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Certified Dental Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

Certified dental assistants' daily duties vary based on the dental office where they work, patient load, and the number of staff members present. The core duties for certified dental assistants, however, are standard everywhere:

Assist Dentists Certified dental assistants assist dentists by holding instrument trays and handing them specific tools. They also perform minor procedures on their own.

Schedule Appointments Certified dental assistants greet patients who come into the office and answer incoming phone calls to schedule appointments.

Collect Patient Information Certified dental assistants collect patient information regarding tooth problems they may be having, known allergies, past medical history, and other information required by the dentist.

Prepare Patients and Rooms Certified dental assistants prepare patient rooms by cleaning up after patients leave and preparing instrument trays. Certified dental assistants also prepare patients, leading them into patient rooms and helping them get into position for their dental examinations.

Sterilize Tools Certified dental assistants sterilize all tools used by the dentist in-between patient exams.

Take X-Rays Certified dental assistants take X-rays of patients' teeth, following all proper safety procedures. They download digital images of X-rays, attaching the images to patient charts so the dentist can view them.

Educate Patients Certified dental assistants advise and educate patients on proper use of fluoride, dental hygiene practices, and maintaining healthy-teeth diets.

Post Client Information Certified dental assistants record notes for patient files and transcribe notes from the dentist into the files.

Protect Patient Privacy Certified dental assistants observe all HIPAA rules by protecting patient privacy.

Order New Supplies Certified dental assistants order new dental supplies as necessary. This includes X-ray safety equipment, sterilization solutions, dental tools, and exam room supplies.


Certified Dental Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Certified dental assistants are detail-oriented, organized professionals who put patients at ease while preparing them for dental procedures. Dentists look for certified dental assistants who have a variety of necessary skills that allow them to successfully complete all of their daily responsibilities:
  • Customer service - certified dental assistants have a good bedside manner to put patients at ease, addressing their concerns and questions
  • Organization - to maintain dentist schedules, order new supplies, and keep accurate patient records
  • Data entry - to add information to patient files
  • Computer skills - to maintain digital patient records and use digital insurance forms
  • Communication - to speak with patients and provide them with education and advice, and to inform dentists of specific patient problems and needs

Certified Dental Assistant Education and Training

Certified dental assistants have a high school diploma or GED. Dentists commonly require certified dental assistants to have X-ray certification and CPR certification. The requirements for these certification programs vary by state and typically include a brief training program paid for by the applicant. Some dentists also require certified dental assistants to have a polishing certification. Several dental schools and various dental training programs provide polishing certification. Employers may also require a dental assistant certification. This certification requires dental assistants to pass multiple exams as part of the application process. For some employers, previous work experience can substitute for a dental assisting certification. Newly hired certified dental assistants receive on-the-job-training, which typically lasts two or more weeks under the supervision of the dentist or dentists working in the dental office.

Certified Dental Assistant Salary and Outlook

Statistical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that dental assistants earned a median annual salary of $36,940 and a median hourly income of $17.00 in 2016. Dental assistants occupied more than 330,000 jobs in 2016, a number that is projected to rise much faster than the national job growth average. The BLS estimates that these jobs will grow by 19 percent through the year 2026. Certified dental assistants receive some health insurance coverage from employers, along with full dental benefits. Vacation days and sick days are awarded to employees who stay with their employer for a predetermined length of time, typically six months to one year.

Helpful Resources

Look for career opportunities, networking events, skill tips, and work strategies for certified dental assistants with these resources:

American Dental Assistants Association - The ADAA has continuing education resources, information about fellowship programs and dental assistant training programs, research resources, and a calendar of certified dental assistant networking events.

Dental Assisting: No Experience Needed-Start on your journey to earning over $50,000 a year - Learn how to become a certified dental assistant and maintain a job in this field with this guidebook, which provides practical tips for professionals to find success in this career.

Dental Assisting National Board - Learn how to become a certified dental assistant, learn your state requirements for dental assisting, and find resources for maintaining certification at this website created for dental assistants at all levels of their careers.

Secrets of the CDA Exam Study Guide: DANB Test Review for the Certified Dental Assistant Examination - Study for the certified dental assistant exam with this study guide, which has practice test questions, straightforward summaries, and an overview of the information certified dental assistants need to know.

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