Dental Assistants


Employment Prospects


Approximately 346,000 dental assistants are employed in the United States. Most dental assistants work full time, but approximately one in three work part time, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Dental assistants are most likely to find employment in dental offices, whether it be a single dentist or a group practice with several dentists, assistants, and hygienists. Other places dental assistants may find jobs include dental schools, hospitals, public health departments, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Public Health Service hospitals.

Starting Out

High school counselors, family dentists, dental schools, dental placement agencies, and dental associations may provide applicants with leads about job openings. Students in formal training programs often learn of jobs through school career services offices.

Advancement Prospects

Dental assistants may advance in their field by moving to larger offices or clinics, where they can take on more responsibility and earn more money. In small offices they may receive higher pay by upgrading their skills through education. Specialists in the dental field, who typically earn higher salaries than general dentists, often pay higher salaries to their assistants.

Further educational training is required for advancing to positions in dental assisting education. Dental assistants who wish to become dental hygienists must enroll in a dental hygiene program. Because many of these programs do not allow students to apply dental assisting courses toward graduation, dental assistants who think they would like to move into hygienist positions should plan their training carefully.

In some cases, dental assistants move into sales jobs with companies that sell dental industry supplies and materials. Other areas that are open to dental assistants include office management, placement services, and insurance companies.

Tips for Entry

When you visit your dentist, talk to the dental assistant about the career and how you might enter it.

Attend an accredited dental assistant program after high school to put yourself in the best position to obtain a job and continue to advance.

Use every opportunity to increase your experience on the job by doing special tasks, such as making casts of a patient's teeth or making materials for replacement teeth.