Why I became a dental assistant

hands holding cut out strand of paper hearts

Dental assistants are passionate about their profession. They can’t imagine doing anything else as a career. But how did they get to where they are? Some always knew from an early age they wanted to become dental assistants. Others took a more circuitous route to the profession. We spoke to several assistants about what drew them to dental assisting.

Unforgettable dental experiences

Many dental assistants trace their interest in the profession to their dental visits when they were children or teenagers. Some remember fondly how their dental assistants cared for them when they were afraid. Others were impressed with the results of their treatment. Those experiences left impressions that they have never forgotten.

“I had a very large diastema that was corrected with ortho and was amazed at how much better I felt about myself. So that steered my decision to be a dental assistant.” — Betsy C.

Family connections

For some dental assistants, dentistry runs in the family. Some became dental assistants because they wanted to work with their spouses, who are dentists. Other dental assistants were inspired to enter the field after seeing their parents or other family members work as dentists, assistants or hygienists. So it was inevitable that they would pursue dental careers.

“My father was a certified dental tech. So I learned a lot about dental terminology and basics from him. I started out part-time after school working as an assistant and loved working with patients. After college, I became an ortho assistant and then passed the DANB CDA exam. Love it, even after 34 years!” — Jeanne L., CDA

Fascination with teeth

Many dental assistants say they knew they were destined for this profession because of one telltale sign: They can’t help but notice people’s teeth first. And they want to help everyone achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.

“I always had an obsession with people's smiles! It is the first thing you see (or don't see) when looking at a person. I loved the thought of helping people smile again.” — Jennifer W., CDA

On the way to another career

Some dental assistants entered the field while they were preparing to attend college or another healthcare program like nursing or dental hygiene school. They worked as on-the-job-trained dental assistants to pay for their education. Once they started, they realized they enjoyed dental assisting. They have never looked back.

“I was actually in college for accounting when I got my first dental job as a receptionist. Then I became curious about what an MOD filling was. Once I started assisting, I loved it.” — Linda W.

Second act

Many people turn to dental assisting later in their lives. Some want a career change. Others seek it out because it’s a fulfilling career with flexible schedules and good pay that allows them to spend time with their families.

“Dental assisting allows me to work and still be home with my children on weekends, holidays and evenings. If I weren't a dental assistant, I’d be a bored stay-at-home mom.” — Nakia L., CDA

Read more: 3 reasons dental assistants love their jobs