For the Public: Dental Careers

Dental Careers View the Orange Chair Diaries video

Dental Assistant

The dental assistant is the dentist's "right arm," taking on significant responsibility as a member of the dental health care team. Assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of oral health care and are valuable members of the dental care team.

The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs a wide range of tasks requiring both interpersonal and technical skills. In the state of California, there are three main categories of dental assistants — the dental assistant, the Registered Dental Assistant, and the Registered Dental Assistant in Extended functions. The RDA & RDAEF require licensing and the law determines which specific duties each auxiliaries can perform. In the near future, three new specialty licenses will be created — the Registered Orthodontic Assistant, the Registered Surgical Assistant, and the Registered Restorative Assistant.

It takes a relatively short period of time to become a dental assistant. Dental assistants can receive their education and training in one of three ways:

Dental Hygienist

Dental hygienists are important members of the dental health care team who work with dentists to provide dental care for patients. Dental hygienists use their knowledge and clinical skills to provide dental hygiene care for patients and communication skills to instruct patients on methods to improve and maintain their oral health.

A career in dental hygiene can be achieved with a minimum of two years of college education. This education prepares graduates to provide dental hygiene care to patients in dental offices, clinics, and educational or health care institutions. All hygienists are licensed by the state. Additional education and experience may prepare dental hygienists for a variety of other career opportunities.

Dental Hygiene Programs

Dental Laboratory Technician

Dental laboratory technicians create dental prostheses replacements for natural teeth. Their work enables people who have lost some or all of their teeth to eat, chew, talk, and smile much as they did before.

They do not work directly with patients; however, they follow detailed instructions provided by a dentist. As such, technicians are part of the dental care "team," along with dental assistants and dental hygienists.

Dental Lab Technician Programs


A dentist is trained and licensed to practice the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases, injuries, and malformations of the teeth, jaw, and mouth. Most dentists practice general dentistry, giving them the capability to provide comprehensive care to a variety of patients. Some dentists choose to limit their practices to a recognized dental specialty:

  • Endodontics
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiolgoy
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
  • Orthodontics
  • Pediatric Dentistry
  • Periodontics
  • Prosthodontics
  • Public Health Dentistry
A dental education requires a bachelor's degree and four years of dental school. If you decide to go into one of the nine specialties, you'll need a minimum of two years additional schooling.

California Dental Schools