WHAT IS A DENTAL ASSISTANT
Have you considered a career as a Dental Assistant? Have you wondered what a Dental Assistant does and what their role is within a dental office? Dental Assistants greatly increase the dentist’s ability to provide quality oral healthcare, and are valuable members of the dental team. A career as a Dental Assistant is an exciting and rewarding one, in which the daily routine is infused with a wide variety of tasks.
Duties of a Dental Assistant
Dental Assistants work alongside dentists by providing patient care during procedures and examinations, with tasks such as handing instruments to the dentist and keeping patient’s mouths clean and dry with suction devices. This process can also be called Four-Handed Dentistry. Dental Assistants also perform a variety of additional duties, including administrative tasks and independent hands-on projects. These hands-on projects include mixing material for restorative procedures, making dental impressions for restoration, creating and polishing crowns/bridges, taking dental x-rays, and processing x-ray film (in the state of Arizona, one must have passed the Radiation Health and Safety examination to perform this task). If you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands and mind, and are a “people person”, a career as a Dental Assistant may be for you.
It is important that Dental Assistants demonstrate the professional “soft” skills required to communicate effectively between the dentist, the patient, and the other dental office team members. Many times, patients are extremely nervous to visit the dental office and have dental procedures completed. It is important for Dental Assistants to be able to help keep patients calm and comfortable, so the dentist can perform procedures as needed.
Examples of professional “soft” skills include:
- Good communication skills (both oral and written)
- Organization of work space
- Enjoyment in working with the public
- Ability to multitask
- Ability to remain calm and composed under pressure or in stressful situations
- Ability to provide excellent customer service to patients
- Ability to assist patients in feeling welcome and comfortable before, during, and after dental procedures
Dental Assistant’s roles can often incorporate both clinical (back office) and administrative (front office) tasks within the dental office. To a large extent, the size and specialty of the dental practice determines what daily job duties and responsibilities the Dental Assistant performs.
Examples of clinical skills (back office) and duties may include:
- Charting dental histories and any new conditions/symptoms
- Preparing tray set-ups for dental examinations or procedures
- Assisting the dentist chair-side during examinations and procedures
- Sterilizing tools and equipment
- Performing suture removal
- Cleaning and polishing removable dental appliances
- Preparing compounds for making impressions and restorations
- Constructing temporary crowns and bridges
- Providing patients with postoperative instructions
- Teaching patients general oral hygiene to maintain oral health
Examples of administrative skills (front office) and duties may include:
- Checking in patients, including greeting, verifying insurance coverage, and collecting payments
- Answering the telephone
- Scheduling and confirming appointments
- Using computer applications to process patient records
- Billing, coding, and processing insurance information for patients
- Obtaining dental records
- Handling correspondence
- Organizing and filing patient medical records
- Maintaining inventory, as well as ordering dental supplies and materials
Dental Assistants work in a well-lighted and clean environment. They often work near the dental chair so they can hand to the dentist materials, instruments and medication as needed while keeping the patient comfortable. They wear protective equipment such as gloves, eye-wear and masks to prevent infections and cross contamination. Dental Assistants have the ability to work with patients that vary in age, and depending on the type of dental office, the purpose for the visit may vary greatly.
Examples of exciting dental work environments may include:
- General Dental Offices
- Pediatric Dental Offices
- Cosmetic Dentistry Offices
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgical Offices
- Orthodontic Offices
The process to become a Certified Dental Assistant can vary depending on state laws and regulations. In the state of Arizona, a Dental Assistant typically receives formal training from an Accredited Institution such as Arizona College. In the state of Arizona, certification is required to expose a patient to x-rays. Arizona College recommends that after students have successfully completed our Radiology Course and Lab, they take the Radiation Health and Safety Examination offered by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Upon successful completion of their Dental Assisting program, graduates can register to take the Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) examination, which is also offered by DANB. Obtaining Certified Dental Assistant qualifications assures the public that the Dental Assistant is competent and fully prepared to assist in the provision of dental care.
The Dental Assistant is a well-rounded member of the dental office team. If you are thinking about a career in Allied Health are a good communicator, like working with your hands, enjoy multi-tasking, and can imagine yourself working alongside a dentist, then a career as a Dental Assistant could be yours! For more information on our Dental Assisting program, complete a form and an Arizona College representative will contact you. Keep people smiling; take your first step toward your new Dental Assisting career and contact Arizona College today!
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