young female dental assistant helping a young male dentist

What Does A Dental Assistant do: Roles and Responsibilities of A Dental Assistant

Dental assistants play a vital role in the dental office. They contribute greatly by keeping the dental office running smoothly, providing patient care, and going above and beyond to assist the dentist during procedures. This level of support not only benefits the entire staff, but patients as well. According to the DALE Foundation’s research, 98 percent of participating dentists and dental office managers believe that dental assistants play an important role in maintaining the team’s synergy.

A dental assistant’s duties vary depending on their dental practice. However, no matter what the office dynamic is like, a dental assistant job description typically expects candidates to have outstanding technical and interpersonal skills.

Here is a list of potential duties expected from dental assistants.

Office Duties

Part of a dental assistant’s job description includes engaging with patients.

Dental assistants are typically the first people you greet when you walk into your dentist’s office. This is the first opportunity that dental assistants have to connect with their patients and ensure that they’re having the best experience possible. Prior to procedures, dental assistants will record the medical and dental history of their patients 

Dental assistants are there throughout the entire procedure, paying close attention to the patient and making sure that they’re not in any discomfort.

After a procedure is over, dental assistants will be the ones to follow-up with their patients and provide them with dental hygiene and oral health care tips. If the patient has undergone a dental procedure, dental assistants will provide postoperative instructions if directed by the dentist.

Dental assistants are also responsible for record keeping; this involves updating a patients’ records and including their latest treatments. Depending on the practice, a dental assistant may be responsible for sending bills and receiving payments, as well as scheduling a follow-up appointment if necessary. 

Laboratory Duties

Dental assistants work side by side with the dentist, and it’s not uncommon that they work with dental hygienists as well.

Prior to every dental procedure, dental assistants will prepare the dental equipment for the dentist and dental hygienists. This includes sterilizing and disinfecting instruments, setting up instrument trays, and preparing all materials.

Dental assistants play a very important role during dental procedures and are greatly depended on by dentists and dental hygienists. They’re responsible for handing instruments and materials to dentists, as well as keeping the patients’ mouth dry by using a suction device.

Experienced dental assistants are trained to form preliminary impressions for study casts. Impressions are taken prior to surgery or other procedures in order to produce accurate reproductions of a patients’ teeth, surrounding tissue, and dental arches.

It is not uncommon for a skilled dental assistant to help the dentist make temporary restorations, such as temporary fillings of a prepared tooth, and custom impressions from preliminary impressions.

Not all states require dental assistants to be certified in dental assistant radiology and x-ray; however, we strongly encourage all dental assistants to pursue this certification as it can help you advance in your career at a faster pace. Dental assistants who hold a radiology and x-ray certification are awarded more responsibility in the dental office. Typically, dental assistants will develop and mount all radiographs and x-rays, which typically takes place under a dentist’s supervision.

What Can’t Dental Assistants do?

A dental assistant’s job description involves a lot of different tasks, and although they play an important role during dental procedures, there are also many things that dental assistants are not allowed to do. Dental assistants are often confused with dental hygienists. In reality, both professions have very different job descriptions. You’ll rarely see a dental hygienist doing a dental assistant’s job; likewise, dental assistants should never be expected to perform a dental hygienist’s responsibilities. 

Every state has their own sets of laws. We strongly encourage you to visit the Dental Assistant National Board and research your state’s requirements.

Does Dental Assistance Sound like the Right Career Choice?

Dental assistant careers are growing at an impressive 11% and are becoming more dynamic and rewarding. Dental assistant jobs in CT are also growing, and it has become an occupation with one of the largest employment in Connecticut.

If these responsibilities excite you, then I encourage you to research local dental assistant programs in your area. The Professional Dental Assistant School’s dental assistant program offers dental assistant classes that provides students with the hands-on experience needed to pass the dental assisting national board examination.