What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

The field of dentistry has blown wide open in the past decades. Not only has the arena of cosmetic dentistry added new patients to the patient rosters, the medical field now recognizes that a dental health is an integral part of holistic health and government assisted insurance programs are helping to make it more affordable for everyone to observe their annual dental checkups.

As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statistics sites that the projected employment growth for dental assistants is 25 percent through 2022, which is significantly higher than average.

Role of a Dental Assistant

The large majority of dental assistants work in dental offices, providing assistance to both the dentist and the dental hygienist in their day-to-day responsibilities. In many ways, the trained dental assistant serves as both ambassador and assistant, acting as the liaison between the dental professionals and their patients.

Some of the duties of a dental assistant include:

• Working with patients to make them feel comfortable as they get seated in the dental chair.
• Explaining what patients can expect to experience during their visit.
• Preparing the work area for the dentist and hygienist, organizing tools and instruments on the tray.
• Taking dental X-rays.
• Processing X-rays and facilitate lab tasks under the supervision of the dentist.
• Handing off instruments to the dentist, as they are needed.
• Teaching patients about proper dental hygiene, including how to properly brush and floss their teeth.
• Utilizing the suctioning device to keep the patients mouth dry as it is being worked on.
• Maintaining records taken at the dental visit and reviewing previous records.
• Working with patients on billing and payment.
• Scheduling appointments and provide reminders for upcoming visits.

Dental assistants who have lab responsibilities will typically assist with making casts of patients teeth for various dental treatments and aids. They may also be called upon to:

• Polish the patients’ teeth.
• Apply dental sealants.
• Apply fluoride treatments.
• Apply topical anesthetics.

The ability to perform the above four tasks is dependent on the state in which you live and the dentist’s needs.

Qualities that Benefit Dental Assistants

Successful dental assistants have several positive qualities or attributes that make them good and their job and well-liked by patients, dentists and co-workers. Some of these qualities include:

Interpersonal skills. Of course, interpersonal skills are valued in almost any job position, but they are a necessary trait for dental assistants. The patients you work with are often nervous, scared or have some level of anxiety about their dental visit so the more caring, understanding and compassionate you are, the better.

Detail oriented. You will be responsible for maintaining important records, working with patients and insurance providers. You may be called upon to administer a very specific product or treatment and are responsible for keeping track of patient dental X-rays and other lab results. These duties all require professionals with a strong attention to detail and organization.

Good listening skills. Finally, you will be listening carefully to patient complaints, symptoms and concerns as well as needing to pay close attention to the directives issued by the dentist and/or hygienist, so being a good listener is a must.

Start an Exciting Career as a Dental Assistant

As mentioned above, trained dental assistants are in high demand, which makes this a lucrative career for those who are interested in becoming a dental assistant full-time, or who are considering becoming a dental hygienist or dentist down the road. It is also a wonderful career for parents as you can work part-time and often have a certain amount of scheduling flexibility so you can work around your children’s schedule. Many offices now have evening and weekend shifts available.

Look for accredited dental assistant training programs in your area to make sure you are given the education and experience required to help you land a position at a successful dental practice.

Contact PCI to learn more about a qualified dental assistant training program near you.

**PCI firmly upholds its policy of nondiscrimination. Inquiries regarding policy may be directed to TitleIXCoordinator@pcihealth.com.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who complete the program, and other important information, please visit our website at www.pcihealth.edu/consumer-information. Dental Assistant program offered at our Richardson Campus.