients and others; they have to pay bills and receive payments.

Education & Training

There are associate degree programs apart from diploma and certificate programs in dental assisting for aspiring dental assistants to participate in. Apart from classroom lectures, these programs provide their participants hands-on experience by allowing them to use x-ray, radiography equipment, involve themselves in office procedures and medical billing. They will become familiar with the use of dental terminology.

Wage Levels

In May 2008, a dental assistant earn an average annual salary of $32,380 (source:  the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; website:  In February 2010, the figure was found to have risen to $33,030 (source:

The hourly rate paid to a dental assistant correlates directly with the years of experience the assistant brings to the table (source: For instance, one to four years of experience, a dental assistant expect an average wage ranging between $10.46 and $14.66. Five to nine years of experience, they will see an increase in the hourly rate that range between $13.26 and $17.13. Dental assistants with twenty years or more of experience draw wages ranging from $15.40 to $20.12 per hour. These median hourly rates apply to the rates prevailing in February 2010.

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