Dental Assistants work on behalf of the patient as well as the dentist in helping to ensure a high level of professional excellence in oral health care delivery. In smaller practices, the assistant might work with the dentist as well as managing the business aspects of the practice such as scheduling, billing and purchasing. In larger practices, the duties may be more specialized. Registered dental assistants are qualified to take Xrays, or expose radiographs, as it is properly called. In most dental offices, the dental assistant monitors infection control procedures. The complexity and importance of this task is a real challenge for any professional, requiring constant updates to remain current with registrations.
Procedures a dental assistant may perform are regulated on a province by-province basis. However, specific tasks dental assistants may perform include:
- Asking about the patient’s medical history and taking blood pressure and pulse
- Assisting the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures
- Assisting with and helping to provide direct patient care in all dental specialties, including orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and oral surgery
- Communicating with patients and suppliers (e.g. scheduling appointments, answering the phone, billing and ordering supplies)
- Helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental treatment
- Performing office management tasks that often require the use of a computer
- Providing patients with instructions for oral care following surgery or other dental procedures
- Serving as an infection control officer, developing infection control protocol and preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment
- Taking and developing dental radiographs (X-rays)
- Taking impressions of patients’ teeth for study casts (models of teeth)
- Teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health (e.g. tooth-brushing, flossing and nutritional counseling)
Variety: Dental assistants have one of the most diverse and interesting of all positions in a dental office. Dental assisting is a challenging and rewarding career, demanding versatility and a willingness to assume responsibility for many different tasks.
Flexibility: Since dental assistants are in demand, career options include both full-time and part-time positions.
Personal Satisfaction: Dental assisting involves people contact, and with this personal interaction comes the personal satisfaction of knowing you’ve really helped someone by helping to provide a valuable health service.
Dental Assistants Need the Following Skills and Characteristics:
- Be able to relate well to a wide range of people and gain their confidence,
- Ability to work as a member of a team and follow instructions,
- Good verbal and written communication skills