Dental Assistant Job Outlook California

Are you passionate about serving your community and helping people? Does the thought of providing dental services and bringing smiles to people’s faces every day excite you? Then an exciting career as a dental assistant could be your true calling. Apart from being kind-hearted and great human beings, dental assistants are great listeners and have excellent organization and interpersonal skills.

Dental assistants are truly multi-talented professionals. From taking x-ray images to patient appointment scheduling and assisting the dentists during clinical procedures – dental assistants perform various duties. However, dental assistants are different from dental hygienists – the primary difference is that the hygienists require lesser supervision and have to perform more clinical tasks.

If you wish to know more about the dental profession, becoming a dental assistant is an excellent career-starting point. This guide offers everything you need to know about kick-starting your career with a dental assisting program.

Job outlook

Like all other health-related occupations, the job outlook for dental assistants has always remained bright. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates an 11% increase in dental assistants’ employability from 2018 to 2028. occupations1, much faster than any other occupation. So, the future is bright for dental professionals.

Employability in any industry or profession is driven by need. According to the BLS, the dental industry will witness enormous expansion in two areas in the future. Firstly, continued research and development (R&D) will lead to newer dental treatment avenues and technology that will require more dental professionals to fulfill the need. Secondly, considering the improvement in average life expectancy worldwide, older people now live longer and retain more natural teeth. As a result, they require regular dental care and monitoring. Hence, they need to hire more dental professionals worldwide – including dental assistants.

The dental assisting career also offers additional career development opportunities. While serving humanity, you can also choose to continue your education to become a dental hygienist or assistant.

Dental Assistant Salary

According to the statistics provided by the BLS for May 2019, the median annual dental assistant’s salary in the U.S. was $40,080, where the top 10% earners made more than $54,930 a year. The highest salaries for dental assistants were offered in government settings, dentists’ and physicians’ offices.

California offers competitive salaries for dental assistants. Statistics from the BLS show that the average annual income of dental assistants in California was $43,280 in May 2019 – slightly higher than the national mean annual wage of $41,170 for the same year.

Additionally, BLS notes the following four highest-paying localities in California for dental assistants in May 2019:

Santa Rosa, CA – $56,010

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA – $52,380

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA – $51,510

Napa, CA – $50,420

Career Benefits

In addition to being vital members of the dental team, dental assistants also enjoy many career benefits. According to the American Dental Association, dental assistants have the following career perks and advantages:

Variety: the dental industry offers versatile and exciting job environments, opportunities, and roles for dental assistants.

Flexibility: Dental assistants are free to pursue either a full-time career, or they can opt for a part-time job while continuing their studies.

Top-notch working conditions: Dental assistants work in a clean, pleasant, people-oriented, and comfortable environment.

Personal satisfaction: Perhaps, the biggest perk of being a dental assistant is the personal satisfaction and respect one gains from helping patients.

What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Dental assistants help the dentist in a variety of clinical and administrative tasks. Some of their duties typically include, but are not limited to the following:

Ensure the patients are comfortable and relaxed before their appointment

Prepare the patients and the operatory area before every dental appointment

disinfect/sterilize dental instruments and ensure their availability to the dentist during procedures

Patient education and counseling regarding oral hygiene best practices

Take x-rays, perform various laboratory-related tasks.

Dental patient record maintenance

Appointment scheduling

Assisting patients regarding matters of bill payments and insurance

Assisting the dentist during a procedure by passing equipment like suction hoses, syringes, probes, matrix bands, etc. While dental assistants work closely with the dentist to prepare and execute dental procedures, they are not allowed to perform dental procedures; that is the dentist’s role.

What is a Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant Like?

A typical day in a dental assistant’s life includes helping patients and working closely with dentists, dental hygienists, and patients. Many dental assistants work full-time, while others may also work evenings or weekends – or part-time – depending on the timings and capacity of the dental office they work for.

Perhaps, the most critical role dental assistants provide is providing uninterrupted chair-side support to the dentists and patients. This typically requires tasks such as ensuring sanitization and availability of instruments and equipment based on the procedure that the dentist has planned. Dental assistants are allowed to prepare impression materials for permanent or temporary crowns – which the dentists use for making dental impressions.

Dental assistants are also tasked with documenting patients’ medical and dental histories and recording blood pressure and patients’ pulse before they see the dentist. Additionally, dental assistants offer to counsel and educate patients regarding tooth-friendly habits, and also ensure that patients remain comfortable before, during, and after their treatment.

Find Your Path as a Dental Assistant

California Dental Institute is committed to providing hands-on training on the skills that will be needed in dental assisting.

Skills for Dental Assistants

Dental assistants are expected to possess a combination of technical/clinical and soft skills. Our program has been designed to inculcate these technical skills in our students through a blend of classroom knowledge and hands-on training. Dental assistants typically require the following technical/clinical skills::

Dental equipment operation and software usage

Making dental impressions

X-ray processing and imaging


Application of sealants, fluoride gels, and topical anesthetics

Infection control and procedures

According to the BLS, some essential qualities of dental assistants include7:

Detail orientedness

Precision and dexterity

Great interpersonal skills

Good listener

Administrative skills

Become a Dental Assistant in California

To become a dental assistant in California, one needs formal education and/or training and licensure. The following steps are required 8 in becoming a registered dental assistant (RDA), duly licensed by the Dental Board of California:

Obtaining formal education or vocational training through one of the following:

  • Graduate from a Board-approved RDA program.
  • Minimum 15 months of dental assistant work experience under a US licensed dentist.
  • Completion of a 4-month program approved by the California Department of Education plus 11 months’ work experience under a licensed US dentist.
  • Complete Board-approved courses in radiation safety coronal polishing.
  • Completing a Board-approved course in the Dental Practice Act within five years of application,
  • Complete an eight-hour, Board-approved course in infection control course within five years of application,
  • Complete a basic life support course approved by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association.
  • Obtain clearance from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) and
  • Clear the RDA General and Law and Ethics theory exam.

While dental assistants can learn on-the-job, graduating from a certified program is beneficial for individuals aspiring to become licensed dental assistants. Another distinct advantage of such courses is that they typically include the Board-required courses on coronal polishing, infection control, radiation safety, and basic life support.

In California, if you wish to work as an unlicensed dental assistant, you are required to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Board-approved course completion in the California Dental Practice Act
  • Board-approved course in infection control
  • Basic life support course accepted by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

Do You Need to be Certified to work as a Dental Assistant?

You are not required to be certified to work as a dental assistant. However, certification helps you gain additional technical skills that will give a boost and advancement to your career. Dental assistants who want to gain certification mostly take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination from the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). As per DANB’s 2018-2019 Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey, those having obtained a CDA certificate earned $2 more per hour than those without certification9.

As per the DANB, the CDA exam comprises of three parts: General Chairside Assisting (GC), Infection Control (ICE), and Radiation Health and Safety (RHS)9. For those who wish to advance their skills and certifications, DANB also offers advanced certifications: the Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA) certification and the Certified Restorative Functions Dental Assistant (CRFDA) certification.

Kickstart Your Career as a Dental Assistant

A small class size, individual attention, and hands-on training offer you the perfect environment to learn the skills you need.

What to Look for in a good Dental Assisting Program ?

Choosing a dental assisting program is a decision that must not be taken lightly. A top-notch dental assisting program should provide a carefully tailored blend of classroom knowledge and hands-on training to prepare you for an exciting career in dental assisting. When choosing a dental assisting program, you must consider the following:

Hands-on training: dental assisting is all about practical work. Make sure you select a program that offers clinical observation and hands-on experience.

Location: location is a critical factor to consider when choosing an on-campus dental assistant program. You must think about how far you’re willing to commute and explore programs in your area – including the time and cost involved.

Duration: Your program’s duration depends on whether you wish to pursue an associate degree or certificate. Generally, an associate degree takes longer than a dental assisting certificate.

Cost: consider the fees you pay for a dental assisting program as an investment. Before selecting a program, consider how much you can spend on this program, and then choose accordingly. You should also check for available scholarships, financial aid, or flexible payment plans offered by each institute.

Choosing between a Dental Assisting Associate’s Degree or Certificate

Choosing whether to pursue a dental assisting associate’s degree or certificate depends on your career goals and future aspirations. An associate’s degree in a dental assisting program potentially offers better earning potential and career growth opportunities, as it is easier to transfer your credits from an associate degree to a bachelor’s program. However, a dental assisting certificate program is shorter and more cost-effective when it comes to the cost and time investment.

If you have plans to start your career as a dental assistant in the future, pursuing a certificate is an excellent way of setting yourself apart from other entry-level applicants. Alternatively, If you wish to use your dental assistant education as a stepping stone to becoming a dental hygienist or a dentist, associate degree programs may be a better option for you.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Dental Assistant?

Depending on the career path you’re pursuing, becoming a dental assistant may take anywhere from nine months to two years. Certificate programs generally take nine to eleven months, while associate degree programs take about twenty-four months.

What courses will I need to take in a dental assisting program?

The dental assisting program at California Dental Institute has been tailored to fulfill national and state-specific certification requirements. Your dental assisting classes to cover the following topics:

Dental anatomy

Dental materials and equipment

Radiation safety protocols

Cross-infection prevention and control

CPR/ basic life support

Dental law and ethics

Coronal polishing

Dental software usage and handling

Patient care and management

Dental office/ clinic management

What to Look for in a Dental Assisting Program

Many dentists generally hire two or more dental assistants for their practices to handle the workload, as per the ADA10. According to the ADA, dental assistants can also find employment opportunities in various settings, such as solo and group practices, specialty orthodontic, pedodontic, or implant dental practices, public health dentistry, hospital dental practice, dental school clinics, dental insurance companies, technical or vocational schools, and dental equipment and material sales.

Fortunately, currently, there are many dental assisting jobs available in California. According to the BLS, California boasts the highest employment level of dental assistants10. Additionally, per the BLS, the state of California offers the third “highest concentration of jobs and location quotients” among all US states.

According to IBISWorld’s 2018 market report, some major dental companies in California include11 :

California Dental Group

Hospitality Dental & Orthodontics

Western Dental & Orthodontics

West Coast Dental and Orthodontics

Launch a Career in Dental Assisting With California Dental Institute

Are you interested in pursuing a dental assistant career? California Dental Institute’s Dental Assisting program offers the perfect combination of training in patient care and office and laboratory administrative duties. With our dental assistant program, you wil earn certifications in Dental Radiation Safety, CPR, Infection Control, and Dental Law and Ethics. After completing coronal polish and pit and fissure sealants, our students can undertake the Dental Board of California Examination for state licensure. the California Dental Institute faculty prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their desired specializations and individual majors. The College does not guarantee the successful clearance of these exams or subsequent certification/ licensure due to completing the program.

California Dental Institute’s Dental Assisting Students and Faculty

California Dental Institute is committed to ensuring the personal, academic, and professional success of its students. California Dental Institute takes pride in having a credentialed faculty that brings years of knowledge and experience to the classroom and clinics. Our faculty is passionate about helping you succeed and prosper. Whether you’re preparing for your first job or making a career switch, there’s a place for you at California Dental Institute.

California Dental Institute’s students range from fresh high school graduates to people looking for a career change later in their lives. We take pride in making sure the staff knows your story to offer the individual help and attention that is needed for your success.