A dental assistant helps the dentist with patient care. She also has office and laboratory duties. The laboratory duties include sterilizing and disinfecting dental equipment and tools, and laying out the materials needed to treat each patient. Office duties include reviewing and updating patient dental records to ensure they are correct and up to date. Dental assistants help during appointments by giving the dentist needed equipment and materials, suctioning the patient's mouth to keep it dry and instructing the patient on any procedures, post appointment care and general tooth and gum care reminders.
Complete high school or the equivalent. Get a post high school education. Some vocational colleges offer one-year dental assistant certificate programs that are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Other vocational colleges offer certificate programs that are not accredited by the CODA that may be completed in as little as six months. Community and junior colleges offer two-year associate degree programs in dental assisting.
Gain work experience. If obtaining a post high school education is not an option, go to work in a dental office. Obtain an entry-level position as a dental office assistant, dental office clerk or dental office receptionist. Learn dental terminology and how dental equipment and materials are used. Many dental offices will train dental assistants with no post high school education in an on-the-job training program performed in their office. However, many dentists will only train someone already familiar with a dentist office or dental terminology and equipment.
Begin looking for a position. Once educational or work experience is completed, begin your job search for a dental assistant position. Search the classifieds section of the newspaper and Internet job listings for entry-level dental assistant positions. Submit a strong cover letter and resume. If selected for an interview, arrive on time, dressed professionally. Be confident and ready to answer any questions about your qualifications for the position. Be sure to follow up with a thank you letter.