A dental assistant is a person responsible for providing assistance to the dentist or any physician performing dental procedure in order to maintain a smooth flow of work. A dental assistant’s job will go about the sterilizing of the procedure room and the equipments, handling of instruments and tools to the dentists, maintaining a comfortable environment for the patient before, during, and after a procedure and performing specialized tasks related to dental health and oral care. An efficient dental assistant can help the dentist or the physician tremendously since the attending physician won’t have to worry about the details of the environment and hence focus more on the procedure.
Generally, a dental assistant can perform his responsibilities in different areas of a dental care facility, and if he has acquired a specialization in the field of dental assisting, he can also work in more difficult tasks, provided that he is under the careful supervision of a dentist or physician. A day in the life of a dental assistant would normally include these tasks in the procedure room:
* prepare the dental clinic and maintain a sterile environment
* prepare the instruments and the equipments that will be used during the procedure
* check the availability of instruments and accessories before the procedure
* keep the patient’s condition in a comfortable level
* prepare the patient for the treatment
* check and update the patient’s record
* hand the accurate instruments to the dentist in an orderly manner
* keep the patient’s mouth dry by holding the suction
As a staff in the dental clinic, the dental assistant can also perform office duties such as:
* answering calls
* scheduling appointments and confirming them
* receive patients in the holding room
* organize and file the patients’ records and update them when necessary
* run an inventory of the supplies and stocks of instruments and materials
* send billing
* receive payment
A dental assistant who has acquired a specialized education can also perform laboratory duties such as:
* radiography/ taking dental x-rays of the patient’s dental profile
* process the dental records
* remove suture
* apply anesthesia on the patient’s gums/ remove excess cement
* cast impressions and perform coronal restorations.
* create temporary crowns
Although most states don’t maintain policies on employing dental assistants, most employers prefer to hire a dental assistant who has acquired formal training from an accredited dental assistant school. Additionally, by getting a degree or a certification from an accredited school, a dental assistant can look forward to better job options since he is eligible to be licensed and even continue his education in the field of dental assisting. Aspiring dental assistants who want to get into a dental assistant training program should comply to a number of requirements such as passing course works in relative sciences such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, health sciences, and administration courses prior to being admitted in the dental assistant school.
Aside from acquiring the appropriate training, a dental assistant should also possess certain characteristics such as:
* manual dexterity
* good communication skills (since he will also serve as a communication bridge between the patient and the dentist. Additionally, some dental assistants are also tasked to educate and disseminate dental health and oral care information to patients or instruct them on how to maintain their oral health following the dental procedure)
* organization skills.
In a recent survey conducted by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there will be an increasing demand for dental assistants within the years 2008-2018 and even beyond. This may be due to the fact that the population of people who have become aware of the importance of oral health is increasing, and the number of dental assistants who have previously worked in the field are looking forward to retiring within this 10-year period. Hence, a lot of dental care facilities need more hands to assist and facilitate the dental procedures due to these two factors.
Aside from working in a dental care facility, a dental assistant can also dabble into other fields of dental care by being a part of the academe (as a dental-teaching instructor), sales and marketing industry, research laboratories, or improve their education by studying as a dental hygienist or acquire specialized skills such as radiology. The future looks bright for aspiring dental assistants, and with proper education, training and by obtaining a license, a dental assistant can surely advance in his career in this field.