Everything you need to know about becoming a dental assistant in Australia – Part 1

December 11, 2014

A Gap Medics mentor explaining a procedure whilst treating a patient Dental assistants are key members of any dental healthcare team. Also known as dental nurses or dental chair-side assistants, these professionals work alongside the dentist and other members of the oral health team to provide patients with high quality dental care. There are several dental treatment procedures that require the hands-on support of a well-trained dental assistant.

If you enjoy working with people, have good communication skills and enjoy working with your hands, a dental assistant career could be an excellent dentistry entry position for you.



This is a great choice for anyone looking for a career in dentistry but without the responsibility that usually comes as part and parcel of most other dental specialties.


Detailed job description

A dental assistant performs a wide variety of duties, most of which are focused on infection control and supporting the efficient flow in the delivery of dental health services.

As a dental assistant, the dentist is the primary clinician that you would be working closely with. You would also work with dental therapists, dental prosthetists and dental hygienists. The specific tasks you will be required to carry out can vary widely depending on your workplace and the dentist you are working with.

Some of the duties you will carry out as a dental assistant may include:

  • Greeting patients and helping them feel comfortable in the dental practice
  • Coordinating patients and helping them comply with prescribed treatment plans and maintenance schedules
  • Carrying out reception duties as well as computer operations and stock management
  • Assisting dentists, dental therapists and dental hygienists during a variety of treatment procedures
  • Ensuring that the appropriate standards of infection control are maintained
  • Preparing the dental surgery before treatments
  • Cleaning the dental surgery after treatments
  • Sterilising instruments after use
  • Exposing, processing and cataloguing radiographs (X-rays)
  • Preparing and handling dental materials used in treatments
  • Updating patient records, whether on paper or as computer files
  • Organising and transferring instruments during intricate dental procedures
  • Photographing interior and exterior oral structures to profile stages of treatment and outcomes
  • Moulding, trimming and polishing plaster and stone models of the teeth and mouth from impressions taken by a dentist
  • Teaching clients oral hygiene techniques that are effective for maintaining healthy teeth and gums
  • Educating patients on oral and systemic health issues


When interacting with patients or performing any hands-on tasks, a dental assistant must have direct supervision of a dentist. Only duties that do not involve any clinical contact with patients can be performed when the dentist is away from the practice.