On the Job


Dental Assistants work with people up close. Some take mouth x-rays and process the films, remove stitches, clean up extra cement after a dentist fills a cavity. They keep the dentist's instruments neat, clean and organized. In some offices, they schedule appointments, keep records, send bills and order supplies.

Dental Assistants work under the supervision of dentists. To protect themselves and their patients, they wear gloves, masks and special eyewear. If they handle x-ray machines and processing, Dental Assistants wear protective clothing and also put a protective drape on the patient to minimize risks of exposure to radiation. They spend a good deal of time on their feet.

Most Dental Assistants work in dentists’ offices, though hospitals, clinics, vocational schools, colleges and prisons also hire Dental Assistants. This is a good field for people who work well with others and can be exact and very accurate. Almost half of the nearly 300,000 Dental Assistants in the United States work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Many work part time for more than one office.

This is a very social job. Ability to communicate clearly and willingness to teach people are key aspects of career. Because a trip to the dentist scares some people, including children, Dental Assistants also help keep patients calm and comfortable.

Working conditions are pleasant and most jobs involve a typical Monday through Friday workweek. This is a diverse career that also demands manual dexterity because Dental Assistants use many kinds of specialized tools. Some examples include forceps, orthodontic pliers, steam cleaning equipment, electric general and surgical hand pieces, molar clamps and sterilizers.

Dental Assistant students at Volunteer State get hands-on clinical experience at sites throughout Middle Tennessee. Dozens of local dentists enjoy working with our students. Students can request a specific site but placement is not guaranteed. All of Volunteer State’s Dental Assistants get hired shortly after they graduate.