The dental assistant performs duties such as patient care, taking x-rays, recordkeeping, and scheduling appointments. In order to prep patients for a procedure, they need to have knowledge of the teeth. If they assist the dentist with a procedure, they help by providing the tools needed to complete the procedure in question. Before the procedure, they sterilize the dental instruments.

Patients also look to them for instruction about proper oral hygiene. In addition, they may need to make appointments, file, or complete billing as well. Dental assistants are usually the one to greet patients as they enter the practice with a warm, friendly smile.

Depending upon the laws in the state where the dental assistant is employed, some are allowed to perform dental procedures such as polishing, applying sealant, fluoride application or applying topical anesthetic to numb the patient for a procedure. Dentists will continually need dental assistants to complete routine tasks so they can see more patients and handle the more complex procedures. There are many skills required to make a good dental assistant. Let’s examine some of the top skills that make a professional dental assistant.

Interpersonal Skills

Dental assistants work with dentists as well as patients. They must know how to interact with the patients when they are in pain and be sensitive to their needs. Also, they must have skills in resolving conflict through good communication and listening. They work with others and are team players. They must be able to make decisions that solve problems.

Listening Skills

Dental Assistants need to be adept at listening to their patients and their dental team. They must be able to follow directions from the dentist and dental hygienist. Moreover, they are comfortable maintaining eye contact with the patients. They must not judge the dentist nor the patient while in conversation with them. In order to be effective at listening, they need to be able to offer feedback to support and better understand what the dentist, hygienist or patient is saying to them.


Following certain rules and protocols is necessary to be a professional dental assistant. Infection control procedures must be followed. They must know the procedures they are allowed to do in the state where they work. They seek to correct issues and handle tasks on a day-to-day basis. Dental assistants must have patience in order to explore a problem and be able to solve it efficiently.


It is very important for a dental assistant to be able to work with their hands. They work in tight spaces in a very small part of the body. The instruments they use are very precise. They must have good hand, finger and eye coordination to complete their daily tasks.

Professional Appearance

It is extremely important for the dental assistant to be in clean scrubs and shoes, due to being the first person in direct contact with the patient. This gives the patient assurance of a clean and tidy dental practice. Good hygiene is important, due to the close proximity of patients, dentists and hygienists. They must consider the opinions of the patients as they enter the dental practice and what they would like to see if entering a dental office as a patient. Wearing protective items like masks, safety glasses and gloves is paramount to protect the patient, as well as themselves, from infection.

Organizational Skills

A dental assistant must be very organized. They are typically charged with having the correct tools in place for the dentist or dental hygienist to use when performing a procedure. This includes physical, mental and time management. Physical organization skills are used when keeping the dental workspace clutter-free and organized. Mental organization comes into play when the dental assistant has to multi-task. Time management skills are important due to the flow of patients in and out of the office on a daily basis. The dental assistant keeps patients and examination areas clean and ready for the next patient. This helps the dentist to move smoothly throughout the day.

Basic Computer Knowledge

The dental assistant must be comfortable with computer applications, Microsoft Office Suite, keyboarding and the ten-key calculator to perform the basic duties in a dental office. In order to be in charge of patient files, insurance claims, and notations, they must have basic computer skills. The ability to learn quickly and adapt to select patient management software, communication programs, medical records platforms and other key technology is an absolute must.


Not as much a skill as a mindset or attitude, passion or lack of it can make or break a good, professional dental assistant. A passionate dental assistant takes pride in the fact that they are the right hand to the dentist and loves assisting them. The knowledge that they make a difference to their patients and dental team is important to them. They have a genuine can-do attitude and care about their patients.

The Strategic Practice Solutions Dental Academy offers a specified Dental Assisting Certificate program, licensed by the State of Michigan, to conduct formal training between the student and qualified dental instructors and other accredited dental professionals, for the purpose of meeting dental workforce needs. Visit to learn more about their program and to get started. If you have some or all of the skills and attributes discussed, your future is waiting as a Dental Assistant.