What are the Different Dental Assistant Careers?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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There are several choices when it comes to dental assistant careers. Your choice depends in part on how interactive you would like to be with dental patients. This is true of many health care careers. There are different dental office jobs available depending on your background, education, and ability to work well with the public.

On the other hand, you may decide you would prefer to be a dental hygienist rather than choosing from one of the dental assistant careers. You may decide you would rather take a more active role in patient care. The position of dental hygienist generally requires more education than other dental assistant careers. You will then actually be treating patients, often with preventive or protective treatments.

Some people also start out in dental assistant careers before going on to become hygienists. However, you may find that you prefer the role of dental assistant. You may want to work in the front office booking appointments, taking phone calls, handling accounts payable and receivable, and perhaps ordering and inventorying dental supplies. You may even be interested in office management.


In some dental offices, especially smaller ones, you may be asked to do some office work as well as helping with patients. Dental assistants may also work side by side with the dentist, doing everything from preparing patients to handing instruments to the dentist. Some dental assistant careers also involve laboratory work and radiology as well, and these will generally require further education.

For basic dental assistant careers, a license may not be required, and on-the-job training may be available with just a high school diploma. Be sure to find out if there are educational or licensure prerequisites to becoming to a dental assistant in your area. Some states may require you to pass an examination.

Enrolling in a dental assistant program may be helpful, even if it is not required. Such training could give you an advantage over other applicants. Taking related courses in high school can also be a good head start for those interested in dental assistant careers.

Keep in mind that many dental assistant careers begin as part time jobs. You may wish to work for more than one dental office, if limited hours are available. This generally means you will receive few if any benefits. You may be offered a full time position in the future if you prove to be a reliable employee.

However, starting out on a part time basis is not necessarily a bad thing. It gives you the opportunity to work with more than one dentist and learn different aspects of the occupation. It also gives you more free time to continue your education, which in many cases proves helpful in furthering your career.



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