Dental assistants perform a wide variety of jobs around a dentist's office, including caring for patients, taking x-rays, keeping records and scheduling appointments. Some dental assistants also perform four regulated tasks -- coronal polishing, sealant application, fluoride application and topical anesthetics application. The day-to-day activities typically include:

  • Preparing patients for treatments and exams
  • Teaching patients proper dental care
  • Assisting the dentist during procedures
  • Sterilizing dental instruments

Fast Facts for Dental Assistants in Tennessee

Dental assistants in Tennessee earn a mean annual wage of $34,650, and there are 5,670 practicing assistants working in the state. That translates to about two dental assistants for every 1,000 workers in the state. The highest concentration of dental assistants in Tennessee is in Clarksville, where there are nearly 5 dental assistants for every 1,000 workers. The lowest concentration (1.5 dental assistants per 1,000 workers) is in Jackson and Memphis.

More than 30 percent of the state's dental assistants work in the Nashville metropolitan area, and 16 percent work in Memphis. The third-highest total of dental assistants is located in Chattanooga, where 500 dental assistants are employed. Here's a breakdown of the number of dental assistants in each of Tennessee's metropolitan areas, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014:

  • Chattanooga: 500
  • Clarksville: 400
  • Cleveland: 90
  • Jackson: 90
  • Johnson City: 190
  • Kingsport-Bristol: 310
  • Knoxville: 770
  • Memphis: 930
  • Morristown 120
  • Nashville: 1,710

Dental Assistant Salaries in Tennessee

The mean annual salary for dental assistants in Tennessee is about 5 percent lower than the national average of $36,240. The highest salaries in the state are paid in the Morristown metropolitan area, where the mean annual wage is $41,540, which translates to nearly $20 per hour.

Nationally, jobs for dental assistants are expected to grow 25 percent through 2022, as the strengthening link between oral health and overall health increases the demand for preventative care. Tennessee is expected see slightly lower growth during this period, however, with a 20.6 percent annual job growth for dental assistants -- about 230 new jobs in the state each year.

While the vast majority of dental assistants work in dentist offices earning average salaries, a few industries pay slightly higher salaries for dental assistants. These industries, and the average salaries they pay to dental assistants, include:

  • Specialty hospitals: $40,550
  • Insurance Carriers: $40,370
  • State governments: $39,850
  • Federal executive branch: $39,460
  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $37,300

Tennessee Metro Areas for Dental Assistants

The following is a breakdown of the concentration of dental assistant jobs per 1,000 total jobs in each of Tennessee's metropolitan areas. The mean salary paid in that metropolitan area is also listed:

  • Chattanooga: 2.1 dental assistants per 1,000 workers, $35,740
  • Clarksville: 4.9, $34,020
  • Cleveland: 1.9, $32,540
  • Jackson: 1.5, $29,650
  • Johnson City: 2.5, $35,130
  • Kingsport-Bristol: 2.7, $32,310
  • Knoxville: 2.3, $37,410
  • Memphis: 1.5, $35,200
  • Morristown 2.7, $41,540
  • Nashville: 2, $33,940


  1. Dental Assisting National Board, Inc., Tennessee State Requirements, Nov. 22, 2015, http://www.danb.org/Meet-State-Requirements/State-Specific-Information/Tennessee.aspx
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Nov. 20, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_tn.htm
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Nov. 19, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319091.htm
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014, Dental Assistants, Nov. 20, 2015, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319091.htm
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Dental Assistants, Nov. 13, 2015. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm
  6. Projections Central, Long-term Occupational Projections, Nov. 14, 2015,https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
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Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

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Job Popularity in Metro Areas for Dental Assistants

The map below shows job statistics for the career type by metro area, for Tennessee. A table below the map shows job popularity and salaries across the state.

Metro Areas Rated for Popularity for:
Dental Assistants

Listed below are metro areas ranked by the popularity of jobs for Dental Assistants relative to the population of the city. Salary data was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

Metro Area
Annual Median Salary
Johnson City220$35,390

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