Dental Assistants

Dental assistants help dentists treat and examine patients. Often, the dental assistant greets patients, escorts them to the examining room, prepares them for the examination, and takes x-rays. They may also prepare compounds for the dentist's use and assist with keeping the mouth clear of liquids and debris during examination and treatment. Often, assistants will perform administrative and clerical tasks as well.

Education and Training

Many dental assistant positions are entry level and require little or no experience or education beyond high school. In these instances, skills are learned through extensive on-the-job training. With formal training and successful passage of a written and clinical exam, dental assistants may also perform coronal polishing and apply sealants.

For positions requiring experience, dental assisting programs are offered at trade schools, technical institutes, and community and junior colleges. Individuals who wish to work as dental assistants may prepare by taking high school courses in general science, biology, health, chemistry and office practices. There are several dental assisting schools to attend in Illinois.

Dental assistants should enjoy working with people and possess excellent communication skills, manual dexterity and the ability to follow directions. The American Dental Assistants Association offers additional information on a career in dental assisting.

Potential Earnings

Dental assistants' salaries are highly dependent on their particular responsibilities, the policies of the office in which they work, and the geographic location of the employer. The starting dental assistant should expect an average wage of $10 to $12 per hour, while the hourly rate for a more experienced assistant may earn in the range of $12 to $18 per hour. Some dentist/employers also provide benefits packages for staff, which may include health and disability insurance coverage, dues for membership in professional organizations, allowance for uniforms and paid vacations.

Employment Outlook

With private dental practices getting larger and the number of group practices expanding, opportunities for dental assistants should increase. Population growth, rising personal incomes and public awareness of the importance of oral health indicates a strong future for all careers in the dental field.

The American Dental Association provides a general fact sheet and brochure about dental assisting. You can access their website by clicking here: