What is a Dental Assistant and What Do They Do?

Have you ever thought about taking a job in the dental industry but fear becoming a dentist is too much work? There is an opportunity to be part of the dental field even if you are not a dentist. You can become a dental hygienist or a dental assistant. It is a challenging career option and there is a lot of demand for a good assistant.

What does a dental assistant do?

Most patients think the assistant only passes the instruments to the dentist. But there is a lot more to that position than passing tools. Apart from providing patient care and chair side support, a dental assistant helps in taking teeth impressions, support in extractions, fillings and crowns. If they get licensed, they can even operate x-rays and remove stains from teeth using tools like a dental scraper, etc.

What skills would a dental assistant need?

When patients walk into a dental clinic, they will probably see a dental assistant first. So, having good people skills is very important for this role. No one voluntarily comes to a dentist, and most people hate visiting one. A majority of the patients seek a dentist when they are in pain. So, they tend to be short on temper. This is why people skills are such a big part of a dental assistant’s job.

A dental assistant will also take a patient’s medical history, take their blood pressure and pulse if need be, and prepare them for the procedure. Occasionally it may involve a basic cleaning of the teeth before the dental hygienist or a dentist steps in.

Along with the people and technical skills, an assistant will also need to be good with admin skills. They may have to handle the computer work, scheduling, managing supplies, etc. These tasks vary from office to office.

How can I become a dental assistant?

There are several ways. The easiest way is to do an accredited coursework from a recognised college and take the exam. Some dentist offices offer a Dental Assistant training program where you learn by working. Once you are comfortable with the job duties, you may be able to take the exam and get accredited. Most states don’t require licensing for the entry-level position. But as you advance, you may be required to appear for a licensing exam and accreditation.

While it is a good stepping stone, you don’t have to stop at the assistant level. Through further education and licensing, you can also become a dental hygienist.

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