Dental Assistant Job Description

What does a dental assistant do? First off, they do not clean teeth. However, they are an essential part to any dental practice. Here we share what to expect your role will be in this type of job. People tend to think of teeth cleaning as the primary duty, however you will find the two vocations taking place in the same office (a dental hygienist and a dental assistant) are two very different jobs.

dental assistant job description

What is a Standard Dental Assistant Job Description?

To start out with a simple and obvious answer, they are the person who assists the dentist in any way that he or she needs, in any way allowable by law, and in part, depending on his or her level of education and training.

A dentist’s 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 assistant as nearby. If you reflect on a time you have been a patient, you can likely recall some of their duties.

For the dentist to do the intricate work the dentist’s 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!

dental assistant duties

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, they 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 their 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 this role 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 Job than the 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 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 patient contact, these may be your favorites on the list of the 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.

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 be great at this job. Being able to exhibit a calm, sympathetic and understanding composure will make you someone that is highly valued by both the doctor and patients.

This skill is important enough to be considered one of the most important 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 Dentist Assistant Duties

Another excellent reason to obtain a the proper training and education is because taking x-rays for the dentist will be among your 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 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 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 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 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 dentist’s 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.

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 job description grab your attention; all you have to do is say yes, get started, and make it yours.


22 Responses to Dental Assistant Job Description

  1. Hi I suffer from rhumetoid arthritis and I don’t have full movement in both arms my right arm is bent and don’t straighten up. And my left arm is straight but won’t bend. Kinda like a barbies doll! I really wanna further my career to have a better future for me and my child. Does my disability matter in this feild . Thank you so much for your time

    • Hi Shawana – I’m sorry to hear about your rheumatoid arthritis – unfortunately, dental assistants tend to work with their hands and arms quite a bit – that’s not to say it would be impossible, but it may serve you best to look into another career – I also have a strong belief that you can do anything you put your mind to, so it’s certainly possible – best of luck and take care!

      • Yes, find a dentist who is wililng to mentor and train you, and you can later do the certifications to do x-rays and polishing and such .you will be unlicensed, but can still do some things .and a good start.Check your State’s web page for education and license requirements

    • Hi Sherry! Yes, there is a chance that you could do the notes for your dentist – although, I believe that fits in more with being a medical assistant – plus, keep in mind, any position you will will vary based on the tasks and activities that you need to be responsible for – good luck and take care!

    • Hi Kathy – as far as I’m aware, algebra is not a large part of any dental assisting position – most of the job includes dental prep work, inventory, keeping everything organized, interacting with customers and other similar activities – thanks for the question!

      • Being a dental anasstist requires some training. But every office runs in a different capacity so it’s self taught and you take dental x-rays and should be certified to do this too -(state testing). Being a medical anasstist is sort of the same thing. Although some practical courses are good to learn how to lift the patient properly and offer first aide etc.The medical field is a place where there is always a job.People are always going to be sick, recovering, dying or being born and they need people to care for them.

  2. I would love to be a dental assistant but my english is about average-good. and I’m still working on it.. Is that enough?

    • Hi Yenny – it will depend, but if you continue to work on it, I’m sure it wouldn’t be an issue – make sure to ask and to continue practicing though!

  3. Does Dental Assistant work at the front desk n make appointments n answer calls or they primarily work in the back with the doctor?

    • Hi Tenzin – it really depends on the needs of the dentist – dental assistants are able to provide help when it comes to procedures, but how much they do depends on their length of employment, certifications, etc – they could be doing the tasks you mentioned, yes – however – many factors influence a dental assistants job description.

  4. i’ve been working in home health off and on for ten years and I want to move on. there is no advancement in this field and im stuck where i am. I am an ambitious person and I like to move up. is there room for advancement once one becomes a dental assistant?

    • Hi Kiela – yes, there are a few different options such as moving up to a higher administration job, or going back to school and training to become a dental hygienist – there are also different paths to work with dental specialists, such as an orthodontist – good luck!

  5. Hi! I am in college now just getting my pre recs for either dental assisting or dental hygiene. I was wondering first of all if a dental assisting certificate will let you have a ortho assiting job? Also is there such a thing as dental hygienist job just working with children? If so what is that called?

    • Hi Caryn – great, good job so far! I believe the job description specifics for the orthodontist assisting position will vary, depending on the requirements by the dentist and the state – there are definitely dental practices that work specifically with kids, they’re referred to as “pediatric dentistry” – all the best and good luck!

    • Hi Arion – when it comes to dental assisting training and schooling option, you actually have quite a few paths – ideally, taking a course in-person is the easiest and fastest way to learn – online is also a good option – technically, you can start a dental assisting career without training, but in that case you’ll need to be trained on the job, which is much harder to come by – plus, dental assistants with more experience and training generally get paid a better salary – all the best and take care!

  6. im a student about to graduate from a vocational collage and also certified for X-Rays and Cronopolish and Certified for CPR from the American Heart Association what would u think my average pay would be? An i would like to know a little of what a student going in for a the practice of an actual dentist is like?….

    • Hi Fernando – thank you for your question… I can’t tell you for sure, but I do know that the more qualified you are for the job, the more pay you’ll usually receive – that’s not true in all cases, but it usually works that way, depending on the job and the demand for the skills you already have – thanks!

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