Average Dental Assistant Salary: What Will You Earn?

Brandi Glass
5 min read
Young female dentist working with assistant while treating patient in modern hospital

Many assume that being a dental assistant is not a promising or rewarding career, but this is not true. Dental assistants play a significant role in a clinic while working under a dentist’s supervision and making patients feel safe and calm.

If you want to know what the role entails and how much the average dental assistant salary is, read on. We cover all aspects of this position so that you can make informed choices after college and start earning doing something you love.

What Is a Dental Assistant?

Dental Assistants are a crucial part of any clinic and dental team. A dental assistant prepares patients for dental work, schedules appointments, and calms patients down. When a patient has an appointment for dental care or cleaning, the assistants are usually the first person they meet. They help both dentists and hygienists with multiple procedures.

Most dental assistants work in dental offices, aiding general or specialized dentists. Sometimes, they may also hold positions in hospitals, dental schools, and health departments. This job is quite flexible and offers full and part-time options. Some of the duties of a dental assistant include the following:

  • Helping the dentist during exams and treatments
  • Greeting patients and performing administrative tasks
  • Preparing the patient for the dentist to examine
  • Taking X-Rays
  • Sterilizing the equipment and the office
  • Schedule appointments and maintain patient files electronically or manually
  • Answer the telephone and customer queries
  • Billing customers and collecting insurance information
  • Offering information on post-visit dental care

Depending on where you work and the clinic size, you may take on some or all of these roles. You may also work with a team of assistants or be the only one in the office.

What Skills Do You Need to Become a Dental Assistant?

You need to have a few skills to become a successful dental assistant. Besides the educational aspects that we will cover further in the article, you must also have the following:

  • A rudimentary knowledge of dental medicine
  • Active listening skills
  • Proper communication and people skills to work with teams and people
  • Administrative and customer service skills
  • Manual Dexterity
  • Time management and organization skills
  • Critical thinking skills with balanced judgment
  • Problem resolution

You will build or enhance some of these skills as you progress career-wise. If you are not a people person, this position may not be the best choice as it involves frequent communication with others.

Do You Need to Be Certified To Become a Dental Assistant?

Whether you need a dental assistant certification depends on your state. Generally, most states do not impose certifications on entry-level dental assistants. However, if you operate equipment such as the X-Ray machine, you may need to meet specific requirements. The easiest way to determine whether you need a certification is to check using a quick search engine query. Usually, the information is clear, and the requirements are at the top of the search results.

One example is Texas. If you want to work as a dental assistant, you don’t need a certificate to start training with the dentist. However, if you’re going to operate the X-Ray Machine, you need to have a Registered Dental Assistant Certificate. In New York State, any person who wants the title “Registered Dental Assistant” must apply for a license.

Other certifications include the Dental Assistant Certification (DANB) and the National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certification for those who do not qualify for DANB. You must take the Certified Dental Assistant Exam, or CDA, to receive a DANB.

You can also seek the Certified Orthodontic Assistant certification to gain knowledge in orthodontics. Finally, there is the Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant certification, or the CPFDA, and the Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA).

How Much Does A Dental Assistant Make?

Dental assistant salary ranges vary depending on your level of education, certification status, and state of residence. The following salary estimates come from multiple sources to give you an idea of what you can earn as a dental assistant:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual wage for dental assistants is $42,510 in the US. The highest earners can make up to $59,540
  • Salary.com places the median yearly salary at** $44,881**
  • US News reports that the median wage for dental assistants is $41,180
  • Surgical dental assistant salary ranges are between** $48,000 – $52,000** annually

According to the Dental Post, the states where dental assistants can earn the highest wages are Alaska, Minnesota, and New Hampshire. The lowest-paying states for dental assistants are Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, and Kansas.

The places that employ dental assistants the most are dentist offices, outpatient care centers, physician offices, federal executive branches, and employment services. As for the industries that have the highest salary rates, they are:

  • State governments and hospitals: $50,170
  • Specialty hospitals: $48,210
  • Home Health Care Services: $47,930
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals: $47,180
  • Federal executive branches: $45,970

Do You Need to Choose a Focus to Become a Dental Assistant?

Besides general dentistry, you can choose a specialty in some areas or oral care. Examples include:

  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Dentofacial orthodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Endodontics

Before you start working, registering for a license, or seeking certification, try to research all aspects and types of specialties to find the best fit for your interests. So, for example, if you like working with children, pediatric dentistry is an excellent focus choice. You can focus on periodontics if you prefer working on structures that surround and support the teeth.

Where Can You Start Applying to Dental Assistant Jobs?

You can apply for dental assistant jobs using several means. The first and easiest way is to find online listings for open positions in your local area. You can also join multiple social media groups that usually advertise the need for local dental assistants. If neither is a good option for you, look up the dental clinics in your area and specialty hospitals. Then, you can apply directly using their online portal.

Do You Need a Customized Resume for Dental Assistant Jobs?

The dental assistant field is competitive, and you may find that the candidate pool is vast. To stand out from competitors, you need to have a stellar resume. You can customize your resume and format it without hassle when you use Rocket Resume.

Rocket Resume offers multiple dental assistant resume templates with intuitive tools that help your resume look attractive to potential employers. It only takes a few minutes to build your resume, with suggested industry-specific text that enables you to generate an eye-catching CV.

With so many templates, you can find the format that suits your position without worrying about formatting glitches. Plus, Rocket Resume templates pass Applicant Tracking Systems without issues or glitches. This fact prevents many qualified people from getting hired.

The more you perfect your resume structure and add relevant information, the higher the likelihood of finding the perfect dental assistant career.

Are you ready to jumpstart your dental assistant career? Start building a customized resume today with Rocket Resume and get a discount on your first order.