Chairside Skills

Chairside duties and skills to master

Are you wondering what duties and chair side skills you will need to be a successful dental assistant? The duty of a dental assistant requires a set of chair side skills that helps both the dentist and the patient. It is their duty to ensure the patient is comfortable, calm and well informed about the procedure. It is also the dental assistant’s duty to assist the dentist in performing vital. Depending on where the dental assistant chooses to work, they could be working with adults and the elderly or children as young as one or two years old. Because of this, it is important that they have the proper chairside skills to ensure the comfort of all of the patients they see during a typical workday.

The Duties of a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants perform a wide range of duties and are often considered the back bone of the dental office. Most dental assistants will greet the patient and bring them to the exam room. The dental assistant is the first person that the patient will see when going for the actual procedure and before sitting in the chair. Most dental assistants are also responsible for taking x-rays of patients’ teeth. Dental assistants are required to help prepare the exam room for treatment and to assist the dentist chairside while the procedure is being performed. Lastly, the dental assistant is required to clean the operatories and sterilize all equipment prior to the next usage. .

Chairside Skills Required to Master Your Career

Because a dental assistant will see many patients on any given day, they will need to have the necessary set of chairside skills for the optimal comfort of their patient.

Some of these chairside skills include:

Skill #1: Compassion – Studies have shown that more than half of the population is afraid to go to the dentist. An even smaller portion of individuals have a condition known as dentophobia, where they have an intense fear and worry about going to the dentist. The dental assistant needs to show compassion to these patients and to let them know that they are available if and when the patient needs them. A caring smile and compassionate tone can be all that is needed to calm the worries of a patient who is terrified to sit in a dental chair.

Skill #2: Patience – Many dental procedures take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to complete. The dental assistant is usually beside the dentist during the entire appointment. The dental assistant will need to have the patience required to sit for a relatively long period of time. This is especially vital if the dental assistant works in a dental surgeon’s office where longer and more in-depth procedures are being performed.

Skill #3: Knowledge of Procedures – It is the dental assistant’s duty to have the room set up prior to procedures and to know what supplies are needed during each part of the procedure. This is where it is important for the dental assistant to have a clear understanding of all the dental tools, procedures, duties and materials that are needed along the way.

Skill #4: Calm Demeanor – Many patients are nervous prior to and during their appointment, even if they are an adult and have been to the dentist hundreds of times. This is where a calm demeanor comes in handy. The soothing presence of a composed dental assistant allows the patient to calm down. Composure comes with a working knowledge of the dental procedures to be performed, as well as a good working relationship with the dentist. These elements improve a dental assistant’s chairside skills.

Skill #5: Foresight – The dental assistant needs to have the foresight to know what the dentist or patient is going to need before it is needed. For example, for a simple filling procedure, the dental assistant needs to know the specific steps of the procedure to ensure that it goes smoothly and without interruption. Attending a good school to become a dental assistant is of the utmost importance because that is where a dental assistant will learn about all of the various dental procedures and what is expected to work with the dentist chairside.

Skill #6: Accuracy – Most people think that dental procedures are solely performed by the dentist, but actually there aremany duties that the dental assistant performs that are crucial to the patient’s oral and dental health. For example, when the dental assistant takes an x-ray of a patient’s mouth, the x-rays need to be accurate in order to be read correctly to detect underlying problems. Accuracy comes with both education and practice. Learning dental assisting from a book is ideal to get started, but the real skills begin with hands-on experience working with patients.

Skill #7: Understanding – Patients may come into the dental office afraid, nervous and even angry. Having a good understanding about people and being able to put oneself into the patient’s shoes will assist greatly in connecting with the patient and ensuring a successful appointment.

Skill #8: Helpfulness – A dental assistant needs to be as helpful as possible to both the dentist and the patient. They need to be able to discuss various aspects of the procedure and the patients’ needs with the dentist. When speaking with patients, the dental assistant must also be helpful in educating them about what to expect prior to, during and after their procedure.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a dental assistant is a wonderful career choice that can lead to a variety of opportunities within the dental field. Some dental assistants go on to become RDAs (registered assistants) while others become hygienists or even dentists! By possessing the proper chairside manner, the dental assistant can ensure the comfort and safety of both the patients and the dentist.

Did learning about dental assistant chairside duties and skills interest you? Ready to learn more about a program that will help you become a dental assistant? The Dental Assistant Program prepares a graduate to work as an entry-level Dental Assistant, Dental Receptionist, Office Manager or Dental Hygienist Assistant in a dental office, specialty practice, or dental clinic. PCI Health Training Center Richardson, TX Campus offers the Dental Assistant Program. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a dental assistant and start a rewarding career today.

**PCI firmly upholds its policy of nondiscrimination. Inquiries regarding policy may be directed to

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 Dental Assistant Program offered at our Richardson Campus.

Communication Skills for Dental Assistants

Dental Assistant with Dentist

Communication skills are critical in any aspect of health care. In the course a day, a dental assistant might need to communicate effectively with dentists, dental hygienists, other dental assistants, patients, family members, insurance company workers, sales representatives or other dental offices. Ineffective communication increases the risk of misunderstandings and the potential for poor patient outcomes. Effective communication helps ensure the transfer of correct information, promotes better working relationships and soothes patient or family anxiety.

What is Good Communication?

Several skills are necessary for good communication. One of the most important is the ability to listen carefully and comprehend what is being said. In some cases, what is not being said is equally important, so the dental assistant must be able to “hear” beneath the surface to pick up on an unvoiced anxiety or fear. Empathy is the ability to see things from another’s point of view, while sympathy is the ability to feel sorry for another’s misfortunes. A dental assistant must be able to use both facilities to communicate effectively.

Nonverbal communication skills, such as focusing on the speaker, smiling when appropriate and nodding to convey agreement, are as important as what one says. If a dental assistant crosses their arms, taps their fingers impatiently or roll their eyes, the other person will often react defensively and stop communicating. Good communication skills take practice and awareness, and the ability to learn from one’s mistakes.

Communication Skills in the Front Office

In many dental offices, the dental assistant wears multiple hats. They may answer phones, schedule appointments, work chair-side with the dentist, order supplies and manage billing. This brings the dental assistant into contact with a wide range of people of different ages, educational backgrounds and cultures. For example, they must have the ability to communicate with a frightened child or an elderly woman who has diminished hearing. Interruptions are the norm and the front office position can be stressful. However, allowing stress to take over can impede communication, so stress management becomes an important aspect of communication in this role.

Communication Skills with the Dentist

Dental assistants provide hands-on support to the dentist during the care of patients. A good dental assistant learns to anticipate what the dentist will need next. It’s important to stay focused on the task and listen to the dentist’s requests to help ensure an efficient work process. Working efficiently also helps make patients feel more secure. At the same time, the dental assistant must stay aware of the patient’s responses and emotions. A frightened patient may pull away at the wrong moment. The dental assistant can help soothe and comfort the patient with words or a gentle touch.

Communication Skills with Hygienists

In most offices, hygienists work alone. However, the dental assistant may assist with stocking rooms or escorting patients to their room for an appointment. It’s important to set the patient at ease. If it’s a new patient, the dental assistant may perform an introduction. In some offices with multiple hygienists, the dental assistant may act as a “runner.” In this situation, it’s important to convey messages clearly and concisely and to listen carefully to ensure the right supplies are obtained.

Educating Patients

Dental assistants may also perform some basic patient education. One of the most important aspects of patient education is to maintain awareness of the patient’s comprehension of the material. Research indicates that as many as 1 in 7 adult patients may be functionally illiterate, according to Intellectual Takeout from The Charlemagne Institute. Yet most educational materials come in printed form. The dental assistant must remain sensitive to the fact that the patient may be embarrassed to admit he or she cannot read. Reviewing the material together rather than just providing handouts is the safest course. Patients are more likely to ask questions in this sort of one-on-one session.

Culture & Communication Skills

Culture has a big impact on communication. For example, in some cultures, it is considered disrespectful to meet another person’s eyes for any length of time. This can make it seem as though the individual is not listening. Words may have different connotations in different languages. When it comes to patient education, the patient may not have a written language or may be unable to read English. The dental assistant must be sensitive to verbal and non-verbal cues to assure the patient or family member understands what is being said. If an interpreter is necessary, the dental assistant must be able to have a three-way conversation in order to convey the necessary information.

Telephone Communication Skills

One of the great disadvantages of telephone communication is that a dental assistant cannot see the person on the other end. Since we often depend on body language cues to determine if another person understands what is being said it is critical to listen to the other person’s tone of voice and to pay attention to pauses, sighs, volume, pace or other indicators of a communication problem. Always clarify misunderstandings immediately.

Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict is a normal occurrence in any kind of human interaction. A patient wants an appointment at a time that is unavailable or a dental assistant has a misunderstanding with a co-worker. The ability to communicate effectively can result in a resolution, while poor communication skills can make things worse. In conflict resolution, a dental assistant will use the facilities of empathy, careful listening, and nonverbal communication. However, a dental assistant must also manage their own emotions and stress. If they practice good communication skills, conflict resolution becomes much easier. Restate the other person’s words. This makes it clear a dental assistant is listening and will clear up miscommunication. Focus on a solution rather than who is right.

Good communication skills are not hard to learn. However, they do take practice. Once a dental assistant uses these skills consistently, they will find many benefits in their work as a dental assistant. In addition, good communication skills are useful in one’s personal life as well. Always remember the basics: listening carefully, awareness of non-verbal communication, respect for cultural differences, reiterating back what you hear and being empathetic.

Did learning about dental assistant communication skills interest you? Still deciding whether you want to become a dental assistant? Ready to learn more about a program that will help you become a dental assistant? The Dental Assistant Program prepares a graduate to work as an entry-level Dental Assistant, Dental Receptionist, Office Manager or Dental Hygienist Assistant in a dental office, specialty practice, or dental clinic.? PCI Health Training Center Richardson, TX Campus offers the dental assistant program. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a dental assistant and start a rewarding career today.

**PCI firmly upholds its policy of nondiscrimination. Inquiries regarding policy may be directed to

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 Dental Assistant program offered at our Richardson Campus.

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

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 Dental Assistant program offered at our Richardson Campus.

Medical Assistant vs Medical Office Assistant

Medical Assistant

A healthcare team is only as good as its support specialists. Patients are best served when doctors and nurses have skilled associates working behind the scenes to keep things organized and running smoothly. Among the most essential team members are medical assistants and medical office assistants.

What’s the difference between a medical assistant and a medical office assistant?

The job titles sound similar, and both careers share a comparable history. Medical assisting and office assisting have been recognized as distinct occupations since the 1950s, and today, both have highly regarded professional organizations that set the standards for their specialties.

In many ways, the duties of a medical assistant and a medical office assistant overlap. But in general, a medical office assistant is an exclusively administrative specialist while a medical assistant is cross trained to tackle both clerical and clinical tasks. Each has a vital, but different role.

Medical Office Assistant

Medical office assistants work primarily in doctor’s offices, but their role is expanding to other settings, to include hospitals, outpatient clinics and insurance companies. Where medical professionals need organizational support, medical office assistants are in demand.

As a representative of the healthcare team, they manage a broad range of administrative responsibilities, such as:

  • Answering the phone
  • Overseeing the schedule
  • Greeting patients
  • Managing the reception area
  • Completing insurance forms
  • Aiding with billing
  • Maintaining medical records
  • Transcribing visit notes
  • Performing light accounting
  • Helping with payment inquires
  • Ordering office supplies

A vocational school education offers training in office procedures as well as other courses that emphasize the managerial needs of a healthcare practice. Unlike a medical assistant’s education, medical office assistants receive more training in subjects such as medical coding, billing and insurance. A medical office assistant has the ideal skills to help patients with their non-medical needs.

What skills does a medical office assistant need for success? As the first point of contact between patients and their healthcare team, medical office assistants should be courteous and professional. Clients should feel at ease approaching them with concerns and equally confident that they will handle their needs with care.

As the organizational experts that providers depend upon for productivity, a medical office assistant is called to be a fearless multitasker who is both attentive to detail and aware of the bigger picture.

Medical office assistants are the ambassadors of first impressions and should be:

  • Positive
  • Reliable
  • Flexible
  • Focused
  • Knowledgeable
  • Friendly and courteous

Excellent communication skills, including the ability to read and write confidently, are vital. Comfort with modern technology such as computers and electronic office equipment is a must.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants can handle most of the administrative functions in a hospital or private practice, but their education is less intensive in clerical procedures than clinical training. Medical assistants give doctors and nurses more time to focus on complex patient care by taking on medically important tasks that don’t require their attention. The talents of medical assistants are the perfect match for busy outpatient settings.

Medical office assistants are more likely to be involved in billing, coding and financial activities. While medical assistants tackle assignments that require a degree of clinical expertise such as:

  • Triaging patient symptoms over the phone
  • Managing outside referrals
  • Scheduling patients for diagnostic testing or surgical procedures
  • Ordering medical equipment and supplies

Hands-on clinical duties include:

  • Obtaining height, weight and vital signs
  • Reviewing patients’ medication and allergy lists
  • Helping clients with limited mobility
  • Keeping exam rooms disinfected and well-stocked
  • Giving immunizations
  • Providing first aid
  • Removing stitches or staples
  • Assisting with in-office surgical procedures
  • Sanitizing instruments
  • Drawing blood and collecting urine samples
  • Performing basic lab tests
  • Providing patient education

In small practices, medical assistants tend to be jacks-of-all-trades. Their responsibilities in large, multi-provider practices may have more of a clerical or clinical focus, and their duties will vary significantly based on the type of practice. For example, their role may be more defined in a specialist’s office.

Among the most important skills for medical assistants to possess are flexibility and the ability to communicate confidently. Being able to change gears in a moment, to adapt to shifting responsibilities is essential. No two days are alike on the clinical side of healthcare.

Medical assistants spend more one-on-one time with patients than their purely administrative counterparts. Providing education and hands-on care is a significant part of the job.

To do that, medical assistants should be:

  • Empathetic
  • Compassionate
  • Approachable
  • Versatile
  • Dependable
  • Sensitive
  • Open-minded and discrete

Like doctors and nurses, ongoing education is a must for medical assistants. The medical field is continually changing, so a love of learning and the willingness to take on new challenges is vital.

Career Growth Opportunities

For students interested in healthcare, both medical assisting and medical office assisting are rewarding career choices. Medical assistants have more diverse training, so it seems like they have more opportunities, but both fields of study have similar potential. Medical office assisting is simply more focused.

Graduates of either program are employment-ready, but obtaining voluntary certification demonstrates commitment and can lead to professional growth. Graduating from a vocational school program is just the beginning of a long and rewarding career.

With experience and a diploma, a medical office assistant can qualify to become a Certified Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA). This credential can help the right candidates grow into supervisory or office management positions.

Students graduating from an accredited medical assisting program qualify for certification from the American Association of Medical Assistants. Certification is especially valuable for medical assistants because major insurers require it for tasks like entering doctor’s orders into electronic health records. It not only makes a job applicant more valuable, but it also opens the door to more responsible roles.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare occupations are among the most diverse and fastest growing in the country. And the best part is, there’s room for people with both clinical and administrative aptitude. With the right training, a new career as a respected medical support specialist is right around the corner.

Did learning about medical assistants and medical office assistants interest you? Interested in working with colleagues that want to help their patients stay healthy? Ready for an exciting new career in the medical assisting field? PCI Health Training Center’s Medical Assistant program prepares a graduate to work as an entry-level Medical Assistant. Within this general career category there are several specialty areas, including Medical Administrative Office Assistant, Clinic Assistant, Clinic Tech, Medical Office Manager, Phlebotomist and Physical Therapy Aide in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital out-patient clinic. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a medical assistant and start a rewarding career today.

Want to become a medical office assistant? The Medical Office Assistant program is designed to prepare a graduate to work as an entry-level medical front office assistant, receptionist, insurance biller, insurance collector, appointment scheduler, medical secretary, or medical records clerk in health care centers, clinics, hospitals, ambulatory care centers and medical billing offices. Contact PCI Health Training Center for more information on how to become a medical office assistant and start a rewarding career today.

**PCI firmly upholds its policy of nondiscrimination. Inquiries regarding policy may be directed to

For more information about our graduation rates and other important information, please visit our website at