Delivering Quality Oral Health Care: All About Dental Assistant Duties

Are you looking for the next step in your career? Does a job where you can provide care for people in some of their most vulnerable moments sound good to you? Do you want to become an invaluable member of a team that changes the lives of people for the better?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, a career as a dental assistant may be right for you.

Dental assistant duties play a vital and supportive role in dental practices. Becoming a qualified dental assistant can open up a variety of opportunities for career advancement.

In fact, dental assistants are so in demand that the field is expanding fast. Job openings for dental assistants are growing in numbers all the time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Employment of dental assistants is projected to grow roughly 7 percent between now and 2029.

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a dental assistant, below is a comprehensive guide to all of the duties a dental assistant typically carries out in their role. Buckle up, it’s a long list. In this post, we’ll also be going through how to become a dental assistant, and the requirements you’ll need to fulfill.

Typical Dental Assistant Duties

People who are flexible and capable of multitasking are best suited to become dental assistants, as this is a role that consists of a lot of different responsibilities. Let’s take a look at some of the most typical dental assistant duties.

Before we go into the different ways dental assistants are involved with dental procedures, we’ll talk about some of the administrative tasks you may be responsible for.

Office Tasks

Dental assistants are often in charge of collecting the medical and dental histories of new patients and recording any new treatments in their files on an ongoing basis. They also provide patients with aftercare and oral hygiene instructions. Finally, dental assistants also order supplies and keep control of inventory in the office.

Dental Treatments

What about the more hands-on elements of the job? Dental assistants provide support to dentists during procedures in a number of different ways. They also have quite a bit of responsibility in terms of the tasks they carry out themselves.

Dental assistants prep patients for any procedures they may be receiving. They are also in charge of cleaning and sterilizing all equipment. They assist dentists with anything they may need during a procedure.

This can range from holding the light so the dentist can see better to removing excess saliva from the patient’s mouth, to handing the dentist whatever tools they require.

In addition to this, dental assistants also take and develop dental x-rays, and take impressions of patients’ mouths for the creation of models of their teeth.

Patient Care

One of the things many dental assistants love most about their role is the interaction they get to have with patients. A trip to the dentist can be a nerve-wracking experience. Many people even have an acute fear of dentists.

Dental assistants have the honorable role of providing information, advice, and comfort to patients. Making sure they are relaxed and aware of all the steps of their procedure is vitally important in ensuring everything runs smoothly for both dentist and patient.

Dental Assistant Requirements

The requirements for dental assistants vary from state to state, but generally speaking, you will need the following qualifications.

At least a high school diploma or equivalent will most likely be required anywhere you look. You should also possess great verbal and written English, and be computer literate. As patient care is a big part of this role, you will be required to have a professional and compassionate attitude.

Finally, it is extremely likely you will need a certification or degree from one of the dental assistant programs which are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Luckily, there are almost 300 such programs in the US.

How to Become a Dental Assistant

There are two different ways one can become a dental assistant. Each offers its own advantages and drawbacks.

On the Job Training

The first way to become a dental assistant is through on the job training. Depending on which state you live in, this may offer a quicker route to becoming a dental assistant and is generally speaking a less expensive option. It also negates the need for higher education.

However, this kind of placement can be difficult to come by, and if you don’t complete any formal education, you may be limiting your options in terms of which states you will be able to find a job in. You may find that not having a formal education can be less attractive to prospective employers.

Earning a Diploma

Although this option sometimes (but not always) takes more time and can be more expensive, it is the choice of many who choose to become dental assistants.

Why? For one, it can provide you with the knowledge to be able to perform more tasks than an assistant who has learned on the job.

For a diploma that actually specifically offers the ability to become a dental assistant with a wider range of responsibilities, check out UMA and their Dental Assistant with Expanded Functions degree.

One other thing to consider is that earning a diploma will also leave the door open for degree holders to further their education and thus increase their earning potential. Plus, as stated above, in many practices, a degree is an important thing for new hires to possess.

Is a Career as a Dental Assistant for You?

Many people who consider pursuing this career path don’t have a full picture of the vast array of dental assistant duties that need to be performed on a daily basis.

From supporting the dentist to administrative duties, to keeping patients happy and healthy, a dental assistant wears many different hats in their role.

This is a truly diverse position that requires hard work and flexibility. But hopefully, you will also find it to be extremely rewarding, on a financial, professional, and personal level.

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