What does a Dental Assistant do?

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What is a Dental Assistant?

Also known as: Certified Registered Dental Assistant, Certified Dental Assistant, Registered Dental Assistant

A dental assistant has many tasks in a dental office, and their duties vary by state/province and by the dentists’ offices where they work. Typically, a dental assistant will either work to support office operations, work in dental labs, or work under the supervision of a dentist who treats patients.

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What does a Dental Assistant do?

Some responsibilities of a dental assistant include:

  • Working with patients to make them comfortable in the dental chair and to prepare them for treatments and procedures
  • Sterilizing dental instruments
  • Preparing the work area for patient treatment by setting out instruments and materials
  • Helping dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
  • Keeping patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses or other equipment
  • Removing sutures
  • Instructing patients in proper dental hygiene
  • Processing x-rays and doing lab tasks under the direction of a dentist
  • Keeping records of dental treatments
  • Scheduling patient appointments
  • Working with patients on billing and payment

All dental assistants do tasks such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records, but there are four regulated tasks that assistants may also be able to do, depending on the state where they work, including:

Coronal Polishing
- removing soft deposits such as plaque, giving teeth a cleaner appearance

Sealant Application
- painting a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities

Fluoride Application
- applying fluoride directly on the teeth as another anti-cavity measure

Topical Anesthetics Application - some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of the patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area

What is the workplace of a Dental Assistant like?

Almost all dental assistants work in dentists' offices. Dental assistants work under the supervision of dentists and may work closely with dental hygienists in their day-to-day activities.

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Further Reading

  • The Dental Assistant Career Path

    As a dental assistant, you have so many options to grow professionally and expand your career. The biggest challenge you’ll have is figuring out where you want to grow.

  • Ever Thought About Becoming A Dental Assistant?

    If you are seeking a rewarding career in the health industry and would like to keep your period of education reasonable, you may want to explore becoming a dental assistant. This is a great way to begin a career in the dental field, and the training to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) is relatively short (approximately 10 months long).

  • A Day In The Life Of A Dental Assistant

    Michelle Schooley has always had a slight obsession with teeth, due to having teeth problems throughout her life. So when a friend raved about how much she loved being a dental assistant, that was all the motivation Michelle needed to enrol in a dental-assisting program during her senior year in high school.

  • A Dental Assistant You Should Know!

    Dental Assistants share their stories on how they came into the profession.

  • The Ideal Dental Assistant

    The dental assistant is the most critical link between the patient and the dentist before, during, and after treatment. The person in this position plays a principal role in the successful delivery of treatment.

  • Dental Assistant

    Dental assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable members of the dental care team. If you have strong communication skills, enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind and want a career with responsibility, dental assisting is for you.

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