The Skills Every Successful Dental Assistant Needs

Did you know that there were more than 330,000 people working as dental assistants in the US in 2020?

If you’re considering a career as a dental assistant, you may be wondering what types of skills you need to succeed in the role.

The good news is that you may already have some of these skills, and those you don’t have can be learned with formal education.

Read on as we take a look at some of the key skills every successful dental assistant needs.


Of all the dental assistant skills you’ll need, good administrative skills and organizational skills are key to the role.

Dental assistants will spend a lot of time handling administrative tasks such as maintaining patient records, ensuring that tools and equipment are properly accounted for, and scheduling appointments, and more. In many ways, dental assistants act as office managers within the dental office.

Attention to detail, knowledge of filing systems, and good time management are all key to being a successful dental assistant.


Another key dental assisting skill is being able to communicate effectively. You’ll need to be to communicate clearly and efficiently not only with other health care staff but also with patients and their families.

Good communication doesn’t just mean being able to get your point of view across to others; it also requires you to be a good listener and be able to understand and empathize with what others are saying.

Detail Oriented

When working in any healthcare environment, paying close attention to details is vital.

There will be specific rules and protocols that must be followed when providing dental services, and failure to do so could have serious consequences. Being detail-oriented can also help you notice small details about your patients, such as whether they are in pain, where they are experiencing pain, or whether they are nervous about their appointment.

Attention to detail is also key when keeping patient records or preparing dental equipment.

Customer Service

At the end of the day, a dental practice is a service industry. If you offer poor customer service while providing patient care, patients will take their dental care elsewhere. Also, many people view a trip to the dentist as an anxious task and good customer service can help them have a positive appointment.

That’s why customer service skills are an important part of being a dental assistant. You will be dealing with customers at your practice on a daily basis and must be ready to treat them with courtesy and respect, even when you’re having a tough day.

It can be challenging to maintain good customer service when under pressure, but with good training, you can offer great customer service at all times.

Interpersonal Skills

As a dental assistant, a large part of your day will be spent interacting with others, whether with dentists, dental hygienists, or with patients. Being able to interact with everyone you come into contact with in a professional manner is key to being a successful dental assistant.

You will likely be dealing with patients and colleagues from a wide range of backgrounds and may need to adapt the way you communicate depending on who you are interacting with.


As a dental assistant, you are likely to interact with patients who are in severe pain, or who are nervous about visiting the dentist.

It’s vitally important that you have enough empathy to be able to put yourself in their shoes and treat them in the way you would want to be treated in their situation.

An empathetic and compassionate dental assistant can be a huge help to someone who is feeling nervous about an appointment or procedure. By showing compassion as well as providing them with detailed information about what will happen during their treatment, a dental assistant can completely transform a patient’s feelings about the visit.


Another vital skill in this regard is positivity.

Some patients will feel very negative about their dental visit, whether that is due to being in pain, nervousness, or simply because they are unhappy that they require dental treatment in the first place.

A dental assistant can help turn an unpleasant experience into a positive one by exhibiting positivity themselves. On the flip side, a dental assistant who is overly negative is likely to transmit that emotion to patients and even colleagues.

IT Skills

IT has made dental administration much more efficient, but it means that almost every task is computerized to some extent.

That’s why basic IT skills are vital for any dental assistant. You will likely need to be able to access electronic dental records, make use of scheduling software, respond to emails, and even send out letters using technology.

You don’t need to be a computer genius, but you will need a basic level of technological proficiency.

Multitasking Skills

Being a dental assistant is such an interesting role because no two days are quite the same. You will work on a wide range of different tasks, from assisting during dental procedures to providing infection control, many of which will be occurring simultaneously.

That’s why multitasking skills are key. You need to be able to keep on top of all the work that you are required to perform and accurately prioritize your tasks to ensure that everything gets done in order of importance.

Do You Want to Become a Dental Assistant?

If you’re thinking about a career as a dental assistant, we’re here to help. Whether you already have all of the skills listed above or want to develop them, our Dental Assistant program is designed to provide students with the knowledge and hands-on skills needed for a successful career within the healthcare community.

With our 10-month dental assistant programs, you’ll get the hands-on practice needed to work alongside dentists. You’ll get the opportunity to prepare tray setups and work with dental instruments. You’ll learn the basics of x-ray filming, dental lab techniques, oral healthcare, and other chair-side assisting techniques.

You will also obtain the skills needed to work in an administrative capacity within a dental office, and the program finishes with some real-world work experience at a local dental facility.

Click below to learn more!