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Career Insights

A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant

Concorde Staff

Concorde Staff

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Updated June 17, 2024. The information contained in this blog is current and accurate as of this date.
Day in the life of a dental assistant as they performs oral-cavity inspection on child with mouth-mirror

Without a dental assistant, many dental clinics would cease to run efficiently. These individuals are often key to a clinic's day-to-day operations, serving as the much-needed middle-person between patients and dentists. Exploring the day-to-day functions of these individuals can help you determine if this career path is suited to your interests and professional goals. In this article, we explore the daily minutiae of dental assistants, discussing everything from their morning routine to the end-of-day tasks.

Morning Routine

A morning routine can set the pace for the entire day at a dental clinic, making it essential when gearing up for a day filled with helping patients brighten their smiles. While morning routines can vary slightly between dental clinics, there are many commonalities between them all. Here are some common duties you may perform during your morning ritual as a dental assistant:

Assisting the Dentist During Procedures

Perhaps one of the most prevalent tasks as a dental assistant is assisting the dentist during procedures, whether that be cleaning and polishing teeth or helping out during more technical procedures, such as root canals or tooth extractions. This task often starts at the beginning of the day and continues throughout the morning as patients come and go for their appointments.

Patient Interactions and Chairside Assistance

Alongside helping with dental procedures, dental assistants interact with patients and assist them right alongside the patient chair from the start of the day. While some of these interactions involve more hands-on patient care, they go beyond this task alone. 

Sterilization and Maintenance of Equipment

Although some equipment comes already sterilized to the dental clinic, there are still other items that require daily sterilization and maintenance. This not only keeps the equipment running as it should but also helps to prevent equipment contamination and infections. Completing this task in the morning ensures that each piece of equipment is ready for patients and that there is an ample quantity of sterile tools to provide dental services to patients throughout the day.

Administrative Duties and Patient Records Management

Many dental clinics have starting hours before patients arrive, making the morning the perfect opportunity to take care of any administrative duties or record management tasks. Getting this done before patients arrive, instead of during or after the day, can also help you better manage your time, allowing you to deal with any unexpected duties and avoid having to stay after patients are gone for the day to handle these tasks.

Going over patient records in the morning also can help you familiarize yourself with the charts for patients arriving that day. This gives you the chance to gather any additional supplies you may need ahead of time or identify any potential services the patient might need.

 

Interested In How To Become a Dental Assistant?

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Lunch Break and Midday Activities

Day in the life of a dental assistant as they make a patient smile and feel at ease.


A set lunch period often breaks up the day, usually lasting 30 minutes to one hour. Some clinics fully close the office to patients, while others schedule fewer patients during this time to allow team members to take their lunch break. Some clinics also allot time to take care of additional administrative tasks or other duties that are best handled when patients are out of the clinic.

Read more about a dental assistant vs dental hygienist and which role might suit your career goals.

Afternoon Tasks

After the midday break and other tasks, clinics often remain open in the afternoon. The bulk of tasks during this time remain in tune with many of the morning tasks. The focus, however, during this period is more often on patients, as this is when many patients are available during the day. Here's more about what dental assistants often do during the afternoon:

Continuing Patient Care and Assistance

Patient appointments don't stop for the afternoon, so you'll continue assisting patients well into the day. This can include assisting the dentist with regular dental cleanings and checkups, taking notes, or working alongside them for a cavity filling. These tasks may continue to the final minutes of the day, or end early. It depends not only on the number of appointments that were scheduled but also on how much time is needed to attend to each patient.

End-of-Day Responsibilities and Closing Procedures

Dental assistant in scrubs organizing dental x-rays at the end of the day.


After all patients have been seen, there are still several tasks to complete before you can finish up. This routine can vary from day to day and from clinic to clinic, but the responsibilities often include administrative duties, along with cleaning and sanitizing equipment to prepare for the next workday. Examples of some tasks you may complete during this time include the following:

  • Sending appointment reminders.
  • Reviewing and coding insurance bills for patients.
  • Updating and filing patient charts.
  • Restocking workstation supplies.
  • Conducting inventory audits.
  • Tidying and cleaning workstations.

Topic for further exploration: where do dental assistants work?

Reflections on the Role and Impact of a Dental Assistant

Dental assistants are pivotal to the overall dental wellness of patients. They are often the face patients see the most during their visits and can make the world of difference when it comes to patients consistently scheduling their annual appointments or avoiding the dentist altogether. They help a dental clinic run efficiently and help to keep patients comfortable and relaxed during their appointments, often acting as their primary support.

Pursuing a career as a dental assistant means more than just working alongside dentists to help patients. The dental assistant is a key player in ensuring the dental clinic's smooth operation. From patient dental checkups to collaborating with the team, a dental assistant's day is often taken up handling a wide variety of tasks. Fast-paced and patient-facing, this role is perfect for those who enjoy helping others and thrive in an ever-changing workspace. If you're ready to take the next steps in pursuing a career as a dental assistant, check out Concorde's Dental Assistant Training Program, where you can learn more about journeying along this career path.


  1. "What Dental Assistant Do," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm#tab-2

 

Take The Next Step Towards a Brighter Future

Interested in learning more about our Dental Assistant program? We have a Concorde representative ready to talk about what matters most to you. Get answers about start dates, curriculum, financial aid, scholarships and more!

  1. Program length may be subject to change dependent on transfer credits and course load. Please refer to current course catalog for more information. Concorde does not guarantee admittance, graduation, subsequent employment or salary amount.

  2. Professional certification is not a requirement for graduation, may not be a requirement for employment nor does it guarantee employment.

  3. Financial aid is available to those who qualify but may not be available for all programs. Concorde does not guarantee financial aid or scholarship awards or amounts.

  4. Clinical hour requirements and delivery may vary by campus location and may be subject to change. Concorde does not guarantee clinical site assignments based upon student preference or geographic convenience; nor do clinical experiences guarantee graduation, post-clinical employment or salary outcomes.

  5. Registration and certification requirements for taking and passing these examinations are not controlled by Concorde, but by outside agencies, and are subject to change by the agency without notice. Therefore, Concorde cannot guarantee that graduates will be eligible to take these exams, at all or at any specific time, regardless of their eligibility status upon enrollment.