You may or may not have started looking for a dental assistant job description, but you may be asking by now, “What does a dental assistant do?” First of all, they do not clean your teeth.
People tend to think of that when they first hear the words “dental assistant” but, although you will find the two vocations taking place in the same office, a dental hygienist and a dental assistant are two very different jobs.
What is a Standard Dental Assistant Job Description?
To start out with a simple and obvious answer, a dental assistant is one who assists the dentist in any way that he or she needs, in any way allowable by law, and in part, depending on your level of education and training.
A dental assistant job description can vary from state to state; practice-to-practice, based on a dentist’s individual preferences, and how prepared you are to take on new challenges.
You will rarely see a dentist saying “open wide” without a trusted dental assistant just as nearby. If you reflect on a time you have been a patient, you can likely recall some of the dental assistant’s duties.
For the dentist to do the intricate work the dental assistant is physically enabling it by what is known as retracting (pulling the cheek to the side to make room) for the doctor or sometimes you may be reigning in an unruly tongue (as tongues can often be), and an important job that must be done!
When a dentist preps a tooth before a filling, it is the duty of the dental assistant to keep the infamous drill from becoming hot by applying a steady stream of water to the area of treatment. And of course, dental assistants are also suctioning the water back out as fast as it goes in so that it is not running down the patient’s chin.
That is also why one of a dental assistant’s duties is to have put that nifty disposable covering on the patient before beginning. (AKA, the bib)
There is only so much one person can physically do with just two hands. That is why, as a dental assistant, you could easily be viewed as the dentist’s right arm, or extra pair of hands. When it comes to dental assisting duties, you could say that those common metaphors are closer to literal realities in many situations.
There is So Much More to the Dental Assistant Job Description
The dental assistant job description goes way beyond keeping an area wet or dry or managing tongues and cheeks. It even goes way beyond sterilizing instruments, setting them up appropriately on trays, and expertly handing them to the dentist as they are needed.
As your dental assistant skills sharpen you will often know exactly what is needed next; you will be a link in that important flow that needs to be present in the highly professional environment.
Patient Contact: A Time to Shine
For those of you who look forward to the patient contact, these may be your favorites on the list of the dental assistant’s job description: You have the responsibility of keeping the patient calm and comfortable.
It is very important that you are observing the patient for signs of ease, comfort or distress and anxiety. If you become aware of a patient who is particularly in pain, afraid, nervous, ill or agitated in any way, you will be reporting that to the dentist immediately.
When a patient enters into the room and you observe the body language, facial expressions, or even the verbal cues that one is very frightened or worried, you get to go to work on easing such feelings.
It is such an important part of dental assisting duties to be aware of a patient’s level of comfort, and to jump into action when a nervous patient needs your help.
As a dental assistant, you are the one who will be spending a great deal of time with the patient in the preparation prior to and after the procedures, so your influence on the patients is highly significant.
This is why caring, composed, compassionate people can make great dental assistants. Being able to exhibit a calm, sympathetic and understanding composure will make you a dental assistant that is highly valued by both the doctor and patients.
This skill is important enough to be considered one of dental assistants duties and cannot be over-emphasized.
Asking them questions could help you find out exactly what they are most worried about. Maybe they have had a bad experience, and you drawing that out of them could ease some of their tension; perhaps even allowing a trust to develop for you that you will be watching out for them.
Getting the patient to talk about their fear is a good way to relieve pressure for them. Allowing them to hear you convey their worries to the dentist may go a long way in helping them to stay calm.
Technology in Dental Assistant Duties
Another excellent reason to obtain a dental assistant’s education is because taking x-rays for the dentist is among dental assistant duties. Taking x-rays requires technological training to become knowledgeable of hazards and develop a sharp awareness of safety issues.
It is another serious responsibility of the dental assistant’s that should not go without proper education and training.
A fact that most of us are aware of is that one who is or might be pregnant needs to have extra precautions taken when getting x-rays. A dental assistant who is or may be pregnant has to consider the dangers to herself and her levels of radiation exposure.
Since it is part of the dental assistant job description to regularly take x-rays proper training for that task is a must. Such training is found among dental assistant programs.
Advancements In Crowns and Bridges
The technologies pertaining to the perfection of bridges, crowns, braces, retainers, anti-snoring devices and many other oral appliances is ever-changing.
Since it fits into the dental assistant job duties to perform tasks pertaining to the oral devices, such as cleaning, slight adjustments, doing initial impressions for them, we see that specialized training is a must.
Dental assistants must know the right mixtures for the impression mold that needs to be taken, exactly how it must go in, how the patient carefully needs to hold their mouth, how long it needs to stay in, how to gently remove the impression, all while patiently and verbally coaching and informing the patient through the entire procedure.
That is in addition to the dental assistant duties of understanding all of the dentist’s instructions, then making the proper notations and other technical instructions that need to be performed and passed onto the lab that actually constructs the appliance.
A Well-Rounded Asset to the Office
There is more good news about dental assisting job duties for those who like versatile and fascinating tasks that challenge what could otherwise be an everyday routine job.
As a dental assistant you are often called upon to perform activities in all corners of a dental office. You will be providing reports, managing information coming and going, and likely be responsible for the inventory of dentistry supplies.
You may very well be the person, who does follow-up calls to patients after certain procedures; after all, you and the dentist will be the most aware of what the patient endured on their last visit.
As a dental assistant, you can very likely be an extraordinary asset to the dentist’s practice and success, depending on your education, training, qualifications and certifications; in other words, depending on the depth of you knowledge through sufficient education and training.
Careers for dental assistants are sharply rising as we speak and there has never been a better time to get into the field. Indecision should not have the power to come between you and a life-changing, life-enhancing career.
Find Your Place
The timing couldn’t be better. The opportunities could not be greater than they are right now. Everything is in line for you to change the course of your employment, your career, your fulfillment, and your life’s dreams. This is your time.
Colleges are laying out the red carpet for you right now. March right up and get what you know you should have and what you deserve: a superior education for a career in dental assisting. It is altogether there for you. Does this dental assistant job description grab your attention; all you have to do is say yes, get started, and make it yours.