Becoming a Dental Assistant

Who is the Dental Assistant?

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental Assistants, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm (visited May 16, 2022).

The Dental Assisting profession is a vital component in the dental healthcare delivery team. The Dental Assistant position is highly technical skilled work responsible for working under the supervision of dentists with a wide range of task in the dental office, ranging from patient care to administrative duties to laboratory functions. Work involves assisting a dentist engaged in performing general dentistry practices such as diagnostic, operative, preventive, and other dental procedures during examination and treatment of patients.

Dental assistants often spend much of their day working closely with patients and dentists. For example, dental assistants might take a patient’s medical history, blood pressure, and pulse before a procedure; explain what will be done; and talk to patients about oral care. They help dentists during a procedure by passing instruments and holding equipment such as suction hoses, matrix bands, and dental curing lights. Other tasks include preparing the treatment room and making sure that instruments and equipment are sterile. Dental assistants also may document the procedure that is done and schedule followup appointments.

Some dental assistants are specially trained to take x rays of teeth and the surrounding areas. They place a protective apron over patients’ chest and lap, position the x-ray machine, place the x-ray sensor or film in patients’ mouths, and take the x rays. Afterward, dental assistants ensure that the images are clear.

Assistants who perform lab tasks, such as taking impressions of a patient’s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They may prepare materials for dental impressions or temporary crowns.

Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants.