There are currently more than 350,000 dental assistants in the United States. Even more interesting, the job market for dental assistants is growing at a rate of seven percent, which is much higher than average.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the medical field where you can help people and have good job prospects, then you may want to consider becoming a dental assistant. But what exactly does a dental assistant do? And how does someone become a dental assistant?
We’re glad you asked. If you’d like to learn the answers to these questions, then keep on reading and we’ll walk you through everything you’re going to want to know!
What Is a Dental Assistant?
A dental assistant works at a dentist’s office. There, they perform all kinds of tasks, including cleaning dental tools, maintaining dental records, scheduling appointments, and caring for patients.
A dental assistant will work under the supervision of a dentist but they will also work closely with dental hygienists. Although what a dental assistant does might look similar all over the country, it’s important to note that their specific duties will vary by dentist’s office and by state.
Practically all dental assistants work in dentists’ offices although a small number of them also work for the government or in other doctors’ offices.
Dental Assistant Job Description and Duties
If you’re interested in enrolling in a dental assistant school, then you’ll likely want to know exactly what will be expected of you on the job. A dental assistant will need to handle a mix of clinical and administrative tasks.
The scope of their responsibilities covers a lot. However, a dental assistant might be limited based on the state in which they work. During a dental procedure, a dental assistant will wear gloves, protective clothing, surgical masks, and safety glasses in order to protect themselves and patients from infections.
A dental assistant will also need to follow strict safety rules in order to reduce risks that are related to x-ray machines. Below, we will like some of the most common duties for dental assistants:
- Preparing bills and completing insurance forms
- Exposing dental diagnostic x-rays
- Cleaning and polishing removable appliances
- Ordering dental supplies and equipment inventory
- Assisting the dentist during dental treatment
- Asking patients about their medical history
- Creating and fitting orthodontic appliances and materials like retainers, wires, or bands
- Cleaning teeth with dental instruments
- Instructing patients in oral hygiene and plaque control
- Taking patients vital signs
- Scheduling appointments for patients
While these are some of the most common duties, each specific dental assistant job will be different.
Where Do Dental Assistants Work?
While the majority of dental assistants work for dentists, some dental assistants also work in other industries. If you become a professional dental assistant in the United Staes, you will likely work in one of the following sectors:
- Office of Dentists
- Outpatients Care Centers
- State Government
- Federal Executive Branch
- Offices of Physicians
- Employment Services
You also might end up working at a university, college, or professional school.
A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant
A day in the life of a dental assistant might start with preparing the dental equipment and exam rooms. This might include setting up materials, arranging instrument trays, and disinfecting and sterilizing tools.
When the first patients start to arrive at the dentist’s office for their treatment or dental exam, a dental assistant will need to take and record their dental and medical histories. A dental assistant also might measure the patient’s vital signs. While the patient is being treated, the assistant will usually help the dentist by handing them instruments.
Also, a dental assistant will usually provide postoperative instructions to the patient, as prescribed by the dentist. They also might teach the patient about plaque control and oral hygiene to help her or him improve oral health. Sometimes, it will be up to the dental assistant to explain medical information to the patient.
Another part of a dental assistant’s workday will be to make patient-assistive devices or device models. They’ll need to fit these devices for the patient. A dental assistant also might be asked to operate medical equipment, including x-ray machines.
A standard workday for a dental assistant will usually involve various administrative tasks. They maintain patient records, process insurance forms, receive insurance payments, prepare medical bills, and schedule appointments. A dental assistant also might conduct inventory counts and order needed supplies.
Overall, most of the day for a dental assistant will require interacting with others, usually in close proximity. They’re working with other members of the office and also caring for the dentist’s patients.
Dental assistants definitely enhance the efficiency of a dentist’s office and improve the quality of care. This is a very people-oriented career. So it’s best for people who like working with others and have good communication skills.
The Importance of Knowing What a Dental Assistant Does
Hopefully, after reading the above article, you now have a better understanding of what a dental assistant does. As we can see, a dental assistant helps to keep a dentist’s office running smoothly and they also act as the conduit between the dentist and the patient.
Are you interested in becoming a professional dental assistant? If so, then you should make sure that you have good communication and people skills as well as strong attention to detail.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our site for more helpful articles!