Dental Assistant

After job-shadowing a dentist and a periodontist, I became interested in their work so I decided to job-shadow a dental assistant. A dental assistant basically helps out the dentist or periodontist during surgery, preps the surgery, and cleans up. I job-shadowed an assistant who helps the dentist out during fillings and other procedures throughout the day. Although this job seems fairly straightforward, there is a lot of thought that she must put into it. Although surgery seems complex and technical, I was really surprised at how complex the cleanup was also. For example, everything in the operating room has to be wiped off counter-clockwise to make sure you don’t miss anything. Then all the equipment is taken to the sterile room and is first hand-washed, which was gross since blood was all over the utensils. After hand washing, the equipment is placed in a cleaning bath for 5-10 minutes and then a very complicated sterilizing machine for another 10 minutes. After it is all clean, she has to prep for the next surgery by taking out the right equipment and prepping the patient. When prepping a patient, she may be taking x-rays or just talking to the patient to make them feel relaxed and comfortable before the dentist comes in.

Although it seems repetitive, it’s a good job since you are pretty well doing dentistry without spending all the years in school, plus you get to operate the suctioning device, which must be fun.  

A Typical Day

A dental assistant sets up surgeries, makes sure the patient is comfortable, helps the dentist during a procedure, and cleans up instruments multiple times a day.

Top 3 Perks

1) Part-time work is available 

2) Interacting with co-workers 

3) Preventing patients’ pain by teaching them proper dental techniques is rewarding 

Job Culture

Indoors, cleaning dental equipment, making patients feel relaxed, taking x-rays, organizing instruments, operating equipment.


1) Complete high school 

2) Complete a 1-year dental assistant program at a college 

Skills Needed

Organization, people skills, near vision, dexterous.

The Field

- The dentistry industry increasingly uses computers today, so dental assistants will have to learn computer skills. 

- Most dental assistants move on to become dental hygienists or denturists.