5 alternative career paths for adventurous dental assistants

dental assistants helping child patient and in air force uniform

Most dental assistants are content to work their entire career in private practices. But for those assistants who want to travel off the beaten path, the profession offers out-of-the-ordinary career opportunities, too. Working in nontraditional practice settings isn’t for everyone. But dental assistants with the right skills and attitudes may find some of these alternative career options can provide them with rewarding, enriching experiences.

Public health

Dental assistants who work in public health provide services to underserved and marginalized populations in the community. In addition to helping dentists, dental assistants in public health careers educate individuals about proper oral healthcare. That includes delivering presentations to community groups and at health fairs on topics like brushing, nutrition, and tooth decay.

“Being in the community, helping to promote the oral health of my tribal people is incredibly beautiful and very rewarding.” — Teresa M., CDA, CDHC

Armed forces

The military offers dental assistants the opportunity to serve their country and see the world. With U.S. military bases located across the globe, dental assistants in the military provide care to soldiers and their families. They also get the chance to work with dental teams that treat underserved, remote communities around the world.

“The military is not just about fighting wars. We support our communities and families as well as get the training we need as we work together as a team.” — Katharine N., CDA, CRFDA

Dental sales

Some dental assistants put their vast knowledge of the profession to work as dental sales representatives. After all, they have a deep understanding of a dental office’s needs and the dental assistant’s key role in the practice. Dental sales representatives keep dental practices up to date about new supplies, equipment, and technologies. They also train and educate the dental team members on how to use the products effectively.

“My clinical background has given me the experience and knowledge of my customers, most of whom are dental assistants and office managers. Having walked a mile or two in my customer’s shoes has helped me build lasting relationships with many of them.” — Lori P., CDA, CPFDA, CRFDA

State dental boards

Many dental assistants are appointed to state dental boards. In these volunteer roles, dental assistants work with their fellow board members to ensure all dental professionals meet state requirements. These new board positions underscore the important role assistants play in the delivery of quality oral healthcare.

“It’s just amazing to work with so many colleagues striving to set and maintain a standard of care. State dental board members truly do have the patients’ best interest at heart.” — Kara B., CDA


Dental assistants who work in prisons support the right of prisoners to high-quality dental care just like anyone else. They are committed to helping relieve inmates’  pain, improving their oral health, and providing the most pleasant dental experiences possible. While many assistants feel safe due to the strict protocols in place, they know they must always remain vigilant and alert.

“These guys are happy and grateful to be receiving dental treatment. And they treat us with respect. I’m going to give them the best care regardless of what they have done. I’m not here to judge them.” — Donna C.