Dental Assistants typically work in dental offices either in administrative roles or treating patients under a dentist’s supervision. Their patient care responsibilities include greeting patients, managing the movement of patients to and from treatment areas, preparing treatment areas and instruments, presenting (during treatment) instruments and materials to the dentist, and suctioning fluids during treatment. Dental assistants might also apply fluoride and sealants and polish teeth, depending on their licensing/certification. The dental assistant plays a key role in putting patients and their loved ones at ease. In administrative roles, dental assistants answer phones, maintain patient records, discharge patients and bill patients and their insurers. Dental assistants are often called upon to teach patients good dental hygiene.
The ideal individual for a dental assistant’s job is detail oriented, high energy and anticipates the needs of others, in this case the dentist and their patients. Team play and an ability to remain calm and communicate in stressful situations is also critical. Working chair-side with the dentist requires manual dexterity.
Most dental assistants work full-time days but many with some level of job tenure are afforded flexible schedules. The work environment is team-oriented, highly professional fast paced and structured.
What is it really like to be a dental assistant?
The work is exacting, especially relating to instrument sterilization, room preparation, instrument passes to the dentist, and measuring dental materials. At the same time you are expected to skillfully manage patient anxiety over treatment pain or appearance. You will experience the joy, gratitude and respect of your patients. The tearful thanks an accident victim with a beautiful new smile or the pride of a child after their first dental exam and cleaning will bring personal fulfillment. You will be a respected, appreciated member of a highly professional team. Dental Assisting is ranked 67th among U.S. News and World Reports 100 best jobs.
Dental Assisting is a fast growing profession. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth in dental assistant employment of 24.5 percent, much faster than the average for other occupations.
What is the career path for dental assistants?
Dental Assisting at the entry level might not require formal training, but most employers require at least a diploma (nine months to one year of training). Many dental assistants continue their education, progressing to higher levels of licensure and certification. Dental assisting is also an excellent launching pad to become a dental hygienist or dentist.