Dental Assistant

What does a Dental Assistant do?

Dental assistants aid dentists with patient care. They work under the supervision of dentists and also may work with dental hygienists or dental laboratory technicians. Dental assistants usually work in private dental offices but also may work in public health clinics, dental schools, the armed forces and nursing homes.

What might a Dental Assistant do in a workday?

Their functions are:

  • assisting the dentist during a variety of dental procedures.
  • helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment.
  • taking and developing film.
  • asking about the patient’s medical history.
  • preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment for the dentist’s use.
  • providing patients with instructions for oral care following surgery or other dental treatment procedures, such as the placement of a restoration (filling).
  • teaching patients how to brush and floss properly.
  • performing office management tasks that often require the use of a personal computer.
  • communicating with patients and suppliers of dental and related products.

How much salary do Dental Assistants make?

Annual Mean Wage

How do I become a Dental Assistant?

Students wishing to pursue a career in dental assisting should take challenging high school courses in science, math and English. Dental assistants receive their education and training through academic programs at community colleges, vocational schools, technical institutes or universities. Graduates of these programs receive certificates of completion. The length of the program varies with the school but is usually six to 12 months. Dental assistants can become certified by passing an examination administered by the Dental Assisting National Board.

In Virginia, dental assistants are required to be certified in radiology before placing and exposing radiological pictures. Formal one- or two-year programs are offered for dental assistants. Training also may be available on the job.

Where else can I learn about becoming a Dental Assistant?

Virginia Dental Association
3460 Mayland Court
Suite 110
Richmond, VA 23233
(804) 288-5750

American Dental Assistants Association
140 N Bloomingdale Rd
Bloomingdale, IL 60108
(630) 994-4247

State Licensure Requirements for Dental Assistants

A license is required to practice as a dental assistant in the state of Virginia. For more information on licensure, applications and forms, visit

Virginia Board of Dentistry
Perimeter Center
9960 Mayland Drive
Suite 300
Henrico, VA 23233-1463
Phone: (804) 367-4538

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