Dental Assistant Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

A dental assistant is responsible for a variety of duties in a dentist’s office. They are often involved in office or laboratory functions. Some dental assistants also perform a limited amount of patient care, but allowable procedures vary by state. Some typical tasks a dental assistant might perform are applying sealants and fluoride to teeth, removing plaque, and taking x-rays. They also prepare patients for oral examinations, organize and maintain lab equipment, and schedule appointments and follow-up visits with patients. Office duties include recording medical and dental histories and possibly handling patient billing and payments.

Dental assistants must have strong communication skills, be organized, and must be trustworthy in handling confidential patient information. Specific technical skills are a requirement for this role. Dental assistants must also have physical stamina, a good eye for detail, and good manual dexterity. As they have to interact with patients, they need to be good listeners and have the ability to remain professional and communicate well, particularly when dealing with patients who have questions and concerns or exhibit stress or fear. 

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National Average Salary

Dental assistant salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site

The average U.S. salary for a Dental Assistant is:


Dental Assistant Job Descriptions

The first step when hiring a great dental assistant is a well-crafted job description. Below are real-world examples to help give you the best chance of success on your recruiting journey.

Example 1

The dental assistant is responsible for seating patients in treatment area and performing chair-side assistance, which consists of the following: setting up operatory for a planned dental procedure, clean dental unit for timely turnover, pass instruments safely, accurately, and efficiently, keep operative field clear of debris and retract oral tissues effectively and comfortably. [Your Company Name] is looking for someone who is self-motivated and excited to join our dentistry team. Ideally you’ll have at least 1-3 years of dental assistant experience in order to attain this role.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Maintain and update client’s dental records
  • Perform routine dental cleanings and assist the dentist with procedures that are more complex 
  • Take X-Rays of patients and process them 
  • Schedule patient appointments 
  • Take insurance and billing details from patients 
  • Advise patients on recommended oral hygiene

Education and experience

  • High school diploma or GED required 
  • Post secondary education in a dental assistant training program at a vocational school or community college 
  • Certification and licensure requirements vary by state

Required skills and qualifications

  • Must have great customer service skills 
  • Must have great interpersonal skills and be extremely organized
  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written  
  • Ability to make good decisions quickly
  • Must be reliable and punctual

Preferred qualifications

  • Some on the job training or internship experience  
  •  Excellent customer service skills as well as ability to be confidential with patient information
  • Adaptable, takes initiative, able to think on their feet

Example 2

The Dental Assistant is a key member of the team. Concierge service to patients will include providing the patient with high quality care by performing a variety of office, laboratory, and patient care duties. This usually entails helping the dentist handle patients, instruments, and supplies during the treatment of the teeth, mouth, and gums. Dental assistants also document patient care and take x-rays.. The dental assistant will be highly reliable, detail-oriented, well-organized with excellent customer service, communication, and technical skills (e.g. dental software, ADA codes, and scheduling).

Position responsibilities

  • Greet and interact with patients in a friendly and courteous manner
  • Take and document patient dental history and updates, as well as overall health and medication history
  • Assist dentist by handling supplies and instruments as requested
  • Prepare tables and trays for dentist with necessary instruments and supplies
  • Clean and sterilize instruments, and prepare treatment rooms as needed
  • Take, expose, and mount high quality dental radiographs
  • Ensure appropriate supply of equipment and materials
  • Maintain patient confidentiality to comply with federal HIPAA policy and laws
  • Review dental health with patient, including any problems or concerns they have with any of their teeth
  • Charting all existing treatment, missing teeth, and pathology in OD should be completed by the clinical team
  • Help with front desk duties as needed: Check-in, Confirmations, Collect payments, Schedule appointments, etc.

Position qualifications and requirements

  • Must possess High School Diploma/GED
  • Graduate of accredited dental assisting program CDA or NC classified DA I or DA II with work experience
  • Compliance with state dental practice requirements: X-ray certification, CPR certified, OSHA training, HIPAA training
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Friendly, kind, and genuinely empathetic
  • A motivated self-starter who can work well both with little supervision and with close direction
  • Dental software experience a must – “Open Dental” preferred but not required
  • Knowledge of dental terminology and ADA codes
  • Bilingual in English and Spanish a plus, but not required

Example 3

Registered Dental Assistants perform a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. The primary role of the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) is to assist the dentist in gaining the patient’s commitment to the best possible treatment, with urgency. Key duties associated with assisting the dentist in starting treatment include: utilizing x-ray time to promote the good qualities of the dentist, learning the patient’s expectations while educating them with intra-oral pictures, using effective and anticipatory chair-side skills, and effectively supporting the dentist’s diagnosis after the examination when the patient asks questions. The RDA should abide by procedures needed for compliance with state and federal safety regulation, infection control, and permitted duties.


  • The primary role of the Registered Dental Assistant (RDA) is to assist the dentist as necessary to gain the patient’s commitment for the best possible treatment with urgency
  • Actively participate in the Perfect Patient Experience by striving to keep your patients focused on optimal treatment while attending to their individual needs and concerns
  • Maintain a clean, sterile, and cheerful environment where your patients feel comfortable; prepare patients for treatment, and assist the doctors – thereby enabling them to provide efficient, quality dental treatment
  • At the direction of the dentist, complete x-rays and intra-oral pictures of patients as appropriate
  • At the direction of the dentist, instruct patients on postoperative and general oral health care
  • Sterilize and disinfect instruments, equipment, and operatories in accordance with the American Dental Association guidelines
  • Maintain strict compliance with State, Federal, and other regulations, (e.g., OSHA, WC, Dental Board, HIPAA, ADA, DOL, HR policies and practices)


  • Equivalent to high school diploma or general education degree (GED), and specified training courses as mandated by state for certification, licensure, or registration
  • Certifications/licenses/registrations as mandated by applicable state (e.g. coronal polish, radiograph exposure, ultrasonic scaling for orthodontic procedures, pit and fissure sealant application, etc)
  • Associate degree or one-year certificate from an accredited college or technical school; or equivalent combination of education and experience preferred


  • Medical, dental and vision insurance
  • Paid time off
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Child care assistance
  • 401K
  • Paid time to volunteer in your local community
  • Shift premium pay for eligible roles who work weekends

Example 4

As a Dental Assistant, you will have the support you need to grow your career within a close- knit, stable team who enjoy what they do – and who they work with! We are committed to promoting from within with excellent compensation and benefits.


  • Health Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Dental Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • 2 weeks PTO per year
  • Up to a total of 7 paid holidays per year
  • 401k plan
  • Complimentary dental care (within company guidelines)


  • Successful completion of a dental assistant licensing program as per state guidelines
  • At least 1 year of experience as a Dental Assistant
  • Experience with implants a plus
  • Bilingual skills a big plus
  • Comprehensive understanding of dental instruments
  • Exceptional customer service skills
  • Strong knowledge of computer programs such as MS Office

Key responsibilities

  • Prepares treatment room for patient by following prescribed procedures and protocols
  • Prepares patient for dental treatment
  • Provides instrumentation by sterilizing and delivering instruments to treatment area
  • Provides diagnostic information by exposing and developing radiographic studies; pouring, trimming, and polishing study casts
  • Fabricates temporary restorations; cleans and polishes removable appliances
  • Helps dentist manage dental and medical emergencies by maintaining CPR certification
  • Educates patients by giving oral hygiene, plaque control, and postoperative instructions
  • Documents dental care services by charting in patient records
  • Maintains patient confidence and protects operations by keeping information confidential
  • Maintains safe and clean working environment by complying with procedures, rules, and regulations
  • Protects patients and employees by adhering to infection-control policies and protocols
  • Ensures operation of dental equipment
  • Maintains dental supplies inventory

Candidate Certification to Look For

Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) Certification 

This certification program can only be completed after one has graduated from a dental assisting program (this can take anywhere from nine months to two years). The student must complete 3,500 hours of work experience and an externship as well. Then students must pay for, study for, and pass the exam in order to become certified.

Sample Interview Questions

  • What is your previous experience as a dental assistant?
  • What is the best way to deal with difficult patients?
  • What do you do to stay on top of dental industry developments and techniques?
  • How do you educate your patients and help them maintain good oral hygiene habits?
  • When was the last time you had to handle a medical emergency during a patient appointment?
  • What are your daily responsibilities and how do you prioritize them?
  • How do you ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained and HIPAA regulations are followed?
  • Are you familiar with adjusting to diverse patient populations?
  • How do you maintain a positive and professional working environment with coworkers or dentists?
  • What was the most challenging case you faced as a dental assistant and how did you overcome it?

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