A Day in the Life...

Dental Assistant

A dental assistant with a patientDental assistants play a big role in making patients comfortable during dental procedures. They often take you from the waiting area to the treatment room. Since patients see dental assistants first, patients may ask questions or communicate concerns with them. Dental assistants provide that information to the dentists so they can anticipate the patients’ needs. During procedures, dental assistants anticipate what instruments the dentist will need and then provide them. Dental assistants also take x-rays, mix filling material, and take initial mouth impressions to build models that will be used by the dentist or the dental laboratory as a part of the process for making crowns, bridges, and other dental prosthetics. Read more.

At a Glance

  • Education:
    18 months beyond high school (associate degree)
  • 2010 Average Salary:$42,000/year (Minnesota); $32,000 (United States)

Dental Assistant: Sue

Sue, a dental assistantPlay video

To help take care of a patient's dental need and see them happy with an end-result is rewarding for me.

Dental Assistant Student: Aja

Aja, a dental assistant studentPlay video

I want to help people properly take care of their teeth and stay healthy because your mouth is related to your body.

Dental Hygienist

A dental hygienist working on a girl’s teethDental hygienists examine the mouth and evaluate the health of teeth and gums. They use instruments to remove deposits from teeth, and help patients understand how to take care of their teeth in order to prevent cavities and gum disease. Some dental hygienists complete extra courses and clinical training to become licensed to perform certain services that dentists or dental therapists usually provide, such as placing fillings after the dentist drills the tooth. Read more.

At a Glance

  • Education:
    3-4 years beyond high school (associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree)
  • 2010 Average Salary:$70,000/year (Minnesota); $66,000 (United States)

Dental Hygienist: Jen

Jen, a dental hygienistPlay video

I love getting to know the patients over time. The more you get to know them, the more you can help them.

Dental Hygiene Student: Boua

Boua, a fourth-year dental hygiene studentPlay video

I love what I do—I love working with people. I'm just excited to get out there and start!

Dental Laboratory Technician

A mold for the work done in a patient’ mouthDental laboratory technicians fill prescriptions from dentists for crowns, bridges, dentures, and other dental prosthetics. Dental laboratory technicians learn their skills on-the-job and often focus on one area, such as crowns, bridges, or dentures. Read more.

At a Glance

  • Education:
    High school diploma + on-the-job training
  • 2010 Average Salary:$46,000/year (Minnesota); $37,000 (United States)

Dental Lab Technician: Kris

Kris, a dental laboratory technicianPlay video

I enjoy the artistic aspect. I'm able to create something that looks aesthetic and pretty.

Watch Dental Laboratory Technicians in Action

Dental Therapist

A dental therapist working on a patientDental therapists assess and treat common problems in the mouth. They work as part of a dental team and provide basic preventive and restorative treatments (such as root canals, crowns, and fillings) to children and adults. For example, dental therapists can extract primary (baby) teeth under the supervision of a dentist. Read more.

At a Glance

  • Education:
    40 months beyond high school (bachelor’s degree)
  • 2010 Average Salary:Unknown (expect somewhere between dental hygienist and dentist: $70,000 - $174,000/year)

Dental Therapy Student: Martine

Martine, a first-year dental therapy studentPlay video

I look forward to finally providing care to people who otherwise cannot afford it.

Dental Therapy Student: Meng

Meng, a second-year dental therapy studentPlay video

I look forward to the opportunity to help another person get the access to care that they need.

Watch Dental Therapists in Action


A dentist looking at an x-rayDentists diagnose and treat problems with teeth and tissues in the mouth. They advise patients about treatment choices and explain how to prevent future problems. Dentists can open their own private practices, work in clinics or hospitals, or teach future dentists at universities. Read more.

At a Glance

  • Education:
    8 years beyond high school (bachelor degree + 4 years of dental school)
  • 2010 Average Salary:$174,000/year (Minnesota); $142,000 (United States)

Dentist: Dr. Adarve

A dentistPlay video

I can help my patients smile better, look better, and boost their confidence.

Dentistry Student: Clint

Clint, a second-year Dentistry studentPlay video

Second year is a lecture-intensive year. You need to stay up-to-date so you don't get behind.

Dentistry Student: Katie

Katie, a fourth-year Dentistry studentPlay video

As a fourth-year, you don't have quite as much coursework. In clinic, we complete any range of procedures within the dental field on real patients.