Dental assistants work under the supervision of licensed dentists and help with patient care, x-rays and record keeping. They often prepare tools and comfort patients during exams. In an interview for a dental assistant job, you can expect questions about your communication skills, training and technical abilities. If the job requires you to perform dental work on patients, the hiring manager will also likely ask about your previous experience with particular procedures.
The hiring manager will probably ask about your training and certifications. She might ask, "What coursework and exams have you passed that qualify you for this position?" or "Have you passed the Certified Dental Assistant exam?" According to the American Dental Association, most academic dental assisting programs take nine to eleven months to complete and dental assistants are eligible to take the CDA immediately following completion of their academic coursework. Certification and training requirements vary by state, so research your state's specific dental practice guidelines before your interview.
Dental assistants interact with patients on a daily basis, so they must have strong interpersonal skills. The interviewer might ask, "What are your strengths when interacting with patients?" or "What interpersonal skills do you have that allow you to effectively communicate with patients and staff?" You might discuss a few examples of how you talk with patients about hygiene and dental procedures, or offer a brief list of your best qualities. You could say, "I always greet patients and ask something specific about their day before I prepare them for an exam."
Some states allow dental assistants to perform non-surgical dental procedures. The hiring manager might ask about your education and experience with tooth polishing, sealant applications, fluoride treatments and topical anesthetic applications, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For example, you could say something like, "I have performed dozens of sealant and fluoride treatments, but I have limited experience with topical anesthetics." The hiring manager will likely ask to see your certifications and may call previous employers to verify your skills and abilities.
Dental assistants help dentists and administrative staff maintain patient records. The interviewer might ask, "What administrative software programs have you used in a dental office setting?" or "What methods have you used to maintain patient records?" You may also want to list computer applications, such as spreadsheets or word processing programs, that you've used in the past. While a dental office will probably train you on their computers and specific software, general familiarity with computers is a plus.
2016 Salary Information for Dental Assistants
Dental assistants earned a median annual salary of $36,940 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dental assistants earned a 25th percentile salary of $30,410, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $45,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 332,000 people were employed in the U.S. as dental assistants.