Dental care is high up in the priority list when it comes to good overall hygiene. From the moment we grow our first tooth, literally every single person needs to visit the dentist on a regular basis. Regardless of the fact that dental hygiene is imperative to our health, it’s no secret that regular mandatory visits to the dentist aren’t a walk in the park for most people. Let’s face it, the feeling of being in a clinic can stir up some anxiety, especially for children.
This is why it’s important that dentists and dental assistants alike don’t only need to possess strong medical skills and knowledge, but effective interpersonal skills as well. There’s nothing like a highly skilled dental assistant with great communication skills to make you feel comfortable and at ease before your dental checkup.
A dental assistant’s job is just as demanding as it is enriching. They have to possess the willingness to take on a variety of tasks for the wellness of their patients. Their duties range from patient care and office tasks to laboratory duties and chair side assignments. As soon as the patient walks into the clinic, it’s the job of the dental assistant to make them feel as comfortable as possible while they prep them in the dental chair until the moment they walk out.
If you’re aspiring to follow the fulfilling career path of a dental assistant, you’ll find the overview of their training, duties, and working conditions in this comprehensive guide that answers the question: What does a dental assistant do?
Before diving into the wonderful world of dental medicine, dental assistants need to be trained in dental-assisting programs. There are a few people who learn while on the job, however, it is more advisable to be pertinently trained in order to immerse yourself in a broader spectrum of the field. Assistants are the dentist’s right hand, therefore, reliability and manual dexterity are imperative to the job. Most places require a licensure exam or registration before they allow dental assistants to practice their craft.
The great thing about becoming a dental assistant is that it opens a door for a myriad of opportunities for you. There are dental assistants who have ventured into higher positions in the medical field. Some have advanced and become dental managers, dental-assisting instructors, or product sales representatives.
Role and Duties of a Dental Assistant
It takes skill, personality, persistence, and determination to take on the vital and fulfilling position of a dental assistant. After all, they are instrumental in many medical procedures that range from simple prophylaxis and tooth extraction to the more complex tooth implants and wisdom tooth surgery. The patient’s dental well-being is in their hands.
The duties of dental assistants include the following:
- Ensure that the patients feel comfortable throughout the dental procedure.
- Perform office management tasks which usually involve patient records.
- Obtaining dental records
- Taking and developing radiographs (X-rays)
- Asking patients regarding medical history
- Taking blood pressure
- Developing and practicing infection control protocol. This includes ensuring that the environment is clean at all times by sterilizing the equipment and instruments.
- Inform the patients about oral care after dental surgery or any other treatment.
- Provide advice to patients regarding proper oral care in order to maintain good oral health. This includes toothbrushing, mouthwash usage, flossing, and nutritional counseling.
- Taking impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts.
- Handle patient communications, such as appointment scheduling, phone calls, billing, and supply orders.
Admittedly, most jobs need to be carried out in mundane environments that could take a turn for the boring once in a while, however, that isn’t the case for dental assistant jobs. Most clinics radiate a bright and clean setting, which makes the environment seem lively and well-lit. The work culture is oftentimes very people-oriented and pleasant, so the odds that you’ll ever get bored are extremely low.
The work space of dental assistants is typically located right next to the dental chair, as they will be needing to hand instruments over to the dentist throughout the dental procedure. Naturally, these specialists have to wear protective gear such as gloves, eye wear, and scrub suits in order to protect themselves from any potential diseases.
When taking X-rays, it’s important to abide by the safety measures to minimize the risks.
As mentioned, being a dental assistant is a fulfilling profession. It has the potential to provide a sense of accomplishment as it gives you the opportunity to help people with their medical needs. At the same time, it’s a highly demanding job as well, which usually requires a 40-hour work week which would sometimes include the weekends.
Every career has its advantages. Dental assistants, in particular, immerse themselves in a rewarding career that in itself is a never ending learning process. In the world of medicine and dentistry, there are constantly new developments and discoveries that lead to new practices, therefore, the learning process is a continuous train that contributes to your skill set.
Being as in demand as it is nowadays, this job often permits flexible working schedules, so you can opt for either a part time or full time position.
As mentioned previously, taking on the role of a dental assistant can act as a great platform to practice and enhance your skills and knowledge of your medical craft. To top it off, this particular job can be a springboard for other careers you may aspire to do, such as jobs in teaching or sales.
With all the opportunities to master your craft and grab the chances for career growth and advancement, one of the most rewarding factors of being a dental assistant is the interaction with other people. There is a sense of achievement and personal satisfaction that comes with knowing that you’ve provided invaluable health care to people. Hence, once we’ve understood the technical and medical side of a dental assistant’s duties, the first and foremost role of this job is to represent the meaning of dental hygiene while making real connections with patients that cross your path.