Skip to content

Vital Skills Every Dental Assistant Should Possess

Dental Assistant

Dentistry isn’t just a prestigious profession. It’s also rewarding┬ábecause you consistently help patients to lead higher-quality lives. Taking care of people’s health provides you with a sense of satisfaction as well as job security.

Deciding to become a dental assistant is step one toward a great future, but there are some skills you’ll need to learn before getting a job. Read on to learn some skills that every dental assistant should have under their toolbelt.

Communication Skills

Dental assistants may not be operating or inspecting patients, but they do communicate with them. You need to be able to talk with patients about their oral health. This means understanding X-rays and being able to explain potential problems in simple terms.

You need to be able to listen to patients and answer any questions in an easy-to-understand way. Clarity is key. Listening and understanding what patients need to know is also critical.

In addition to patients, dental assistants also need to communicate with other members of the dental practice staff. You need to be able to interpret information correctly, relay it to other professionals and patients, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand something.

This is one of the most important soft skills for dental assistant professionals. Your job is collaborative, which makes constant communication a priority.


Dental assistants don’t just interact with healthy patients waiting for check-ups. They also talk to those who are in serious pain and need assistance. Children are also frequent visitors, and many of them will be nervous for their first time at the dentist.

You need to have the empathy needed to understand where they’re coming from. It’s important that you treat them in a way that’s fitting to their emotions, especially when they need some compassion. You don’t want to be short or impatient with people, so make sure that you know how to be kind and helpful.

Putting yourself in the patient’s shoes can save everyone a lot of pain.

Following Instructions

Dental assistants are there to help dental practitioners with anything they need. This means listening to their precise requirements and following their instructions to a T. If you’re forgetful or don’t listen well, you’ll make costly errors that waste a lot of time.

A lot happens around dental practices each day. You’ll see dozens of patients within just a few hours. It’s easy to get distracted.

However, staying focused and paying close attention to what the dentist says is critical. This will set you apart from other potential assistants so you have more opportunities within the industry.

Time Management

Dental assistants must accomplish many tasks every day. Errands, patient communication, filing, assessing dental records, and assessing tools and equipment for errors take time. Because of this, dental assistants need to be able to manage their time well.

This means creating and sticking to daily schedules. It also means distributing your time across multiple tasks. You also must be able to ask for help when you need it and delegate tasks to other assistants.

Good Personal Judgment

Following directions is important, but there will be times when the dentist is busy and unable to give directives. You’ll need to make decisions in these cases, sometimes very quickly.

This means educating yourself on how to make choices that benefit patients. Having dental medical knowledge will let you react quickly and confidently no matter what your job throws at you.

Even if the dentist is available, you should feel willing to speak up. Let them know if you see an opportunity to better assist a patient. Even if you don’t have the final say, your opinion is valid and should be heard.

Critical thinking is extremely important here. You need to be able to intuit the patient’s needs as well as the capabilities of the dental practitioner. Be proactive and have all tools and documents ready.

This will ultimately save time and prevent stress.


While meticulous planning and time management are important, sometimes emergency situations will arise. Emergency patients will come in for immediate assistance after dental injuries or oral health-related incidents. You need to be able to adapt to these shifts easily.

Keep an open mind and remember that your schedule needs to be able to change at a moment’s notice. Good administrative skills can make this easier if you know how to complete tasks and access records quickly.

Attention to Detail

Dental assistants need to handle a lot of paperwork. They need administrative skills to do so effectively. One of the most important skills for organization and filing paperwork is attention to detail.

You need to make sure that you can notice potential problems while assessing patient records. All dental equipment pieces need to be accounted for and up to speed. You need to document potential problems and what solutions you need.

You need a thorough understanding of filing systems and the ability to remain detail-oriented while organizing.

Organizational Skills

Dental assistants keep track of which patients have appointments and when. They also document and keep track of patient information. This all needs to be accessible to dental practitioners within minutes, so you need strong organizational skills to keep it well-ordered enough to find and open easily.

Plus, HIPAA guidelines require that all patient information be kept confidential. Everything needs to be filed with a lot of care so that it’s organized in a way that unauthorized users can’t access. Appropriate filing is critical for legal compliance, and disorganization can mean lawsuits and hefty fines.

Become a Dental Assistant Today

Now that you know the top skills that a dental assistant needs, it’s time to begin building a promising career. Healthcare Career College is committed to providing aspiring oral health professionals with the knowledge they need to make a living in California.

Our 11-month program will train you to offer high-quality dental care with all the necessary equipment, procedures, and customer service skills. Get more information about our dental assistant training program and sign up for our course today.