Dental assistant


Also known as:

  • Dental chairside assistant
  • Dental nurse

What they do

Dental assistants greet and prepare clients for dental examinations. They are also responsible for sterilising and preparing dental equipment, and providing clerical assistance. Most importantly they assist the dentist while treatments are being carried out. This will include mixing materials for fillings, passing the dentist equipment and recording information as the dentist carries out an examination. Dental assistants occasionally travel to remote areas to provide dental care and assistance to children in regional schools and people in remote areas.

Working conditions

Dental assistants may work with only one other person or as part of a team. They may also work under pressure as some treatments may have to be completed within a certain time frame. Generally, dental assistants work within normal business hours Monday to Friday; however, they may be required to work Saturday mornings.

Tools and technologies

Dental assistants work with a variety of equipment including hand pieces and rotary cutting instruments, diagnostic equipment including x-rays and oral surgical instruments. They are required to use personal protective equipment, which is also given to clients. They also need to know how to perform injections and sterilise equipment.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a dental assistant, you usually need to gain a qualification in dental assisting.

The Certificates III and IV in Dental Assisting are offered at registered training organisations throughout Western Australia.

You can also undertake a traineeship in Dental Assisting (Level 3) or (Level 4). A dental assistant traineeship usually takes 24 to 36 months to complete. A (Level 3) traineeship is available as a school-based traineeship.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.