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Dental Assistant Career Ladder


One of the great things about pursuing a career as a dental assistant is knowing there’s always room for greater pay and added responsibilities. Below are some of the most common professions in dentistry that can all stem from a career as a dental assistant.

  • Expanded Function Dental Assistant (EFDA): This is the highest level of dental assistant positions. State-licensed EFDAs are allowed to do fillings and sealants. You must be a certified dental assistant with two years of full-time dental assistant employment to be eligible. According to Payscale.com, EFDAs earn, on average, $19.74 per hour (approximately $39,807 per year), depending on experience, the location, and industry.

  • Dental Assistant Instructor: Instructors educate students entering the industry. Teach courses such as radiology, how to use the dental tools, how to interact with patients, keeping dental records, and hands-on instruction. Dental assistant experience is required if you want to be a dental assistant instructor. According to Payscale.com, the average pay for a dental assistant instructor is $20.66 per hour (approximately $44,721 per year).

  • Dental Office Manager: In this role, you will schedule appointments and maintain the office financing and record-keeping. You will also take care of insurance on the patient level, as well as filing insurance claims. You will need to know how to build relationships with patients to keep them coming back. While the dental office manager doesn’t need to be a dental assistant, dentists like the experience. According to Payscale.com, dental office managers earn $22.65 per hour (approximately $50,950 per year) on average, depending on experience and other determining factors.

  • Dental Sales Representative: You'll need to be familiar with sales techniques. You should also know dental terminology and types of equipment that are used in a dental office setting and understand the needs of dental offices. Dental sales reps make sure the dental offices that are in their territory have their supplies and technology to keep them up to date. You'll work very closely with the office staff and the dentist to determine what their needs are. According to Salary.com, the average annual salary for a dental sales rep is $45,661 per year. 

  • Dental Hygienist: If you are pursuing a career as a dental hygienist, becoming a dental assistant is a great start. It’s a hands-on educational experience unlike any other. Many who start as assistants move on to become hygienists; this is a natural career progression. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median annual pay for a full-time dental hygienist is $77,230 (bls.gov).

  • Dental Consultant: When a practice isn't growing, dental consultants are called in to work alongside a dentist and office staff to make recommendations on how to improve operations. The dental consultant will also train the dentist and staff on the new best practices for the office. A good dental consultant needs to be familiar with dentist offices and their procedures; you will need to know dental terminology; you should understand the dynamics of the office you are working with; and you should be an excellent communicator. According to Glassdoor.com, the average pay for dental consultants is $77,368 per year.

  • Dentist: Some dental assistants continue on through the educational path to become a dentist. Dentists will diagnose, treat, and provide oral care to patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary among dentists in 2019 was $178,260 (bls.gov).

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