10 Things You’ll Learn in Dental Assistant Programs

Feb 4, 2022

There’s no time like the present to start a career as a dental assistant. The dental field is projected to grow at a rate of 11% in the next ten years, and dental assistants are always in demand. A career as a dental assistant means that you’ll get to work as part of a team and enjoy the satisfaction of helping others. So, why would you look at dental assistant programs?


You can become a vital part of the dental care industry without the need for years of stressful and expensive training. Although dental assistants are trained dental professionals, they also provide clerical services that support their co-workers and supervisory staff. Dental assistants interact with patients from the moment they enter the office and are responsible for everything from maintaining dental records to assisting with dental procedures.

What Are Dental Assistants?

Dental assistants are a vital part of an effective dental care team. They carry out administrative and clinical tasks within a dental practice or other dental care settings. They usually work with other medical staff while being supervised by a dentist.

Some of the primary duties of dental assistants include:

  • Update and maintain client’s dental records
  • Perform routine dental cleanings and assist the dentist with complex dental procedures
  • Take and process X-rays of patients
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Take billing and insurance details from patients
  • Coaching patients on oral care
  • Preparing x-ray film, impression materials, and anesthetics
  • Billing patients and handling payments
  • Ordering dental supplies

Successful dental assistants are expected to:

  • Understand administrative and clinical methods
  • Complete intake paperwork
  • Obtain and update patient records
  • Sterilize and organize dental tools
  • Assist during dental procedures

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants can make an average of $41,180 a year. Depending on their education and experience, they can earn upwards of $50,000 a year.

What Are Dental Assistant Programs?

If you want to become a dental assistant, you must become certified by completing one of the dental assistant programs. These dental assistant programs consist of classes and lab work that cover health care and office administration, basic dental techniques, and various skills that you will need working in a dental practice. 

As a dental assistant, you will become proficient in the following subjects:

  • Communication

A dental assistant spends most of their day interacting with patients and colleagues. Dental assistants need to know several appropriate communication methods with clients, staff, visitors, and suppliers.

  • Office Administration

Dental assistants manage several administration duties and need to know how to schedule appointments, converse effectively over the phone, greet clients, and communicate their appointment details.

  • Medical Insurance 

Most patients seeking dental care use some type of insurance. Dental assistants knowledgeable about insurance plans can better help patients and facilitate payments.

  • Billing and Coding

Billing is the act of submitting a bill of rendered services to a patient or their insurance carrier. Coding involves assigning a number to a health care service so a provider or office can gain reimbursement.

  • Sterilization and Disinfection

Cleanliness is paramount in a dental office. From proper hand-washing techniques to equipment disinfection and the use of an autoclave, dental assistants handle, clean, and sterilize all elements within a dental clinic. 

  • Dental X-Rays

Many dental assistants choose to specialize in radiography. This allows them to learn how to operate an X-ray machine effectively, adjust the controls for voltage and exposure time, and adjust the device for proper exposure.

  • First Aid

Dental assistants are members of a clinical health team. They must be trained in first aid to perform basic life support skills, including controlling bleeding and performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

  • Dental Procedure Assistance 

Dental assistants learn how to assist in dental procedures by adequately preparing the office for surgery. This task includes organizing and sterilizing the necessary equipment, instruments, and materials for oral health care procedures and knowing how to assist during treatment.

  • Critical Thinking Skills

As a dental assistant, you must have experience with anticipating a dentist’s needs and providing them with the right tools to perform a task. You’ll have to think on your feet and have things prepared, ready to adapt when a procedure doesn’t go as planned. 

  • Working Effectively In The Dental Field 

Dental assistants are the critical link between a patient and the dentist. Dental assistant training includes hands-on classes to bring the theoretical into the physical. You’ll be able to practice everything you’ve learned in a supervised environment to gain the confidence you need to move into a real-world setting.

Ready to Get Started?

At schools like Chattanooga College, you can learn all you need to succeed as a dental assistant in 18 months. You can receive subsidies for dental assistant courses with financial aid. You’ll be on your way to a fulfilling career as a dental assistant when you take the dental assistant courses we offer!

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