About the Profession
The job outlook is excellent. A 2008 salary study by the Dental Assisting National Board found that Dental Assistants with national certification earned an average of $18 and hour, compared with $15.02 for those without certification. The median salary in Tennessee was $17.75 an hour. Nationwide, Dental Assistants with five years of experience or less made an average of $15 an hour.
Within the field, Dental Assistants can specialize in areas that include orthodontics, pediatrics, oral surgery, and periodontics.
Demand for Dental Assistants is skyrocketing. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates a 29 percent increase in jobs between 2006 and 2016. Dentists often hire several assistants, which allows them to focus on more complicated problems while trusting routine care to qualified, trained assistants.
This is expected to be one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. More people mean more teeth; more middle-aged people will keep their natural teeth longer and need care; children and young people need to learn basic dental care to prevent problems as they get older. All these factors are fueling the demand for more Dental Assistants.
Dental Assisting is typically considered an entry-level job, and Dental Assistants seem to enjoy their work. The Dental Assisting National Board found that certified Dental Assistants who responded to the 2008 survey had worked in the field for an average of 16.7 years. They had been in their current positions for an average of 9.7 years.
Because dentists rely so heavily on their Dental Assistants, some become office managers. Others become instructors or return to school to become Dental Hygienists, who typically earn more.
Most health care fields are licensed and regulated. The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc., administers certification examinations to students in Dental Assistant programs.
The Tennessee Board of Dentistry requires Dental Assistants to register and take a registry examination. Also, in Tennessee, Dental Assistants must take separate exams in order to perform several specific job skills:
- Coronal Polishing Certification
- Dental Radiology Certification
- Monitoring Nitrous Oxide Certification
- Sealant Application Certification
- Prosthetic Function Certification
- Restorative Function Certification
For more information go to
National, state and local associations help Dental Assistants stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technology, provide networking opportunities and other resources.
- Tennessee Dental Assistants Association
- American Dental Assistants Association
- Tennessee Dental Association
- American Dental Association
- American Dental Education Association
- National Dental Association
- Society of American Indian Dentists
Want to know more?
Check out these links for Dental Assistant career information, employment outlook and industry trends
- Dental Assisting National Board
- National Institutes of Health Lifeworks
- American Medical Association
- Career OneStop
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Dental Assisting National Board Salary Survey
- O*NET Occupational Information Center