What Does a Dental Assistant Do?
Dental assistants make dental offices run more efficiently and help patients feel comfortable. They schedule appointments, maintain dental records, help patients get settled in the chair and clean dental tools. They may also assist with areas of office management. Dental assistants work under the supervision of a dentist and work closely with dental hygienists.
State regulations vary on what a dental assistant can do. Some are specially trained in taking X-rays while others assist with procedures such fillings, extractions or crowns.
Some dental assistants work part-time. Some work night or weekends. The job outlook for dental assistants is expected to grow 7% between 2019 and 2029.
- Prepare patients and the work area for examinations
- Update patient's medical history
- Hand the dentist tools during procedures
- Provide chair-side support to patients
- Sterilize dental instruments and equipment
- Use suction tubes to keep patients’ mouths dry
- Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
- Keep records
- Schedule appointments
- Work with patients on billing issues
There are several ways to become a dental assistant. Some states require dental assistants to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam. Other states focus on on-the-job training. Community colleges and some technical schools offer training programs, which vary in length. Some take a year to complete and lead to a certificate or diploma. Other programs last two years and lead to an associate degree.
Many programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). Accredited programs include classroom and lab work. Students learn about dental instruments, dental terminology, teeth, gums and other areas of the mouth. These programs also include supervised practical experience.
Most states don’t require a license, but being licensed or registered may create job opportunities. Depending on the state, a separate license may be required to take X-rays.
- Are detail-oriented
- Have dexterity
- Have good communication skills
- Are tech-savvy
- Have strong organizational skills
- Able to move smoothly and quickly from one task to another