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What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

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Authored by Ceetee Sheckels in Dentistry 
Published on 01-07-2010

Dental assistants have an important job which consists of a number of different functions. While you may think of their job as easing the dentist’s workload, there is much more to it. A dental assistant can have duties in the laboratory and the office, as well as helping the dentist with his patients.

The person who is nervous about visiting the dentist already knows one of the dental assistant’s roles. Greeting and calming nervous patients is one of her duties. This is far from being her sole duty in assisting the dentist. Making sure that he has the correct instruments readily on hand is a time-saver for the dentist. She is also in charge of sterilizing all of the equipment, so that it is all clean, free of bacteria, and ready for use. Dealing with x-rays and other similar diagnostic tools is another function which the dental assistant provides on a daily basis.

Dental assistants may also perform basic business functions. Although these duties may be done by a secretary, the dental assistant may deal with a considerable amount of office work. From patient records to scheduling their appointments, ensuring that all necessary supplies are ordered and on hand, and dealing with payments and billing, a dental assistant can have much to do in the office every day.

Basic laboratory work can also be a function for the dental assistant. Making temporary crowns and casts are only two of the interesting tasks which the dental assistant may need to do on a regular basis. Although laboratory work is unseen by the patient, the work done there is essential to the dental practice. When the lab work is performed by a qualified dental assistant, it significantly reduces the dentist’s workload, and reduces or eliminates the need for additional people to do these tasks.

As you can see, a dental assistant fills a number of different roles. The workload she has and the specific tasks she performs is largely based on the size and scope of the practice where she works. In a smaller dental practice, the assistant may have many more daily responsibilities than in a larger practice where there may be an office staff and a laboratory staff. As the dental assistant must be qualified to do all of these things, appropriate training is necessary.

Some states do not have specific requirements for this job. In these instances, becoming a dental assistant can begin with on-the-job experience. However, the easiest way to prepare for this career is with formal education. Many community colleges and technical schools offer excellent programs for dental assistant training. Some high schools also offer “vo-tech” training for this purpose. Whether your state requires it or not, becoming a Certified Dental Assistant can open up more job opportunities and even include a larger salary.

Whether you are interested in becoming a dental assistant, or are simply curious about what the dental assistant does on a regular basis, it can involve much more than most people realize. It is an exciting, fast-paced career with the added benefit of knowing that you are performing important functions for both the dentist and the patients.

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