Dental Assistants prepare and organize tools needed by dentists to work on a patient.
Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x rays to record keeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.
Dental assistants typically do the following:
- Ensure that patients are comfortable in the dental chair
- Prepare patients and the work area for treatments and procedures
- Sterilize dental instruments
- Hand instruments to dentists during procedures
- Dry patients’ mouths using suction hoses and other equipment
- Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
- Process x rays and complete lab tasks, under the direction of a dentist
- Keep records of dental treatments
- Schedule patient appointments
- Work with patients on billing and payment
Assistants who perform lab tasks, such as taking impressions of a patient’s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They may prepare materials for dental impressions or to create temporary crowns.
Dental assistants are allowed to perform the following procedures in some states:
- Coronal polishing
- Sealant application
- Fluoride application
- Topical anesthetic application
Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, a dental assistant paints a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anti cavity measure. Some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of a patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area to help prepare a patient for procedures.
Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants.
Source: US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics