How to become a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants prepare patients for oral examination and assist other dental workers, such as dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists, in providing treatment to the teeth, mouth and gums. Dental assistants also carry out reception and administration duties.

Personal requirements of a Dental Assistant

  • Good with hands
  • Able to concentrate and follow instructions
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Good organisational and time management skills
  • Interested in healthcare work.

Education & Training for a Dental Assistant

To become a dental assistant, you usually have to complete a VET qualification. As subjects and prerequisites can vary between institutions, you should contact your chosen institution for further information. You can also become a dental assistant through a traineeship. Entry requirements may vary, but employers generally require Year 10.

Additional Information

Dental assistants can undergo further training to allow them to take dental radiographs, perform technical procedures or to work in oral health promotion. You may be required to provide evidence of relevant immunisations as a condition of your studies or to work in a dental clinic. You may also need to obtain a National Police Certificate and a Working with Children Check.

Duties & Tasks of a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants:

  • receive patients and prepare them for necessary dental procedures
  • prepare surgery for dental treatment with correct instruments/materials for use as directed by the operator
  • record findings from oral examinations
  • provide instruments and dispense materials during oral examinations or treatments, as directed by the operator
  • provide preand post-operative instructions for patients undergoing general or local anaesthesia
  • clear the patient’s mouth of saliva or dental materials used in the treatment by operating handheld suction or air and water-spraying equipment
  • clean and sterilise instruments used after treatment
  • clean and tidy the surgery, and implement standard decontamination procedures for infection control
  • process, mount and file dental X-rays
  • maintain and restock dental supplies
  • perform routine care and maintenance of dental equipment and instruments
  • make appointments for patients, keep records of patients’ treatments and send out reminders for re-examinations
  • prepare accounts and collect payments
  • answer the telephone and carry out other office duties.

Working conditions for a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants may work with just one person, or as part of a team. They may have to work under pressure as most treatments have to be completed in a minimum amount of time.

Employment Opportunities for a Dental Assistant

Most dental assistants are employed by dentists in private practices or in public clinics. Some dental assistants undertake further study to become dental hygienists. Others gain further administrative experience and qualifications to progress to practice management.

Avg. weekly wage:

$893

Future growth:

Moderate

Employment by state:

ACT ACT 1.4%

NSW NSW 27.3%

NT NT 1%

QLD QLD 32.5%

SA SA 6.3%

TAS TAS 1.9%

VIC VIC 17.3%

WA WA 12.2%

Hours worked:

37.7

Unemployment:

Average unemployment

Gender split:

Male 1.6%

Female 98.4%

Education level:

Not completed Year 12: 4%

Highest qualification is secondary school: 45.5%

Highest qualification is a Certificate 3 or 4: 29.9%

Highest qualification is a Diploma or Advanced Diploma: 10.3%

Highest qualification is a Bachelor degree: 10.3%

Age brackets:

15-19 - 6.3%

20-24 - 19.9%

25-34 - 38.9%

35-44 - 13.1%

45-54 - 14%

55-59 - 4.9%

60-64 - 0%

65 and Over - 2.8%

*The data above is sourced from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website.

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