To qualify to work in dental offices as a dental assistant, aspiring candidates for the position must attend an accredited dental assistant program, pass a certification examination and meet basic criteria advertised in dental assistant job listings. Dental assistants must competently perform on-the-job duties including maintaining patient records, taking X-rays, preparing dental instruments for procedures, and assisting dentists during dental procedures by handling instruments. A basic knowledge of dental anesthetics is also required.
Dental assistants must be flexible and prepared to handle a wide range of duties, including the important task of sterilizing dental instruments. A friendly personality is helpful too, because dental assistants interact with patients daily, and might have to calm nervous patients. Dental assistants often perform lab work such as helping to make dental casts, or studying patient diagnostic information. Minor duties include keeping track of dental equipment, ordering equipment repairs, and replenishing supplies when needed.
Many states mandate that dental assistants be registered, or have a state license to work in a dental office. Getting the right type of training is essential, and the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. provides a list of colleges and training programs that offer dental assistant programs. Each program is approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Not all states have such programs, but each region of the country is represented on the list.