The Dental Assistant Career Path

Pursuing a career as a dental assistant is an excellent path for anyone with a passion for healthcare, but it’s also an ideal career choice for those looking to broaden their skills as a dental assistant. There are many opportunities that allow you to expand your knowledge and expertise in this field, helping you find the exact niche of dentistry that you thrive best in.  

Let’s take a look at some types of dental assistant career paths and where you can expect your career to go.

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Dental Assistant Career 

At the entry-level, dental assistants usually make between $30,000 and $50,000 a year depending on the state. However, dental assistants often choose to expand their expertise to one of the following:

Certified Dental Assistant

After one year of working as an assistant and passing the DANB national test, you can qualify for a Certified Dental Assistant position. This job will entail more responsibilities as well as an increased salary.   

Expanded Function Dental Assistant

After being certified, you can then advance to an Expanded Function Dental Assistant, where you can partake in more specialized procedures. This is considered the highest level in the dental assistant career path. 

Your Career After Dental Assisting

Perhaps you wonder where your career as an assistant can lead. If you wish to advance further or shift your focus after assisting, you can take many other paths in this industry. Here are some of the most popular:

Dental Assistant Instructor 

An instructor will help educate and prepare aspiring students in the dental assisting career path. Instructors will teach students the fundamental requirements needed to succeed in this career through hands-on instruction and general office knowledge.

Dental Hygienist

As a hygienist, you will perform teeth cleanings and help advise patients on their oral health. To become a hygienist, you will need to earn an Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene and gain any other necessary permits or licenses required by your state. 

Hygienists are much more involved with patients, and they must have a wide understanding of dentistry. Many hygienists continue their education and become dentists themselves. 

Business Administrator 

Business administrators in dentistry help with detailed office duties such as scheduling patients’ appointments and keeping records. They also help: 

  • Manage finances
  • File insurance claims
  • Track patient payments

While they do not perform procedures or give oral health advice, they are an integral part of the office and are the first ones to meet and talk to patients. An administrative position is ideal if you want to be more involved with interpersonal communication and record-keeping. 

Dentistry Consultant 

As a consultant, you would oversee a dental practice and provide recommendations on improving the workplace. This might include training doctors and the rest of the staff on new systems and the latest technology. This role would require knowledge in dentistry procedures as well as communication skills. 

Laboratory Technician 

If you want to be more involved with procedures but not perform them, you could pursue the technician avenue. As a laboratory technician, you’ll be responsible for filling prescriptions for prosthetics such as crowns and bridges.


Last but certainly not least, you could become a dentist. This is the most advanced position in the field. Dentists are responsible for helping patients maintain their oral health through diagnoses and examinations. They perform several procedures, including oral surgery, and they prescribe medications or antibiotics if needed. 

Many dentists begin as dental assistants, which grants them much experience. 


As a dental assistant, you have many career options readily available to you. While there are a few options in the line of assisting, there are also many growth opportunities that can lead to advanced careers in dentistry and administrative work. 

If you are considering this career path, we recommend taking time to consider each of these options before rushing into any certification.