Dental Assistant

Dental assistants help the dentist perform dental procedures. They work beside dentists while they examine and treat patients. Assistants meet and greet patients, put them at ease, see that they are comfortable and prepare them for examination, treatment or surgical procedure.

If the dentist does not have a receptionist, they perform general office duties – schedule appointments, prepare bills and receive payments for dental services, complete insurance forms and maintain personal and dental records, manually or using the computer.

Dental assistants draw patients’ records from the filing system, take and record medical and dental histories and the vital signs of the patients. During dental procedures, assistants help the patients to rinse and clean their mouths and pass instruments to the dentist in the correct sequence. They prepare solutions, filling and impression materials and injections.

Dental assistants ensure good illumination for their dentists by adjusting the light above the patient. Dental assistants may not take X-rays but may be responsible for the developing and filing of them. They instruct patients in oral hygiene and plaque control programmes, and assist the dentist in the management of medical or dental emergencies.

They are responsible for the sterilisation of instruments and maintenance of dental equipment. They are also responsible for stock-keeping and placing orders with supply houses and other suppliers.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate

What to Study

Diploma: Dental Assistant courses are offered at CPUT, CUT and TUT, and Dental Services at DUT.


  • private dental practices
  • hospitals and clinics
  • government departments

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338-9300 Fax: (012) 328-5120

South African Dental Association (SADA) Private Bag 1
Houghton, 2041
Tel: (011) 484-5288 Fax: (011) 642-5718
Toll Free: 0800 11 07 25

Getting Started

  • try to obtain part-time or vacation work in a dental practice
  • gain experience, working with the public through voluntary work with your church, community or school groups
  • make an appointment to speak to a dental assistant about this type of career