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As a Dental Assistant, there are many opportunities for career and professional growth – whether its broadening your responsibilities during patient care or shifting focus entirely. Keep reading to learn 10 amazing career paths dental assistants can pursue to advance their specialization and expertise.

Did you know: Dental Assisting is one of the fastest growing in-demand careers!

1. Certified Dental Assistant

Many Dental Assistants go on to earn Dental Assistant certifications through the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Holding a DANB certification not only gives you a professional edge over other dental assistants, DANB certificants can often earn over $2 more per hour than non-certified Dental Assistants. Other benefits of becoming certified include:
  • Commitment to lifelong learning
  • Recognition
  • Higher level of competency & credibility
  • Flexibility to work in states requiring a DANB certification
  • Personal pride

2. Expanded Function Dental Assistant

In addition to becoming a Certified Dental Assistant, there are several additional certifications you can (and in some cases are required to) earn, allowing you to perform expanded Dental Assisting functions.
  • Washington State Restorative (WARE) exam – Dental Assistants must pass the WARE exam to legally operate dental x-ray equipment and perform dental radiographic procedures in Washington State
  • Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary – In Washington State, Dental Assistants must be licensed to work as an Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary. With this certification, you will be qualified to perform coronal polishing, fluoride treatments, radiographs, sealants, place and carve restorations, and take final impressions (under supervision).
Additional DANB expanded functions certifications include:
  • Certified Orthodontic Assistant – In states requiring a certification to assist in an orthodontic setting, this certificate qualifies you to work with patients who need some type of dental appliance, like braces, retainers, or mouthguards
  • Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant – In states requiring a certification to assist with preventive functions, this certificate qualifies you to assist with coronal polishing, sealants, topical fluoride, and topical anesthetic
  • Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant – In states requiring a certification to assist with restorative functions, this certification qualifies you to assist with temporaries, impressions, sealants, isolation, and other restorative functions
Other speciality areas Dental Assistants can pursue include:
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgery
  • Endodontics
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Pediatric dentistry

3. Dental Anesthesia Assistant

In Washington State, every Dental Assistant who monitors patients receiving deep sedation or general anesthesia must receive a minimum of 14 hours of documented training. However, some Dental Assistants want to further their qualifications by becoming a Dental Anesthesia Assistant. As a Dental Anesthesia Assistant, you may perform the following procedures under close or direct supervision:
  • Initiate and discontinue intravenous line for patients
  • Adjust the rate of intravenous fluids
  • Draw up and prepare medications
  • Deliver mediations into an intravenous line (upon verbal command)
  • Adjust the rate of intravenous fluids
  • Adjust an electronic device to provide medications
  • Administer emergency medications

4. Dental Laboratory Technician

Many Dental Assistants interested in pursuing a career outside of the patient room become Dental Laboratory Technicians. As a Dental Lab Tech, your role will be to fill orders from dentists for a variety of dental appliances. Most Lab Techs specialize in one of 5 areas:
  1. Orthodontic appliances
  2. Crowns & bridges
  3. Complete dentures
  4. Partial dentures
  5. Ceramics
This role involves working with sophisticated equipment and a broad range of materials to make tooth replacements that look realistic and are functional.

5. Dental Hygienist

It’s not uncommon for Dental Assistants to become so passionate about dentistry that they go on to become a Dental Hygienist. A Dental Hygienist provides preventive oral care to patients, including examinations, x-rays, and dental cleanings. To become a Dental Hygienist, you must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school and pass a written and clinical exam to receive a state license.  

Understanding the Difference between a Dental Assistant, Dental Lab Tech, and Dental Assistant

6. Dental Office Manager

For those who enjoy the dentist office environment and want to step up into a leadership role, transitioning to a dental office management role is a great option. Since extensive on-the-job training and dental knowledge is typically required for this position, former Dental Assistants make excellent candidates. In this role, you’ll typically handle the practice’s HR duties, employee management, accounting, and often marketing responsibilities. This position requires someone who’s highly organized, detail-oriented, and has a solid understanding of how a dental office operates.  

7. Dental Sales Representative

Some dental offices staff a Dental Sales Representative to handle marketing and sales functions of the office. A Dental Sales Representative will search for new clients and implement new sales and marketing strategies, which may include attending trade shows or conferences. They may also train and educate dental team members on how to use new products correctly. In addition to having sales and marketing instincts or experience, this individual also needs to be able to effectively explain dental care best practices, demonstrate dental products use, and understand new dental equipment and technologies.  

8. Medical Billing/Coding Specialist

If you enjoy the insurance and accounting side of dentistry, expanding your career to the medical billing and coding field is a great option. Medical Billing and Coding professionals prepare invoices, code medical produces, and send bills to patients. This position requires a solid understanding of medical terminology and billing procedures, so a Dental Assisting background is helpful. Depending on the specific position, you may or may not need to obtain a certification or further training to qualify for this type of role.  

9. Public Health Worker

If you have a heart for the underserved or marginalized populations of the community, using your dental skills for a career in public health might be the perfect next step. As a Dental Assistant in the public health sector, you may work in a variety of settings, including:
  • Prisons
  • Assisted living facilities and retirement homes
  • Shelters
  • Schools
  • Government buildings

10. Educator

For those who love sharing their passion for Dental Assisting with others, a career teaching Dental Assisting is an excellent goal. In order to teach at an accredited assisting program, you’ll need to have graduated from an accredited Dental Assisting program and have on-the-job experienced. As a Dental Assisting instructor, you’ll help the school program director create coursework, provide instruction, create reports, and maintain records.  

Ready to see where dental assisting can take you? It all starts here

Becoming a Dental Assistant is the first step toward taking control of your future with a flexible, high-paying, and rewarding career.

Since 2008. Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School has been Washington State’s trusted Dental Assisting school. We’ve helped hundreds of students in the Camas and Vancouver area launch their Dental Assisting careers.

Call us today at (360) 818-7273 to find out for yourself why our students love their experience at Pacific Northwest Dental Assisting School.