Differences & Similarities Between DAs & STs

surgical technologists

It's easiest to first mention the similarities when comparing and contrasting the roles of surgical technologists and dental assistants. Both play vital roles in their respective health care settings. Surgical technologists and dental assistants are key assistants and extremely important to those they work under – in the case of surgical technologists, surgeons; in the case of dental assistants, dentists. Both professions play essential roles in making sure their procedural teams operate efficiently and that procedures go off without a hitch. Concordes programs for surgical technologists and dental assistants provide students, through hands-on, real-world experiences, comprehensive training for successful careers in both fields. We want you to make educated choices when selecting a field of study. We picked the brains of a few of our resident experts on the differences and similarities between surgical technologists and dental assistants. Here’s what they said.

Differences and similarities between Surgical Technologists and Dental Assistants

Here are some similarities and differences in the two disciplines from Denise Perez, AS, CST, Surgical Technology Program Director at Concorde’s campus in Jacksonville, Fla. Similarities:
  • Knowledge of medical terminology
  • Knowledge of anatomy and physiology
  • Certifications
  • Surgical instrumentation
  • Surgical procedures
  • Use of sterilization of instrumentation
  • Sutures
  • Work with a health care team
  • Patient-focused
  • Manual dexterity
  • Work well under pressure
  • DA-office/clinic setting/ST-office, clinic, outpatient, hospital setting
  • A&P knowledge for ST encompasses the entire body, while DA is oral/maxilla facial region focused
  • DA certification via the State Board of Dentistry in radiology/ST certification via National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)
  • Dental Assistant works with physicians/ST works with an entire OR team to include surgeon, nurse, anesthesia, first assistants, physician assistants, radiology and fellow surgical technologists
  • DA performs simple extractions/cleanings, etc./ST assists with complicated extractions, a facial trauma which includes loss of teeth, bone, etc. in a main operating room environment in the hospital or outpatient setting
  • A clean/sterile technique is employed in DA but is focused on the mouth region, while ST must employ and maintain strict sterile technique in a variety of surgical services
  • ST handles a multitude of medications within their sterile field and understands dosage calculations.

More differences and similarities between Surgical Technologists and Dental Assistants

Arthur Martinez, Jr., CST/FA, AA, Surgical Technology Program Director at Concorde’s North Hollywood campus, Calif., listed the following. Similarities are, both use:
  • Sterile instruments
  • Sterile supplies
  • Must take radiation precautions
  • Practice universal precautions
  • Wear protective supplies, i.e. masks, goggles
Differences are:
  • DA’s patients are usually awake, while ST’s patients usually are asleep
  • DA’s surgical procedures are normally minor and not too complicated
  • ST’s surgical cases are normally major, utilize more equipment, instruments and supplies
  • Implants are bigger, heavier and more expensive
  • ST patients are normally brought in the OR in beds; DA’s walk to the dental chair
  • ST surgical equipment is more expensive
  • Nine out of 10 ST cases require a sterile set-up
  • ST procedures require more staff in the room.

And, more similarities between Surgical Technologists and Dental Assistants

Cindy Navarro, RDA, Dental Assisting Program Director at Concorde’s campus in Garden Grove, Calif., listed the following similarities between the two fields.
  • Both need to be one step ahead of the doctor at all times
  • Both need to make sure all instruments needed are present and where the doctor is anticipating them being
  • They need to know how the doctors like the instruments handed and in which order
  • They need to have incredible bedside manner to make patients feel comfortable
  • Both need to account for number of sutures, gauze, items used so they match before closure of site to make sure there are no mistakes and nothing is left in the body that shouldn’t be there
  • They need to make sure there is no cross contamination and all items are sterile and dated
  • They have to make sure the doctor stays on schedule
  • Both have to make sure all needed is ordered
  • Both need to keep all things positive.
Consider these differences and similarities before going after that surgical technologist degree or dental assistant diploma. Choose the field that best suits your talents and interests. Good luck!
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