What Is a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants are involved in many tasks such as patient care, taking x-rays, maintaining patient records, and scheduling appointments. Their scope of duties may vary according to state mandates and the office they work in.

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What are their common tasks?

The first and foremost would be to guide you when you first step into a dentist’s office. They check your records, confirm if you have an appointment, and tell you what to do before facing the dentist in the office.

Sometimes, they’d help you get settled into the dental chair to make the situation easier for you and the dentist. They’re also the ones in charge of sanitizing and preparing dental instruments. Do you feel like your mouth is getting filled with water and saliva during dental consultations? Well, dental assistants make it easier by draining your mouth with suction hoses.

Their administrative tasks could include keeping your records and billing you for dental services.

Who supervises them?

They work closely with dentists, especially if they are in charge of laboratory tasks that involve the examination of a patient’s teeth. Some states also allow them to perform the following dental procedures:

  • Fluoride application
  • Coronal polishing
  • Topical anesthetic application
  • Sealant application

Where can they be found?

As they work closely with dentists, 90 percent of them can be found working inside dentists’ offices, some in offices of physicians, and the others working in government offices.

How can you become a dental assistant?

To become a dental assistant, the requirements would vary depending on the state you want to practice. Some will require you to graduate from a dental school and pass an examination.

On the other hand, some states require no formal requirements for educational attainment and allow potential dental assistants to learn the skills they need through training with dentists and other assistants.

What’s in the training?

Without formal education, dental assistants go through their duties and learn on the spot through on-the-job training. A seasoned dentist, dental hygienist, or dental assistant can guide the trainee on the terms they need to know, the names and uses of dental instruments, how to accomplish administrative tasks, how to talk to patients, and other tasks they need to learn to assist a dentist efficiently.

How much do they make?

The median yearly wage for dental assistants is $40,080. The highest-paid dental assistants work in government settings, which earns them $42,960 annually. Dental assistants who work in offices of dentists earn an annual salary of $40,120, and the ones who work in the offices of physicians earn the least, bagging $37,570 annually.

What skills do you need as a dental assistant?

Now that you know how much you can make if you pursue this career, along with the tasks you need to accomplish when you start working, you’d want to know what intangible skills you’ll need to be a good dental assistant.

To be able to work alongside dentists, dental hygienists, and patients efficiently, here are the qualities you’ll need to have in hand:

1. Attention to detail

As a dental assistant, you’re expected to follow strict protocols and rules on infection control and sanitation. You should also be aware of the tasks mandated by the state where you work to avoid legal problems with your job. ;

2. Dexterity

As you work with dentists, you should also be good at working with your hands. You will be working in tight spaces that will require you to only move your hands while using tools that require precision.

3. Interpersonal skills

Working with patients and dentists will require you to be a good communicator. You’ll encounter patients under high amounts of pain, and you’ll have to guide them through as they wait for the dentist’s instructions.

4. Listening skills

Working with dentists and patients will need you to be good at listening to and processing crucial information. Being good at following instructions will benefit you well in this career.

5. Organizational skills

As a dental assistant, you’ll also be working with administrative tasks and arranging the tools for the dentist you’re working with. Organizational skills are needed to make treating patients more efficient for the dentist.

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