Is being a lead dental assistant right for you?

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Dental assisting is a profession that can lead to many opportunities. For many in the field, moving into a lead dental assistant role is a natural step in their career progression. What does the job entail, and how do you become one? This guide shares what you need to know about being a lead dental assistant in your office.

Lead dental assistant duties

At the most basic level, a lead dental assistant supervises a staff of dental assistants. This person still performs many of the same duties as other dental assistants, such as helping dentists with procedures, preparing exam rooms, sterilizing instruments, and communicating with patients.

However, a lead dental assistant takes on additional supervisory or administrative duties to increase production and efficiency around the office. This may include:

  • Training new dental assistants
  • Mentoring dental assistants
  • Providing feedback to dental assistants
  • Managing the dental assistant staff schedule
  • Ordering dental office supplies and maintaining inventory
  • Establishing and upholding infection control protocols

A lead assistant also serves as a key communicator between the dentist or practice administrator and the dental assisting staff. The team lead can answer questions, address concerns, provide input on the team’s performance, and help ensure the dental assistants understand and meet expectations.

What are the benefits of becoming a lead dental assistant?

If you’re an experienced dental assistant ready to further your career, becoming a team lead may be a natural next step.

As a lead dental assistant, you take on a leadership and mentorship role in addition to your normal responsibilities. Not only will the dentist or practice administrator rely on you for managing the dental assisting team and providing excellent patient care, but the other dental assistants will look to you for guidance.

Stepping into a lead dental assistant role can also result in increased pay, especially if you hold a certification from DANB. On average, certificants earn over $2 more per hour than non-certificants, according to DANB’s 2020-2021 Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey.

How to become a lead dental assistant

There aren’t universal requirements for becoming a lead dental assistant. Some practices may look for different levels of experience and education. However, certain qualities and experiences can give you an edge and make you stand out to employers.

Generally, employers look for candidates who are organized, accountable for their work, excellent communicators, compassionate toward patients, and team-first players. Additionally, the proper training, credentials, and educational background can help you prepare for the job, stand out to employers, and ultimately succeed in the role.

Practices often look for at least three to five years of clinical experience in a dental assisting role; however, this may vary. DANB certification may be required for some lead dental assistant positions. But even if it’s not a requirement, it can be hugely beneficial. Getting certified better prepares you for being a lead dental assistant and shows employers that you’re passionate about your career and continual learning.

Relevant certifications and courses for lead dental assistants

Certified Dental Assistant certification

Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate

HR Fundamentals for the Dental Practice