Becoming a dental assistant is a great way to be involved in healthcare, a fast-growing industry. And a great dental assistant resume is the surest way to get you working in a practice where you are valued by dentists, colleagues, and patients.
Whether you are an experienced dental assistant or just starting your career, a well-prepared resume will help you reach your goal. But writing a job-winning resume involves much more than listing your work experience. Resume.io has created more than 350 occupation-specific resume examples bearing that out, along with writing guides filled with step-by-step advice.
This guide includes the tips and hacks that will take your dental assistant resume from average to amazing. It’s backed by a dental assistant resume example that you can use as a basis for your own. In about 15 minutes, you will discover how to:
- Take into consideration the job role and demand for dental assistants.
- Structure your resume properly and choose the best resume format.
- Impress prospective bosses in each section of your dental assistant resume: header, profile, employment history, education, and skills.
- Keep your resume layout and design clean and professional.
What does a dental assistant do?
Dental assistants make patients feel more comfortable in a place where many are nervous. They perform valuable functions and help keep dental practices working smoothly.
You’ve chosen a career with tremendous opportunities for growth and high job satisfaction. In a survey by the Dental Assisting National Board, 82 percent of certified dental assistants rated their job satisfaction as very high or high.
While many healthcare professionals are shift workers, most dental assistants work a regular schedule. You may have to work an evening or weekend shift if the office is open, but mostly it is a 9-to-5 job.
The job market: opportunities abound
Dental assistants have the option of working in many different environments, including:
- Solo practices
- Group practices
- Specialty practices, such as endodontics or orthodontics
- Public health environments such as schools
- Hospital clinics
- Dental school clinics.
Some dental assistants choose not to work in a practice, but to process dental claims for insurance companies. Other career options include teaching future dental assistants in a vocational school program, or becoming a dental product sales representative. If you are looking for a new challenge, consider becoming a dental hygienist.
This profession is growing faster than the occupational average rate, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting an 11% percent increase in dental assistant jobs between 2020 and 2030.
How to write a dental assistant resume
Getting started writing your dental assistant resume should seem less daunting when you realize the process can be broken into the same steps that apply to all resumes. Your aim is to create a page containing these elements:
- Profile (sometimes called summary or personal statement)
- Employment history
Before delving into each of these resume sections one at a time, let’s look at some general considerations.
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Why isn’t my resume getting any responses? For anyone asking that question, ATS may be the answer. Most medium and large companies use digital tool in the hiring process to sort, document, and rank resumes.
Your first job is to understand how the ATS works so that your resume doesn’t end up eliminated before a hiring manager sees it. Algorithm-based ATS software is designed to eliminate "bad" resumes before they ever get into the hands of a human. Hiring managers do not have time to read the hundreds of resumes they receive for each position. Instead, they rely on ATS to narrow the field.
As each job application is received online, ATS systems hunt for keywords related to skills that employers prioritize. Employers receive many resumes for each job opening, but only four to six applicants will earn an interview. Therefore, you need to stand out from the crowd to beat the odds. That means it is vital for you to use the right keywords in your resume. (Also pay special attention to formal application requirements for indicating your city, contact information, certifications, etc.)
What are keywords and how do I find them?
It may seem obvious, but these are the words hiring managers have programmed the ATS to look for. If you don’t include those words, no matter how amazing your qualifications, your resume will never be seen by a person. Read each job listing carefully and highlight any skills mentioned. Then, make sure you tailor your resume to include those words.
Knowing which words will help you get past the ATS can be confusing. If job listings are vague, or the opposite — too detailed—consider using a word cloud program such as wordle.com or wordart.com. Enter the job description wording and the keywords will literally pop out. The more often a word is used, the bigger it will be.
Sometimes when you are feeling the pressure of the job search, it’s easy to overlook your greatest assets. That’s where a master list comes in. Think through all your job skills, professional personality traits, achievements, and successes. Put them all down in one place and refer to the list as you personalize your resume. Keep the list handy to update as you grow professionally in between job searches.
Choosing the best resume format for a dental assistant
As long as you have some work experience as an employee, the most commonly used chronological resume format is recommended, and recruiters prefer it. Your job history will be organized as bullet-point highlights below dated employer headings. List them in reverse chronological order, starting with your current or most recent position and working backwards.
Other resume formats may be suitable when job applicants are new to the workforce, have been self-employed or otherwise lack relevant work experience. They may want to emphasize specialized skills instead of employers. In that case, a functional or hybrid (combination) format could be suitable.
For more ideas and inspiration, take a look at these other writing guides and resume examples in our ever-expanding medical occupation category.
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A distinctive resume header can help you stand out in the crowd of other dental assistants vying for the same job. It’s like a personal branding element that’s especially effective if applied to both your cover letter and resume, so they are a visually matched pair.
Practically speaking, the prominence of your header information on the page makes it easy for hiring managers to readily identify who your resume belongs to, and how to get in touch for an interview.
Resume profile example: getting to the heart of who you are
Since you will be working closely with your boss, you need to give hiring managers insight into your professional personality. Here’s where you have a chance to do just that. The profile, also known as a summary or personal statement , sits at the top of your resume. That prime spot offers the best opportunity to personalize your pitch for being a great hire. It also enables you to get in some keywords.
It helps if you have a master list (see previous Expert Tip) and a good idea of the skills necessary to be a successful dental assistant. Choose the achievements you are most proud of and boast a little. This is not the place to be modest. You have two to four sentences to distinguish yourself from the crowd. But keep it professional. Focus on your work style and skills.
Include adjectives that describe your workplace demeanor. Are you efficient? Friendly? Calm under pressure? Organized and disciplined? Make that clear in your resume profile.
See the dental assistant profile from our resume example below.
Motivated and compassionate Dental Assistant with extensive experience providing excellent support during dental exams and procedures. Committed to fostering a relaxed and comfortable environment in which patients feel welcomed, accepted, reassured, and confident in the care they receive.
Employment history (or experience) sample: show what you know
Whether the heading for this section is " employment history " or "experience" depends on whether you are a working dental assistant already or looking for your first job in the field.
If you do have work experience as dental assistant, list the highlights for each employer in reverse chronological order, last job first. Think of this section as a way to demonstrate growth in knowledge and responsibility. Putting descriptions of your duties in this section is OK, but framing them as achievements is much better! Here are some tips to go from good to amazing:
Consider the CAR format to describe the:
- Challenge you encountered
- Action you took
If you improved patient comfort, this is a great place to show it off. For example: Addressed patient complaints about back/necks stiffness after procedures by researching a solution and proposing the purchase of support pillows, which greatly increased customer satisfaction.
Use strong action verbs . You want hiring managers to think of you as someone who gets the job done. Words that describe specific actions convey that image. Be specific. Instead of stating, “took x-rays,” tell how many you took per day, what kinds of x-rays they were, or what x-ray technology you used. The more specific you are, the more likely you are including those all-important keywords.
If you are new to the dental assistant’s field, think about the experience you had during your training and focus on that. If you have had jobs in other industries, highlight transferable skills such as all the abilities that fall under the emotional intelligence umbrella. Employers want to know that you are reliable, trustworthy, and able to work well with colleagues. If you have technology experience, include that too.
Below is a dental assistant employment history sample you can modify.
Dental Assistant at Beechwood Dental Group, Scarsdale
June 2017 - Present
- Greet and seat up to 15 patients per day in a timely manner but with no sense of being rushed.
- Set up trays according to patient needs and plans, and the dentist’s preferences.
- Assist the dentist using 4-handed dentistry methods.
- Discuss treatment plans with patients and answer any questions appropriately.
- Perform x-rays as needed.
- Conscientiously follow best practices for packaging and sterilizing instruments.
Dental Assistant at Auderbach Dentistry, Harrison
October 2013 - April 2017
- Assisted the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures.
- Carefully set up and broke down the operatory between treatments.
- Managed infection control by preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment in an efficient manner.
- Provided patients with accurate instructions for oral care following dental procedures.
- Performed various office tasks as necessary to ensure a smooth-running office.
Resume education example: highlight your knowledge
The education section of your dental assistant resume might look different from those of other job applicants, depending on your postsecondary education and types of dental assistant training you’ve had. The listing order should be in reverse chronological order, from highest to lowest level.
That means if you have earned a college degree, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, it should appear first. Otherwise, in top spot many dental assistants will list a certificate training program completed at a community college, vocational school, technical institute, university, or dental school. These programs, typically lasting nine to 11 months. There are also accelerated programs to get you that certificate faster, part-time programs if you are working, or distance training course if you can’t easily get to a training site. In any case, they should be approved by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.
Especially if you are fresh out of school, mention honors, scholarships, and certificates you have earned. These accolades will give you a boost.
Dental assistants can also become certified by taking an exam. The Dental Assisting National Board’s certified dental assistant test is most popular, the American Dental Association says.
Another way to become a dental assistant is through on-the-job training. Some of the details may belong in your resume's employment history section.
Especially if you are fresh out of school, add honors, scholarships, and certificates you have earned. These accolades will give you a boost.
Only if you do have any college degrees is it necessary to include your high school graduation. But if you do, be sure to make note of any healthcare-related classes you took in high school — especially if you are seeking looking for your first job as a dental assistant.
Below is our dental assistant resume education example.
Dental Assisting, The New York School for Medical & Dental Assistants, Queens, NY
September 2012 - May 2013
High School Diploma, Harrison High School, Harrison
September 2008 - June 2012
CV skills example: your top 10 list
The CV s kills list provides an easy way for hiring managers to see your abilities in a quick scan. You already know how to create your master list, and to pick out the most important skills from each job listing. Now all you have to do is put those together to determine which skills belong on your resume.
Hiring managers value skills from different categories. Broadly, there are hard skills — the knowledge necessary to do your job — and soft skills , which are the abilities you need to function in a workplace and deal with people.
Dental assistants perform a wide variety of duties, so the hard skills they need cover a wide range. So what exactly does a dental assistant do? According to the American Dental Association, here are responsibilities that require hard skills:
- Help the dentist with procedures
- Take x-rays and impressions of patients’ teeth
- Make sure the office is free from infection and develop infection control procedures
- Teach oral hygiene
- Provide instructions for care after dental surgeries and treatment
- Schedule appointments and perform other computerized office tasks
But being a dental assistant also requires excellent soft skills. You will be:
- Calming nervous patients
- Making sure patients are comfortable
- Communicating with dental suppliers and labs
- Relaying patient information to the dentist and hygienist
- Answering patient questions
You really need emotional intelligence, that is, the range of skills that allows you to understand what both patients and colleagues need. These skills also make you a more valued, and valuable, employee. The five categories of emotional intelligence, according to psychologist Daniel Goleman, are:
- Social skills
While these skills are important in all work environments, dealing with patients who may be in pain or afraid of dental procedures makes them key to your job. You may also be working in a practice with more than one dentist, at least one hygienist, and other office staff. Your job is full of human interaction, so you need excellent emotional intelligence.
An OfficeTeam survey found that 95% of human resource managers value high emotional intelligence, as do 99% of workers.
Another requirement for the job is manual dexterity. You will be working in patients’ mouths in small spaces, so precise movements are necessary. You will be following specific rules and protocols, so attention to detail is important as well.
Try to create a blend of hard and soft skills for your resume to illustrate that you are a well-rounded worker. You can organize this section any way you like, but consider giving top priority on the list to the skills most important to the targeted employer. Another strategy is an alphabetical listing, or one that categorizes hard and soft skills.
The most important aspect here is keywords. This section affords you a great opportunity to include words that you may not have in other sections, or to double-up on keywords that are frequently mentioned in job listings.
Check out the dental assistant CV sample for the skills section below.
- Ability to Multitask
- Interpersonal Communication Skills
- Knowledge of Dental and Medical Terminology
- Preliminary Oral Health Exams
- 4-Handed Dentistry
Resume layout and design: clean lines and legibility rule
Hiring managers want to be able to scan your resume quickly and without eye strain, so keep it simple . You may be tempted to personalize your resume by making it a work of art. This is not the way to stand out. You want your hiring manager’s first visual impression of you to be neat and professional .
Choosing a layout from resume.io's collection of field-tested resume templates can be your best assurance of reader-friendly results.These templates are expertly designed, but you can customize them a bit. Or, personalize the resume example at the top of this guide. Just keep these guidelines in mind:
- Try the quadrant test to make sure the text is well-balanced. Split your resume into four quadrants, by dividing it horizontally and vertically. Text should be almost evenly spread among the quadrants. However, more important sections can be a bit larger, and the content can be slightly denser towards the top-left, which is the “maximum attention zone.”
- Separate blocks of text can sometimes provide visual interest. Instead of putting your title, dates of employment, and employer's name one right after the other, divide them into columns.
- Choose fonts wisely. Use boldface, type size, and fonts to draw recruiters' eyes to the most important information.
- Use color sparingly. A splash of color is fine, but too much is distracting and looks unprofessional.
Pay special attention to document formatting details, especially if you alter a ready-made template. You’ve written a great resume that will get you the interview you want! Don’t lose your opportunity with sloppy formatting. This can happen if you use word processing software instead of a dedicated resume-creation program such as resume.io's builder tool. Different word processing programs, or even different versions of the same program, can misread your formatting. Avoid the problem by carefully scanning your resume and then saving it as a PDF file.
Key takeaways for a dental assistant resume
- Use keywords from job listings to beat applicant tracking systems.
- Focus on your challenges, actions, and results when creating the employment history section.
- Tailor a different version of your resume to each specific job application.
- Keep your resume layout neat and professional.
Use resume.io's builder tool and templates to create a great resume!