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Allowable Duties of Registered Dental Assistants

Tips on Selecting a Training Program to Help a Student Become a Licensed or Registered Dental Assistant

When deciding to pursue a training program for dental assisting, one of the first things a student will want to do is to determine what the training requirements are for their local area. Some basic courses and trainings will need to be completed by dental assistant students regardless of where they are located. This will allow them to handle the basic duties associated with the job. However, to handle some regulated duties, dental assistants in many states may be required to become a licensed or certified dental assistant. This often will require extra training or the completion of an examination.

Training Programs
Most training programs will offer classes to cover the basics of dental assisting. This can include subjects such as dental anatomy, dental materials, radiology, and emergency medicine. In addition, most accredited training programs will offer courses designed to teach students the basics of office management. The information obtained in these courses will assist a student in building a solid understanding of their job and the work they do. Some programs will also include course that offer more advanced information about subjects, like fluoride products, dental sealants, dental implants, and infection control. These can be helpful if the student will need to become licensed or certified.
Allowable Duties of Registered Dental Assistants
Basic Duties
After completing this type of training, a student will be able to work in a dental office and handle a variety of basic tasks in the office. This can include the following:

• Sterilizing dental equipment.
• Preparing the work area for the dentist by setting out equipment and the materials to be used.
• Working with patients to make them feel at ease before their procedures or treatments.
• Assisting the dentist during procedures by handing him or her the tools as they need them, and keeping the patient’s mouth dry through the use of suction equipment.
• Instructing the patient on dental hygiene concerns after a treatment or with general dental hygiene issues.
• Office tasks, such as appointment setting, updating dental records, billing, and payment issues.

These basic duties will generally encompass the majority of the work a dental assistant will do on a daily basis in many of the offices where they find employment. While training is required, all work will be done under the guidance of a dentist who is well trained and knowledgeable in his or her work.

Restricted Duties
In addition to the basic duties mentioned previously, most dental offices have need for dental assistants to handle other tasks as well. These are often considered restricted duties. Restricted duties are generally governed by state regulations and often this will mean only a certified or registered dental assistant can handle these tasks.

The requirements for becoming registered or certified can vary depending on state requirements. Many states require the dental assistant to take an exam after they have successfully completed an accredited dental assistant training program. However, some states will allow students who have a high school diploma and have completed a certain number of hours in on the job training to take the exam as well. If the student passes this exam, they will become licensed or registered.

Dental assistants who are licensed or registered are generally allowed to assist the dentist in tasks relating to the following general areas of treatment:

• Coronal polishing – This involves removing soft deposits of plaque from the teeth so they will look cleaner and brighter. In most cases, the dentist will need to check to verify the patient’s teeth are free of calculus or other elements before this work can be done.
• Fluoride application – This treatment involves fluoride being painted or otherwise applied to the patient’s teeth to help in cavity prevention.
• Dental sealant application – This is also used to help in preventing cavities. This involves a thin plastic gel or liquid being applied to the teeth to help in sealing out food and acids from coming in contact with the teeth.
• Topical anesthetics application – this is done before dental procedures to help in numbing the area from any possible pain, which may occur.

While all these treatments must be done under the direction of a dentist, the state regulations require the dental assistant to be properly registered or licensed as well. Failure to follow these requirements can be regarded as a criminal offense and result in very serious disciplinary action for both the assistant and the dentist who authorized the work.

Since this can be a serious matter for both the assistant and the dentist in charge, it is important to know and understand the regulations of the state where one is working or plans to seek employment. This information can be beneficial in selecting a training program to help a student in fulfilling their state requirements.