Having a job as a dental assistant can be a highly rewarding experience. The dental assistant job outlook is great, with employment experts anticipating a 31 percent increase by the year 2020. In spite of all these benefits, this field of employment only requires about a year of training, and in some states, a person can even become a dental assistant with a mere three months of on-the-job training.
If this sounds like a career you would be interested in, the first step in deciding whether it’s right for you is to learn the dental assistant job description. Although often overlooked, dental assistants are the engine that keeps a dental practice running smoothly. They work with both dentists and hygienists, and they perform a variety of duties in the office, the lab, and with patients. All types of dental specialties need dental assistants, including orthodontists, periodontists and oral surgeons. The responsibilities of a dental assistant include:
PATIENT CARE AND EDUCATION
Dental assistants provide many of the most important elements of patient care. They are responsible for seating the patient, assuring his or her comfort, making inquiries about medical history and taking vital signs. Assistants suction the patient’s mouth during a procedure, and in some states they are even allowed to administer the anesthetic before the procedure. They are also the patient’s main teacher, imparting information about preventative care, post-treatment care and nutrition.
ASSISTING WITH PROCEDURES
Almost all dental procedures require the help of a dental assistant, so these professionals have the privilege of participating in a wide range of different activities. Not only do assistants hand materials to dentists and hygienists, help hold instruments in place and lend whatever assistance the dentist may need during a procedure, but they also perform many procedures themselves. They take x-rays, create molds of patients’ teeth and polish crowns. Ensuring that instruments are sterile and removing sutures are among the other duties of dental assistants, and some states allow them to administer fluoride and apply sealant as well.
As a dental assistant, an individual is also quite often a secretary, receptionist and office manager. He or she may welcome patients, organize appointments, take care of billing or handle patient records. Answering the phone and responding to patient questions may also fall to the dental assistant, as may a variety of other bookkeeping and record keeping tasks. Some assistants even order supplies and make sure that infection control protocols are adequately followed and properly documented.
Dental assistants are invaluable in the lab as well. They assemble custom trays, make temporary bridges and crowns, and create plaster models. Not only that, but they are responsible for developing x-rays and for cleaning detachable oral appliances, and they may also construct mouth guards. Specialty dental assistants may perform other lab responsibilities, such as creating retainers if they work in an orthodontist’s office.