In honor of National Dental Assistant’s Recognition Week, we want to thank and appreciate the men and women who service your smile. Behind most dentists, there is a hard working dental assistant. Acting as the Robin to their Batman, the Chewbacca to their Han Solo, or the floss to their toothbrush, a dental assistant’s role is important to dentists’ every day routines.
Oh, that’s very interesting…But what exactly does a dental assistant do?
One can obviously assume that dental assistants work in the dental industry and that, well, they assist. But what do they assist with? How do they contribute in the day to day activities of a dental office? Do they have to preform surgeries? Do they interact directly with patients or only with dentists? If this is the career you are thinking of getting into, it’s important to understand just what a dental assistant does:
The duties of a dental assistant
Just like most job positions, the precise duties of dental assistants varies from one practice to another. Different state regulations, the size of a practice and services offered at the practice are all factors that alter the demands of dental assistant. That being said, these general tasks, as laid out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are what to expect when dental assisting;
- Arranging patient appointments.
- Keep patient records, including records of dental treatments and of payments.
- Processing dental X-rays and completing lab tasks under the supervision of a dentist.
- Ensure that patients are settled in and comfortable in the dental chair.
- Sterilizing dental instruments.
- Prep patients and the work area for the dental procedures and treatments that are to be done.
- Handing instruments to the dentist as they work on a patient.
- Cleaning up the mouth using a suction hose and other equipment as the dentist performs a procedure.
- Advising patients on any follow-up care they need to do such as using particular dental products.
Qualities of a good dental assistant
Ok, now that we have gone over the technical aspects of the job, what are the some social qualities expected? Well, a good assistant will have the following skills;
1) Detail orientated in order to follow rules and regulations as pertains to general dental hygiene and in helping a dentist carry out specific procedures.
2) Dexterity which means an ability to work with the hands. This is important because dental work is done on a particular tooth with precision tools and instruments.
3) Interpersonal skills to be able to work well with patients and dentists. For instance, a good assistant will be able to calm down a stressed or scared patient.
4) Listening skills to be able to listen to patients and the dentist, understand what they need and give it to them. Listening skills are also important to be able to learn the right way to carry out tasks like dental X-rays and tests.
5) Organizational skills to be able to put everything in order for the dentist and also to be able to maintain accurate patient records.
Job outlook for dental assistants
Now that we’ve covered the technical and social prospects of the job, let’s check out what the forecast is in the demand for dental assistants; According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, prospects are good. It is expected that employment will grow by 18% between 2014 through 2024. 1 This is attributed to research findings that are increasing the demand for preventive dental services. Growth will also be enabled by more people having access to health insurance. Having cover for dental care will have more people seeing their dentist.
So there you have it. A dental assistant, in the very least, is the dentist’s go-to for tasks including lab work, record keeping and instrument sterilization, while they act as a dental specific version of Jiminy Cricket, supplying patients with instructions on how to care for their teeth and comfort by listening to patient needs.
To learn about Centura’s Dental Assistant Diploma program, visit http://centuracollege.edu/college-programs/health-science/dental-assisting/index.html.