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Dental Assistants picture    Dental Assistants image

Dental assistants are part of a dental care team and work under the direction of dentists. A dental assistant's job is characterized by a significant variety of tasks, including assisting dentists with various treatment procedures, examining the patient before the dentist, and a large number of other technical tasks. 

Dental Assistant Schools, Training and Licensing

Nearly half (46%) of dental assistants receive most or all of their training on-the-job. The remainder receive formal post-secondary education from either accredited dental assisting programs or accredited vocational/technical educational institutions. Most of these programs are one year or less in duration and lead to a certificate or diploma. The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) accredits more than 260 dental assistant training programs.

Most states have some level of regulation over the duties that dental assistants are allowed to perform. Others require licensure or registration. Licensure or registration may require passing a written and/or practical examination. Over 30 states recognize or require certification from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Where not required, Dental assistants may pursue voluntary certification with the DANB. The DANB offers three certifications:

  1. Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), which requires passing the three components of the CDA examination (General Chairside (GC), Infection Control (ICE), and Radiation Health and Safety (RHS))
  2. Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), which requires passing the two components of the COA examination (Orthodontic Assisting (OA), and Infection Control (ICE))
  3. Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator (CDPMA), which requires passing either the CDPMA-1 exam, or he CDPMA-2 exam

Dental Assistant Job Characteristics

Dental assistants work in clean and comfortable office settings, often "chairside" working with a dentist. Dental assistants must wear protective clothing and devices (gloves, masks, eyewear) when working with patients during dental procedures to protect both themselves and their patients from infections.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), approximately half of dental assistants work part time. The other half work an average of 35 to 40 hours a week. The dental assistant job may include work on nights and Saturdays. Many dental assistants work part time in several dental offices or clinics.

Opinions of dentists also support the assumption of strong demand for dental assistants. In an American Dental Association (ADA) survey nearly 46% of dentists found the supply of dental assistants to be inadequate. More than half felt that this shortage was impacting quality of care to patients (Source: 2005 Survey of Dental Practice-Employment of Dental Practice Personnel, ADA).

Resources for Dental Assistants

Major Dental Assistant Employers

The vast majority of dental assistants work in dentist's offices (solo and group practices). Other "traditional" practice areas may include clinics, hospital dental clinics, as well as dental school clinics. According to the ADA, other career opportunities include:

  • Insurance companies to process dental claims
  • Teaching in schools which may require an associate or baccalaureate college degree
  • Sales of dental products

Dental Assistant Terminology

  • ADA - American Dental Association
  • CODA - Commission on Dental Accreditation
  • CDA - Certified Dental Assistant
  • CDPMA - Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator
  • COA - Certified Orthodontic Assistant
  • Dental Radiographs- x-rays
  • DANB - Dental Assisting National Board

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Dental Assistants

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Dental Assistants jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Birmingham 830 $33,880
Hoover 830 $33,880
Montgomery 310 $28,700
Huntsville 290 $31,640
Foley 230 $33,740
Fairhope 230 $33,740
Daphne 230 $33,740
Mobile 220 $28,470
Tuscaloosa 200 $31,720
Dothan 160 $33,130
Decatur 110 $35,190
Auburn 100 $28,280
Opelika 100 $28,280
Anniston 90 $31,730
Jacksonville 90 $31,730
Oxford 90 $31,730
Muscle Shoals 80 $29,450
Florence 80 $29,450
Gadsden N/A $33,180
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 780 $45,240
Fairbanks 190 $42,710
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Mesa 4560 $38,900
Phoenix 4560 $38,900
Scottsdale 4560 $38,900
Tucson 1090 $33,400
Lake Havasu City 240 $34,940
Kingman 240 $34,940
Prescott 180 $35,050
Yuma 140 $34,070
Flagstaff 130 $31,060
Douglas 120 $38,130
Sierra Vista 120 $38,130
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 640 $31,920
North Little Rock 640 $31,920
Little Rock 640 $31,920
Jonesboro 190 $31,670
Hot Springs 120 $30,940
Pine Bluff 80 $27,930
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 17010 $34,870
Long Beach 17010 $34,870
Los Angeles 17010 $34,870
San Francisco 6650 $40,370
Hayward 6650 $40,370
Oakland 6650 $40,370
Riverside 4550 $31,680
Ontario 4550 $31,680
San Bernardino 4550 $31,680
San Diego 3570 $40,770
Carlsbad 3570 $40,770
Santa Clara 3000 $46,850
San Jose 3000 $46,850
Sunnyvale 3000 $46,850
Arcade 2920 $38,660
Sacramento 2920 $38,660
Arden 2920 $38,660
Roseville 2920 $38,660
Fresno 1280 $28,990
Thousand Oaks 1060 $38,350
Oxnard 1060 $38,350
Ventura 1060 $38,350
Bakersfield 950 $33,330
Stockton 770 $34,450
Lodi 770 $34,450
Santa Rosa 660 $45,900
Santa Maria 620 $45,410
Santa Barbara 620 $45,410
Vallejo 580 $43,750
Fairfield 580 $43,750
Modesto 570 $34,330
Salinas 540 $39,520
Santa Cruz 350 $37,080
Watsonville 350 $37,080
Porterville 350 $39,450
Visalia 350 $39,450
Arroyo Grande 330 $39,960
Paso Robles 330 $39,960
San Luis Obispo 330 $39,960
Redding 310 $34,180
Chico 310 $42,900
Merced 260 $32,350
Napa 200 $44,560
El Centro 170 $33,930
Corcoran 140 $38,620
Hanford 140 $38,620
Yuba City 140 $39,690
Madera 130 $38,820
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 3350 $40,710
Denver 3350 $40,710
Lakewood 3350 $40,710
Colorado Springs 1270 $35,330
Fort Collins 470 $39,500
Boulder 440 $38,410
Greeley 200 $38,380
Grand Junction 180 $35,270
Pueblo 170 $33,260
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
East Hartford 1320 $41,930
West Hartford 1320 $41,930
Hartford 1320 $41,930
Stamford 960 $47,220
Norwalk 960 $47,220
Bridgeport 960 $47,220
New Haven 660 $40,050
Danbury 280 $39,350
Waterbury 230 $39,270
     
Metro Area (Delaware) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dover 170 $35,100
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Palm Beach 5850 $35,950
Miami 5850 $35,950
Fort Lauderdale 5850 $35,950
St. Petersburg 2820 $37,220
Clearwater 2820 $37,220
Tampa 2820 $37,220
Kissimmee 2240 $35,900
Orlando 2240 $35,900
Sanford 2240 $35,900
Jacksonville 1260 $35,960
North Port 890 $41,730
Sarasota 890 $41,730
Bradenton 890 $41,730
Titusville 620 $36,590
Palm Bay 620 $36,590
Melbourne 620 $36,590
Fort Myers 620 $36,890
Cape Coral 620 $36,890
Daytona Beach 490 $35,420
Ormond Beach 490 $35,420
Deltona 490 $35,420
Pensacola 390 $38,730
Brent 390 $38,730
Ferry Pass 390 $38,730
Port St. Lucie 370 $40,880
Tallahassee 300 $39,700
Lakeland 280 $36,730
Winter Haven 280 $36,730
Gainesville 270 $37,370
Immokalee 210 $40,350
Naples 210 $40,350
Marco Island 210 $40,350
Ocala 180 $32,340
Panama City 180 $32,460
Fort Walton Beach 180 $36,510
Crestview 180 $36,510
Destin 180 $36,510
Punta Gorda 130 $38,440
The Villages 100 $35,890
Homosassa Springs 80 $36,360
Sebring 70 $33,540
Sebastian N/A $36,750
Vero Beach N/A $36,750
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sandy Springs 6340 $38,160
Atlanta 6340 $38,160
Roswell 6340 $38,160
Savannah 360 $35,980
Gainesville 190 $31,550
Macon 190 $33,420
Athens 190 $35,770
Clarke County 190 $35,770
Warner Robins 160 $31,490
Brunswick 120 $30,540
Dalton 110 $29,140
Valdosta 110 $30,450
Albany 110 $30,800
Hinesville 90 $34,660
Rome 50 $35,980
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 1190 $36,600
Lahaina 170 $39,020
Wailuku 170 $39,020
Kahului 170 $39,020
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 840 $36,650
Idaho Falls 260 $34,370
Coeur d'Alene 200 $35,540
Pocatello 140 $32,070
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rockford 370 $36,310
Peoria 290 $39,240
Springfield 210 $41,710
Bloomington 140 $40,290
Marion 110 $30,240
Carbondale 110 $30,240
Urbana 90 $37,650
Champaign 90 $37,650
Decatur 80 $35,580
Kankakee 70 $30,070
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Indianapolis 1600 $39,300
Anderson 1600 $39,300
Carmel 1600 $39,300
Fort Wayne 500 $38,630
Bloomington 210 $37,700
Lafayette 140 $36,150
West Lafayette 140 $36,150
Elkhart 120 $37,780
Goshen 120 $37,780
Terre Haute 90 $23,350
Muncie 80 $34,270
Kokomo 80 $43,980
Michigan City 60 $35,090
La Porte 60 $35,090
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 630 $44,420
Des Moines 630 $44,420
Cedar Rapids 290 $44,950
Iowa City 270 $38,440
Dubuque 190 $35,100
Cedar Falls 180 $37,720
Waterloo 180 $37,720
Ames 80 $45,020
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 630 $35,370
Topeka 220 $38,700
Lawrence 130 $33,710
Manhattan 90 $36,090
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 750 $33,250
Fayette 750 $33,250
Bowling Green 170 $32,810
Fort Knox 120 $30,960
Elizabethtown 120 $30,960
Owensboro 100 $31,660
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Orleans 1230 $28,620
Metairie 1230 $28,620
Baton Rouge 670 $33,870
Lafayette 310 $28,980
Shreveport 310 $33,160
Bossier City 310 $33,160
Lake Charles 300 $26,600
Thibodaux 160 $27,610
Houma 160 $27,610
Alexandria 140 $30,990
Hammond 80 $33,150
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Portland 440 $39,480
South Portland 440 $39,480
Bangor 120 $40,910
Auburn 70 $38,190
Lewiston 70 $38,190
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Baltimore 2650 $39,850
Towson 2650 $39,850
Columbia 2650 $39,850
Lexington Park 120 $37,770
California 120 $37,770
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 210 $45,260
Gardner 140 $42,840
Leominster 140 $42,840
New Bedford 130 $37,520
Pittsfield 90 $42,880
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dearborn 4480 $34,450
Detroit 4480 $34,450
Warren 4480 $34,450
Grand Rapids 970 $43,630
Wyoming 970 $43,630
Flint 530 $32,800
Ann Arbor 470 $35,700
Lansing 390 $37,370
East Lansing 390 $37,370
Saginaw 260 $31,090
Kalamazoo 240 $36,230
Portage 240 $36,230
Muskegon 140 $33,620
Battle Creek 120 $36,410
Jackson 120 $37,480
Midland 100 $40,970
Benton Harbor 90 $34,920
Niles 90 $34,920
Monroe 90 $35,140
Bay City 70 $37,870
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 250 $46,770
St. Cloud 220 $43,150
Mankato 140 $45,380
North Mankato 140 $45,380
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 610 $33,870
Pascagoula 260 $33,780
Biloxi 260 $33,780
Gulfport 260 $33,780
Hattiesburg 170 $26,590
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Springfield 570 $37,400
Columbia 200 $35,180
Joplin 150 $35,630
Jefferson City 120 $35,510
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 210 $39,630
Missoula 190 $32,270
Great Falls 100 $33,970
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 420 $36,310
Grand Island 100 $37,780
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 1810 $35,730
Henderson 1810 $35,730
Las Vegas 1810 $35,730
Reno 510 $36,830
Carson City 50 $38,560
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 230 $45,510
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Trenton 550 $33,920
Atlantic City 230 $43,440
Hammonton 230 $43,440
Vineland 130 $40,930
Bridgeton 130 $40,930
Ocean City 80 $40,050
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 1230 $31,440
Farmington 250 $36,410
Santa Fe 200 $37,600
Las Cruces 180 $31,980
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 1050 $37,770
Cheektowaga 1000 $37,190
Niagara Falls 1000 $37,190
Buffalo 1000 $37,190
Albany 850 $36,880
Schenectady 850 $36,880
Troy 850 $36,880
Syracuse 730 $35,050
Utica 230 $34,420
Rome 230 $34,420
Binghamton 210 $33,910
Kingston 130 $39,980
Watertown 120 $31,920
Fort Drum 120 $31,920
Glens Falls 80 $31,600
Ithaca 70 $37,230
Elmira 40 $33,730
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh 1500 $44,460
Chapel Hill 710 $41,050
Durham 710 $41,050
High Point 620 $37,350
Greensboro 620 $37,350
Salem 560 $39,940
Winston 560 $39,940
Asheville 490 $39,130
Fayetteville 410 $36,050
Lenoir 330 $33,940
Hickory 330 $33,940
Morganton 330 $33,940
Wilmington 310 $45,380
Greenville 200 $38,270
New Bern 140 $42,360
Jacksonville 130 $35,820
Rocky Mount 110 $38,400
Goldsboro 90 $37,150
Burlington 90 $37,190
     
Metro Area (North Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bismarck 150 $44,760
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 2230 $38,020
Elyria 1850 $35,850
Cleveland 1850 $35,850
Dayton 700 $39,490
Akron 630 $37,160
Toledo 580 $36,730
Canton 440 $32,220
Massillon 440 $32,220
Mansfield 120 $36,270
Lima 100 $35,660
Springfield 70 $38,210
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 1510 $34,130
Tulsa 1100 $35,070
Lawton 180 $35,080
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salem 580 $38,360
Eugene 540 $39,500
Medford 360 $43,680
Redmond 150 $44,990
Bend 150 $44,990
Albany 120 $40,000
Grants Pass 100 $39,100
Corvallis 100 $44,100
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 2000 $34,560
Scranton 700 $36,320
Wilkes 700 $36,320
Hazleton 700 $36,320
Barre 700 $36,320
Carlisle 680 $35,240
Harrisburg 680 $35,240
Lancaster 670 $41,490
Reading 380 $35,450
York 330 $32,350
Hanover 330 $32,350
Erie 260 $29,840
East Stroudsburg 140 $33,700
Waynesboro 140 $35,500
Chambersburg 140 $35,500
State College 120 $32,140
Altoona 120 $35,160
Lebanon 100 $32,870
Bloomsburg 80 $31,080
Berwick 80 $31,080
Johnstown 70 $27,600
Gettysburg 70 $30,260
Williamsport 70 $32,480
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Carolina 1580 $18,380
San Juan 1580 $18,380
Caguas 1580 $18,380
Arecibo 210 $18,300
Ponce 150 $18,400
Aguadilla 110 $17,940
Isabela 110 $17,940
Mayag´┐Żez 110 $18,740
San German 60 $19,190
Guayama 30 $18,060
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Mauldin 700 $37,250
Greenville 700 $37,250
Anderson 700 $37,250
Columbia 690 $34,700
North Charleston 620 $37,980
Charleston 620 $37,980
Spartanburg 440 $35,510
Beaufort 280 $36,720
Hilton Head Island 280 $36,720
Bluffton 280 $36,720
Florence 140 $37,940
Sumter 100 $32,080
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rapid City 220 $33,780
Sioux Falls 220 $37,900
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Murfreesboro 1860 $35,380
Franklin 1860 $35,380
Davidson 1860 $35,380
Nashville 1860 $35,380
Knoxville 660 $38,790
Johnson City 220 $35,330
Jackson 90 $29,070
Cleveland 90 $34,120
Morristown 90 $43,430
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dallas 8570 $36,730
Fort Worth 8570 $36,730
Arlington 8570 $36,730
Houston 6770 $34,880
Sugar Land 6770 $34,880
The Woodlands 6770 $34,880
New Braunfels 3320 $31,290
San Antonio 3320 $31,290
Austin 2180 $41,780
Round Rock 2180 $41,780
El Paso 750 $27,320
Edinburg 480 $27,740
Mission 480 $27,740
McAllen 480 $27,740
Port Arthur 430 $34,280
Beaumont 430 $34,280
Lubbock 420 $32,900
Tyler 400 $32,630
Temple 390 $35,940
Killeen 390 $35,940
Corpus Christi 310 $34,570
Amarillo 310 $34,690
Harlingen 310 $34,940
Brownsville 310 $34,940
Longview 230 $35,030
Waco 200 $31,120
College Station 200 $31,390
Bryan 200 $31,390
Abilene 190 $33,390
Laredo 170 $30,180
Odessa 160 $31,800
Denison 140 $34,010
Sherman 140 $34,010
San Angelo 130 $30,960
Wichita Falls 120 $31,610
Midland 90 $36,510
Victoria 80 $30,990
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 2050 $30,410
Clearfield 1100 $29,800
Ogden 1100 $29,800
Orem 1050 $30,500
Provo 1050 $30,500
St. George 200 $27,680
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 220 $39,560
Burlington 220 $39,560
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 1080 $39,860
Roanoke 300 $37,960
Lynchburg 230 $38,540
Charlottesville 190 $39,990
Staunton 140 $36,180
Waynesboro 140 $36,180
Harrisonburg 130 $42,840
Blacksburg 80 $35,380
Christiansburg 80 $35,380
Radford 80 $35,380
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Tacoma 5940 $39,870
Seattle 5940 $39,870
Bellevue 5940 $39,870
Spokane 650 $38,790
Spokane Valley 650 $38,790
Tumwater 460 $43,470
Olympia 460 $43,470
Bremerton 430 $41,450
Silverdale 430 $41,450
Yakima 410 $31,720
Richland 330 $40,430
Kennewick 330 $40,430
Bellingham 220 $41,020
Longview 130 $38,310
Wenatchee 130 $40,220
Walla Walla 70 $30,740
Mount Vernon N/A $39,470
Anacortes N/A $39,470
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Charleston 170 $30,000
Morgantown 90 $33,590
Vienna 80 $29,340
Parkersburg 80 $29,340
Beckley N/A $25,910
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Allis 1750 $37,600
Waukesha 1750 $37,600
Milwaukee 1750 $37,600
Madison 660 $37,380
Appleton 360 $35,260
Green Bay 270 $44,420
Eau Claire 200 $35,670
Neenah 200 $38,370
Oshkosh 200 $38,370
Wausau 170 $38,090
Racine 150 $33,110
Beloit 120 $35,630
Janesville 120 $35,630
Sheboygan 100 $35,460
Fond du Lac 90 $37,800
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Casper 100 $35,570
Cheyenne 100 $36,740

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Dental Assistants

To find out more about building a career as Dental Assistants, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Dental Assistants

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Medical Office 279,580 95% $32,310
Government 5,790 1% $34,550
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Dental Assistants.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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