Home / Dental Assistant / Dental Assisting Articles / What Is A Dental Assistant?

What Is A Dental Assistant?

A dental assistant is a qualified professional in the oral health care field that works under dentist supervision. A dental assistant works to handle patients, paperwork, and procedure in the office, allowing the dentist to work efficiently.

Every dentist office requires at least one qualified dental assistant for best performance and many dentists will have multiple dental assistants working under him or her. It’s an important position that can make or break the operations of a dentist office and as a result, there is a high demand for dental assistants, both part-time as well as full-time.

Dental Assistant Job Description

No day is the same when working as a dental assistant but there are many tasks and general responsibilities that are ongoing in this position. The specific job description will vary by office as the work allotted to the dental assistant may vary.

What Is A Dental Assistant

Generally, a dental assistant is required to interact with patients, take care of record keeping, and assist the dentist with any other laboratory or office work. However, the dental assistant will not be required to perform many of the tasks that a dental hygienist would and much of the work will be under directions of the dentist. You can find out more about the differences between a dental assistant vs dental hygienist here.

What Does A Dental Assistant Do?

As mentioned above, what is a dental assistant and what a dental assistant does will vary by dental office. The particular requirements are dependent on the work that the dentist wishes to direct to the assistant.

There are certain tasks that the dentist may choose to perform instead of handing to the dental assistant but this may not be the same at other offices. Generally, a dental assistant will keep up with paperwork, handle patients, and be on hand for any assistance that the dentist may require.


Dental Assistant Duties

While the duties of a dental assistant may vary depending on the specific requirements of the dental office or dentist you work under, a dental assistant’s basic duties include keeping up with paperwork, handling patient’s inquiries, transmitting information between patients and dentists, and assisting the dentist with certain procedures.

Some of the typical duties of a dental assistant include the following:

  • Work directly with patients to assure that they are relaxed and prepared for the procedure or treatment that they are visiting for
  • Gather the appropriate tools and materials for the dentist and sterilize any dental instruments that require it
  • Set out all the tools and materials in the work area for the dentist to have quick access to
  • Provide the dentist with any particular tools or materials requested during the procedure or treatment
  • Use a suction hose or similar tool to make sure that the dentist’s mouth remains dry at all times
  • Complete any x-rays and other laboratory tasks while under the direction and supervision of the dentist
  • Record any dental procedures that went underway to keep proper filing of the patient
  • Schedule future appointments that are required for follow up or further operations
  • Handle the invoicing and processing of bills and payments for patients
  • Inform patients on proper dental hygiene and answer any questions they may have

If a dental assistant is required to complete more laboratory work, then their specific duties may be a little different. There are certain hands-on duties that may also be required in certain dentist offices but not others.

In addition to basic administrative duties, four additional duties that are sometimes required include the application of fluoride, topical anesthetics, sealant, and coronal polishing. These duties – known as expanded duties – may or may not be assigned, depending on the particular office and dentist you work with and the regulations in your state.