Dental Assisting

Bethany Skidmore on Jul 13, 2016 9:00:00 AM

When you see employees in the dentist’s office, you might assume they’re either dentists or hygienists. Many of us try to avoid the dentist as actively as possible, so it’s easy to misunderstand that many of the employees we see talking to patients and performing basic procedures are actually dental assistants. Dental assisting is essential medical work that you can learn easily and quickly, and then have a well-paying job for much longer.


Dental assistants have several areas of responsibility. Their duties include office management, teaching patients oral hygiene strategies, taking impressions of patients’ teeth for casts, prepping and sterilizing instruments and equipment, taking and developing x-rays, and working closely with patients before, during, and after procedures. With additional training, dental assistants can also be responsible for temporary crown restoration, sealants, aiding in administrating nitrous oxide, and removing orthodontic cement or resin.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for dental assistants is $17.30 per hour, accumulating to about $36,000 per year. (Most dental assistants work full time.) The field is expected to grow 18% in the next 10 years, much faster than average. According to a survey of dental assistants performed by US News, there is a lot of upward mobility in the job, as well as flexibility and balance in scheduling. However, the job can be stressful because many patients are frightened or don’t want to be there. But job satisfaction among dental assistants is high due to the flexibility and possibility for upward movement.


Those wanting to become dental assistants should take the Fundamentals of Dental Assisting course. This course includes 100 hours of classroom instruction as well as some independent observation in a dental office. You must also be CPR certified. After this course, you may take a national certification exam. After working in a dental office for 6 months, dental assistants may take the Expanded Functions of Dental Assisting course. After finishing those courses and taking their final exams, you will be able to perform additional functions that will give you an edge in the job market.

At Idaho State University

At the Division of Continuing Education and Workforce Training, our Fundamentals of Dental Assisting course runs from August 23rd to November 10th. It meets Tuesday and Thursday nights, as well as two Saturdays. At the end of the class, you will be able to begin work. The expanded functions classes (crown restoration, sealants, administration of nitrous oxide, and removing cement or resin) are much shorter, lasting 1-2 weeks. After the final exams in those courses, you will be able to perform the expanded functions as well.

Dental assisting is an excellent and viable career choice. Learn it with us this fall at ISU Workforce Training. Visit our website at to learn more.


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