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Dental Assistant Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: September 27, 2023

Dental Assistants, or Certified Dental Assistants, are responsible for providing hands-on support to Dentists and completing prep work so they can more efficiently care for patients. Their duties include completing intake paperwork and updating patient records, sterilizing and organizing dental tools and assisting during dental procedures.

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Dental Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

The Dental Assistant will be responsible for general clinic administrative work and maintenance, as well as completing lab work under the direction of the dentist. The Dental Assistant’s primary responsibility is to prepare the examination rooms for appointments by sterilizing instruments and ensuring all necessary equipment is ready for the dentist. They also assist the dentist during their procedures by handing them instruments and anticipating their needs throughout the appointment. The Dental Assistant may also be responsible for greeting patients as they arrive, submitting billing details to the insurance company and scheduling the patient’s next appointment before they leave the clinic. Other duties and responsibilities include:

  • Update and maintain client’s dental records
  • Perform routine dental cleanings and assist the dentist with complex dental procedures
  • Take and process X-rays of patients
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Take billing and insurance details from patients
  • Advise patients on recommended oral hygiene
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Dental Assistant Job Description Examples

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental Assistants work at dentist’s offices, orthodontic practices and dental surgery centers to help administer patient care during dental cleanings and oral surgery. Dental Assistants educate patients about procedures and dental maintenance, give instructions for oral care, order x-rays and other scans and reach out to patients about scheduling routine appointments. They set up dental exam tables, assist during cleanings and fillings and hold dental instruments like suction tubs and mirrors while the Dentist works. Dental Assistants also keep track of administrative duties like scheduling patients, stocking supplies and billing patients or insurance providers.

Dental Assistant Skills and Qualifications

A Dental Assistant is required to hold a minimum of a two-year degree in dental hygiene to learn the proper handling and treatment techniques. Other qualifications the Dental Assistant might possess could include customer service, scheduling software experience and lab work knowledge depending on the scope of their position within the clinic. Skills and qualifications also include:

  • Customer service skills to ensure patients feel comfortable during their appointment as well as well-informed about treatment and dental wellness
  • Technical and troubleshooting skills to work with a variety of dental, medical, scheduling and other organization software in the office
  • Organization skills enable these professionals to keep their workspace clean to ensure patients, dentists and other assistants are safe and healthy while working
  • Knowledge of dental instruments
  • Prior experience administering dental X-rays

Dental Assistant Salary Expectations

The average Dental Assistant salary is $17.59 per hour in the U.S. Dental Assistant wages commonly range from $7.25 to $33.15 per hour. Salaries typically depend on a candidate’s level of education and experience as well as a practice’s geographic location. The starting salary for your open position will vary based on experience and skills required.

Dental Assistant Education and Training Requirements

Training and certifications requirements for a Dental Assistant will vary by state, so be sure to research this before posting your open position. Some states require Dental Assistants who conduct X-rays, apply sealant or fluoride to be licensed. If your business is in a state that requires a license, note this in your job description. Dental Assistants are generally required to have completed an accredited training program. A high school diploma or GED is also usually required.

Dental Assistant Experience Requirements

Your business will determine what experience level you require of the new Dental Assistant. If you have a team of several assistants, you may not require prior professional experience, which will open your application pool to entry-level candidates. A smaller practice may require more experience and the ability to work alone. In this case, a minimum of two years’ experience and a Dental Assistant license is suggested.

Job Description Samples for Similar Positions

This guide will get you started on your Dental Assistant job description. If you need some more ideas, we have other sample job descriptions available.

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Frequently asked questions about Dental Assistants

What is the difference between a Dental Assistant and a Dental Hygienist?

Dental Assistants are in charge of general patient care and administrative support while Dental Hygenists spend most of their time working one-on-one with patients during cleanings. Dental Hygenists undergo more rigorous training than Dental Assistants because they need to be able to recognize oral diseases, recommend treatment and use dental tools to scrub out stains, remove plaque and add sealants to teeth. Dental Assistants spend most of their time processing the logistics of a dental visit, offering assistance when needed and communicating with patients to answer questions and schedule future appointments.

What makes a good Dental Assistant?

A good Dental Assistant needs to have many technical skills and personal characteristics that allow them to focus on efficient administration and attentive patient care. Good Dental Assistants are highly focused and have a steady hand, allowing them to position dental tools correctly and hold them still throughout a procedure. They are also organized and friendly, able to act as a welcoming receptionist behind the front desk, clearly explain dental issues to patients and track patient records. Excellent Dental Assistants are careful and tidy and are able to consistently clean up during procedures to follow safety, health and sterilization standards.

What are the daily duties of a Dental Assistant?

One an average day, a Dental Assistant arranges the patient schedule, sends reminder texts to patients and briefs Dental Hygienists and Dentists on their list of procedures for the day. They help patients sign-in, process their insurance information, administer pre-appointment questionnaires. Before a visit, Dental Hygienists prepare exam rooms by wiping down surfaces and preparing medications. During a procedure, Dental Assistants can hand instruments to the Dentist and perform supervised cleaning activities. Afterwards, the Dental Assistant explains aftercare instructions, cleans the exam room and performs exit paperwork.

Job Description Examples

Need help writing a job description for a specific role? Use these job description examples to create your next great job posting. Or if you’re ready to hire, post your job on Indeed.

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