Making a Career for Yourself: How to Become A Dental Assistant

Published - October 18, 2019

If you’re considering going into the dental field as a career, you’ll be glad to know that there are several benefits that come with working in this rewarding field. A career in dentistry is going to allow you to see a wide variety of patients with unique issues that you’ll be able to help resolve. Part of your job as a dental assistant is going to involve relating to your co-workers and your patients in ways that make them feel confident and comfortable.

The below informational guide will offer steps you can take in becoming a dental assistant. Within the guide you will find what the requirements are, how long dental assistant school is, and what qualities are important to have if you want to enjoy and be challenged by your dental assistant job.

Dental Assistant Programs

Most dental assistant programs are typically 40 weeks in length. The typical 40-week program places a lot of emphasis on hands-on training which involves working through a dental assistant externship. Some dental assistant schools offer cutting-edge technology and techniques in general, restorative and cosmetic dentistry.

After successfully completing your training, you will be eligible to take the state exam that is offered by the Dental Board of California. This test consist of the educational components that you acquired in school as well as your clinical experience. After successful completion of the DBC exam you are now a Registered Dental Assistant, which will give you more responsibilities in the dental office.

Dental Assistant Job Duties

Job duties for dental assistants vary. But many dental assistant jobs have some common duties. These common duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Tooth morphology
  • Head and Neck anatomy
  • Infection control
  • Handing tools to the dentist during treatment and examinations
  • Sterilizing instruments
  • Operating dental equipment like suctioning devices
  • Processing X-rays
  • Making dental fixture impressions, and more

Dental assistants who complete their 40-week training and pass their certification testing make upwards of $38,660 per year and $18.59 per hour.*

Job Growth for Dental Assistants

The job growth for dental assistants keeps on growing. Employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028*.

Because oral health and general health are linked and keep evolving, the demand for preventative dental services is great. Additionally, Cosmetic dentistry is a form of dentistry that is constantly growing and developing.

Dental Assistant Qualities

People who want to become dental assistants are generally people who like being around other people. They are intrigued by what technology, science, and dental treatments provide. The dental assistant student wants to be a part of this growing and evolving field. 

There are some dental assistant qualities which rise to the top when thinking about what good dental assistants bring to their jobs. 

Important Skills for Dental Assistants

Most dental assistants have one or some of the below qualities. The listed qualities help dental assistants flourish and grow in their dental education programs and jobs.

  1. Dexterous. A dental assistant must like working with their hands. They are going to be using their hands 90 percent of the time in very small quarters — like inside a mouth. They must like being precise and targeted with the tools and instruments they use.
  2. Organized. A dental assistant must be organized. The correct tools for the dentist must already be out when they walk in the patient’s room. They must anticipate what the dentist may need next, including suctioning or water for each patient being worked on.
  3. Good Listener. All dental assistants must be good listeners, but that is true for all medical health professionals. They must be patient and kind to patients while listening to other healthcare workers’ instructions or information.
  4. Detail Oriented. A dental assistant must be able to follow the rules and regulations of infection control, dental procedures, equipment safety, and more. They need to complete their tasks by following the accepted protocol.
  5. People Person. A dental assistant must have good interpersonal skills. They are working with patients and dentists, and they cannot perform their job by themselves. Almost every task they do needs the dentist or patient present.

In almost all of the above skills, the work is performed on a full-time basis. However, 1 in 3 assistants works part-time.


Become a Dental Assistant Today

CBD is a nationally accredited non-profit healthcare career college located in Los Angeles. Now you know how to become a dental assistant and what you’ll learn along the way. If you want to find out more about enrollment or what you need to do next, reach out to us today.

There is no better time than today to begin your dream of helping people learn to love their smile. What better way to help people find oral health than helping them keep their teeth clean and sparkling? We have many successful dental assistant alumni who can provide even more details about the rewards of bringing a happy smile to all your patients.

* Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental Assistants, on the Internet at


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