What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Posted Monday, Jul 26, 2010 by Allen B. Ury

Dental AssistantDental assisting is a great career choice for many people. Hours are often flexible, working conditions excellent and demand strong.* Training for a dental assisting career can often be completed in less than a year.

If you are considering a career in dental assisting, you may be wondering: Exactly what do dental assistants do? Is the dental assistant the person who cleans teeth? Do they run the office? Do they take X-rays?

Duties Can Vary

Specific dental assistant duties can vary from office to office. However, in general, dental assistants either work directly with dentists who treat patients, work in dental laboratories or support office operations. A few dental assistants have responsibilities in two or all three areas.

Working with Patients

Dental assistants who work with patients often:

  • Get patients comfortable and prepare them for the dentist’s examination
  • Sterilize and lay out dental instruments for the dentist’s use
  • Hand instruments to the dentist during an examination
  • Take and process X-rays
  • Remove sutures
  • Apply anesthetics to gums and anti-cavity agents to teeth

Managing the Office

Dental assistants responsible for office management often:

  • Answer phones and set patient appointments
  • Greet arriving patients and help process new client information
  • Set up, manage and retrieve patient files
  • Process in-office payments and issue invoices
  • Ordering and receiving office supplies

Lab Work
Laboratory duties for which a dental assistant may be responsible include:

  • Making plaster casts from teeth and mouth impressions
  • Cleaning and polishing mouth guards, dentures and other removable appliances
  • Perform orthodontic measurements

Actual teeth cleaning? That’s usually done by a dental hygienist, a position that takes additional training to achieve. Many dental hygienists start off as dental assistants and, after getting valuable experience in the field, get the additional education so they can earn an even better income.

Prepare for your Dental Assisting Career at Everest College in San Francisco

Everest College in San Francisco is one of the Bay Area’s leading schools for dental assisting training. The Dental Assisting program at Everest’s San Francisco campus can be completed in as little as 10 months. Everest’s Career Services team works to prepare each Dental Assisting program graduate for their job search and interface directly with major health care employers to help fill new job openings. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
For more information on Dental Assisting and other career training and education programs, contact Everest College’s San Francisco campus today!

* U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, December 17, 2019.

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