Careers in Dental
Careers in Dentistry - Becoming a Dental Assistant
How to Become a Dental Assistant
The fact that health insurance plans now cover dental treatments, along with the increasingly common understanding that oral health is more than just aesthetics, mean we’ve seen huge numbers of dental clinics popping up everywhere. Nowadays it is not entirely uncommon for oral health departments to be added to large medical centres and general health clinics.
This trend presents great opportunities for those wanting to pursue a Dental Assistant career. Dental clinics, just like any health practice, need qualified dental practitioners and efficient administrative and assistance personnel, so if you’re patient, organised and good at communicating as well as taking direction, a Dental Assistant career could be your ideal purpose.
Dentists continue to choose to hire assistants to conduct routine tasks, as this saves them valuable time, enabling them to see more patients and thus focus their efforts on more complicated and complex cases. More and more Dental Assistants will be needed as dental practices and clinics grow, and those with formal qualifications and previous experience will stand out.
If you believe this might be a good option for you, read on and discover exactly what the daily activities of a Dental Assistant are, learn more about possible career options, and start planning your pathway to professional success.
What do Dental Assistants do?
Dental Assistants are a crucial part of any dental practice and clinic. Not only do they provide chairside assistance to dentists, they’re also responsible for ensuring patients are comfortable and cared for by providing support during dental procedures. Additionally, Dental Assistants carry out oral hygiene tasks. They are often responsible for preparing, producing and developing dental images prescribed by dentists, and educating patients and communities on good oral health care practices. They may also perform laboratory tests under the supervision of a Dentist.
It’s common for dental assistants to be the ones that perform certain administrative duties, especially at smaller clinics with a small team of staff. A Dental Assistant’s admin tasks might include keeping patient records, making appointments, processing billings and invoices, and receiving payments.
Daily Duties for a Dental Assistant
Dental Assistant perform a range of duties that often depend on the dental practice or clinic. Nevertheless, the below activities usually form part of their role and are carried out daily:
- Answering the phone
- Booking and confirming appointments
- Sterilising instruments and maintaining dental hygiene
- Preparing patients and work areas
- Ensuring patients are comfortable
- Helping dentists – handing them instruments, keeping patient’s mouth dry with suction hose
- Processing x-rays and laboratory tasks under Dentist supervision
- Instructing patients on oral hygiene practices
- Keeping comprehensive records of patients’ information and treatments
- Processing billings and payments.
Important Skills for Dental Assistants
While obtaining a qualification is very important if you want to pursue a Dental Assistant career, there are some qualities, skills and traits that are equally important and can make all the difference in helping you become a dentist assistant and be successful in the field once you start your journey in the workforce.
Dexterity - As you’ll be working with precise tools and instruments, on a relatively small part of people’s bodies including teeth, it’s important that you’re good at working with your hands. Shaky hands are a no-go.
Interpersonal Skills - Dental Assistants have to communicate and liaise not only with dentists but also with patients and other staff. It’s important you can communicate well both in person and over the phone.
Listening Skills - As an assistant, you need to be able to listen and take direction well. It’s also great if you’re aware of what’s happening and are able to predict the next commands – use your initiative.
Attention To Detail - You need to follow important procedures such as infection control, which requires you to know and remember exactly what you have to do. If the dentist tells you a certain procedure will be required, you should be able to remember all the necessary tools and products, and get everything ready to save time.
Organisation - It’s absolutely crucial that Dental Assistants are naturally organised people. Not only will you need to organise appointments, dental records and payments, but you also need to know where all the tools and instruments are kept, and how to process, clean and store them.
Dental Assistant Requirements
If you want a Dental Assistant career, professional requirements vary and usually include different levels of qualifications and training including HLT35021 Certificate III in Dental Assisting and HLT45021 Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (Dental Radiography) for those still in the early years of their career. It’s also common for dentists to conduct further or continuous training with their Dental Assistants to maximize their professional development. Highly trained assistants enable dentists to save time and focus on cases and patients they deem more complex and worthy.
For those wishing to advance with a Dental Assistant and Practice Administration career, a good option is to combine Dental Assistant training with practice management studies.
Where and How Can I Attend Dental Assistant School?
All the best Dental Assistant schools in Australia should offer nationally recognised courses, with options to either study to become a Dental Assistant online or enrol in mixed courses. Great training institutions should also offer students placement opportunities along with a superior training and learning support team.
Foundation Education is a respected Dental Assistant school, offering different levels and qualification options to those who dream of a job as a Dental Assistant.
What to Expect from a Career in Dental Health
Dental is a growing industry in Australia and employment opportunities will continue to grow. There are many casual and part-time opportunities, so it can be perfect if you’re after a flexible work schedule. For more industry insights and career specifics, see below.
If you think a career as a Dental Assistant or Practice Manager is the right option for you, Foundation Education offers one of the best dental assistant schools for you to complete an online course. Our flexible options fit in with your schedule, so you can study whenever and wherever you choose to. We take pride in providing our students with a top-quality support system, involving real people with real industry experience ready to help you any time. Our courses also have a professional placement component, which will help you become a standout applicant when you’re applying for jobs, as you’ll not only have a nationally recognised qualification but also some highly valuable professional experience.
If you’re ready to take your next step in a Dental Assistant career, take a look at your career options, some industry insights, and the specific courses we offer at Foundation Education.
Oral Health and Dental Assistants: Industry insights
As dental practices grow and clinics expand, there’s an increasing demand for Dental Assistants, Oral Hygienists and Dental Radiographers. As the oral health industry grows steadily, we’ll see a growth of new Dental Assistants of up to 19,600 by the end of 2025. Candidates who are formally qualified and have some professional experience will be the most likely to gain employment.
Dental Assistants: Profession prospects
Just as the overall health sector is growing, we can expect average growth in job openings and employment opportunity at the very least. Dental Assistants earn an average full-time wage of $890 per week. Job opportunities are found in most abundance in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
What Dental Career Do You Want to Follow?
Whether you’d like to specialise in a specific area of dentistry, such as radiography, or you’d rather combine some clinical and administrative skills to maximise your employment opportunities, Foundation Education can help you. If you’re only just entering the workforce, looking to upskill or are re-entering the job market after some time away, there will be opportunities for the best candidates.
Supporting dental roles are usually flexible jobs and include casual, part-time and full-time schedules. Depending on your lifestyle and needs, roles available to you may include:
- Dental Assistant
- Dental Radiographer
- Oral Health Advisor
- Practice Manager
Your Dental Assistant Career Starts Here
Career Option 1: Dental Assistant
A Dental Assistant is a critical member of the team at any dental clinic. They save time assisting dentists by preparing procedures and performing routine tasks with patients.
The various duties of a Dental Assistant include:
- Ensuring patient care and comfort while in the surgery
- Providing chairside assistance to dentists in a series of dental procedures, including keeping patients’ mouths dry with the suction hose, and preparing tools and instruments for passing to the dentist.
- Cleaning and disinfecting instruments and the consultation room, as a means of minimising and controlling infections.
- A series of admin tasks, including scheduling and confirming appointments, keeping patient records and processing payments.
The below Dental Assistant course can help you achieve the necessary level of qualification to perform this role:
HLT35021 Certificate III in Dental Assisting. Alternatively, you can combine your Certificate course with a HLT57715 Diploma of Practice Management and broaden your job opportunities and earning potential.
Career Option 2: Oral Health Advisor
Apart from undertaking standard dental assistance duties, which are listed above, as a specialised Oral Health Advisor you’re also responsible for educating and advising patients and the community on good oral health techniques. These tasks usually take place during appointments; however, you can also conduct your own community programs and advise both children and adults on good oral care.
Career Option 3: Dental Radiographer
As a Dental Radiographer, you’ll still be responsible for dental assisting tasks, such as helping dentists during procedures, ensuring patient care and comfort, and administration duties; however, having specialised in radiography, your duties will also include preparing, producing and developing prescribed radiographic dental images. Once qualified, you may find a job either at a dental practice or clinic, or at a diagnostic practice.
HLT45021 Certificate IV in Dental Assisting (Dental Radiography) can help you achieve the necessary level of qualification to perform this role.
Find out more about careers in dentistry and the benefits you'll receive by studying with Foundation Education at the Career Pathways hub.