What is a traveling dental assistant?

packing a suitcase

Typically, a dental assistant works for a single practice in one office. But the ever-evolving profession has expanded beyond this traditional approach. Traveling dental assistants — who work for different practices in different locations — are increasingly common in the dental industry, especially as practices across the country deal with staff shortages.

What do traveling dental assistants do, and what are the benefits of traveling as opposed to traditional dental assisting? Let’s take a closer look.

What does a traveling dental assistant do?

The title of traveling dental assistant is exactly what it sounds like! In this position, you go to different dental practices — perhaps in other cities or states — to provide support to offices that are short-staffed, whether due to turnover, parental leave, illness, or emergency.

Job duties will depend on the needs of the office you’re working at on a given day. Generally, you should expect to perform typical dental assistant responsibilities. This may include helping the dentist or hygienist during appointments, preparing and sterilizing exam rooms, answering patient questions, taking X-rays, stocking supply rooms, managing patient records, or scheduling and confirming appointments.

How can you become a traveling dental assistant?

Often, a third-party agency will give job assignments to a traveling dental assistant. Assignments may last anywhere from a few days to a few months. Individual dental practices will work with agencies when they have a need for a dental assistant on their staff. Dental practices may also hire traveling dental assistants to work at different offices if they have multiple locations.

The qualifications for working as a traveling dental assistant are often the same as those for a traditional dental assistant. Check your state’s requirements to ensure you have the proper training, education, experience, credentials, or certifications to work as a dental assistant. If you’ll be working in another state as a traveling dental assistant, take note of the requirements there.

What qualities does a traveling dental assistant need?

While there’s a certain skill set every dental assistant needs, some qualities can serve you particularly well as a traveling dental assistant. You need to be organized, as you may need to bring your own uniform or equipment and keep track of your travel expenses. Being a strong listener and communicator is also crucial because you’ll constantly be working with new people who have different personalities and working styles.

Similarly, you need to be flexible and adaptable. The life of a dental assistant is fast-paced when you work at the same office every day. The quick-moving nature of the job goes up a notch when you’re also learning how to navigate a new office, where supplies are located, and how to work with new teammates. Your work schedule may also change suddenly if a practice’s staffing needs shift or an emergency pops up.

What are the benefits of being a traveling dental assistant?

Working as a traveling dental assistant gives you the opportunity to meet people, visit new places, and experience different cultures. Some people find it rewarding to help dental offices in their time of need. Traveling dental assistants may also get the opportunity to visit rural areas and help residents who have limited access to dental care, which can be personally and professionally fulfilling.

Additionally, practices may offer higher pay to dental assistants who are willing to travel. DANB's Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey found that traveling dental assistants earn a median wage of $25.00 per hour. You most likely will get reimbursed for travel expenses. Depending on how far you have to travel, you may be compensated for driving time, gas, meals, and hotel stays.


Looking for a traveling dental assistant position? Check out these resources:

If you work as a traveling dental assistant, we’d love to hear about your experience. Share your story!