Dental Care

What are the Dental Assistant Duties?

A career as a dental assistant has a variety of advantages. The dental assistant duties are diverse and challenging, so you'll never get bored.

It's a very people-oriented position, so you'll have daily opportunities to interact with others.

It is self-fulfilling because it provides you with so many opportunities to help people in need. It also offers rewarding opportunities for career advancement.

Another advantage of being a dental assistant is the possibility of having a work schedule involving flexible hours and days. Roughly half of all dental assistant positions involve a 35 to 40 hour work week, and Saturday and/or evening hours are often available.

Working on Saturdays or evenings would let you to run errands, make appointments and do other things you might not be able to if your job required you to work more traditional hours. For example, flexible hours are handy if your pharmacy, bank or doctor is only open 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.

A flexible work schedule could also provide the opportunity to be with your children at important times in their lives, such as a school play or a big soccer game.

Earlier we touched upon the diversity of a dental assistant's duties. Your tasks as a dental assistant will include patient care, office duties and working in the dental laboratory.

Specific Dental Assistant Duties

You and the dentist will work chair-side, shoulder to shoulder during patient examinations, treatments and other dental procedures. You'll locate and hand the dentist the instruments he or she needs to perform these procedures.

It's likely that you'll also be responsible for ensuring the patients remain as comfortable as possible while they're in the dentist's chair. That responsibility might include things as mundane as getting patients a cup of water, but you might also be asked to distract your patients by entertaining them with humor and conversation.

Your other patient care duties will include important tasks such as taking patients' blood pressure and pulse, applying topical anesthetics to their gums and taking dental X-rays.

You may also be asked to sterilize various instruments and prepare the materials needed to take dental impressions and impressions used for study models and master casts. Of course, you'll be thoroughly trained in how to accomplish all these duties.

Don't worry about your personal safety when you're performing some of these tasks. Your employer will provide you with protective gear designed to minimize the risks associated with using X-ray machines, and you'll be thoroughly trained on how to operate them safely.

You'll also be given masks, latex gloves and possibly protective safety glasses and a lab coat to wear. This personal protective equipment will help protect you and your patients from infectious diseases and biohazards.

Your office duties will include dental office management and administrative tasks such as patient scheduling, records management, handling the office mail and completing insurance claims forms. You might also act as the office receptionist and/or get involved in the dental practice's marketing efforts.

As you can see, the duties of a dental assistant are diverse, and they involve a high degree of responsibility and care. The settings in which dental assistants work are equally diverse.

A Variety of Work Settings

Dental assistant duties are needed in a wide variety of work settings, including large group practices, small offices with a single dentist, specialty dental practices, schools, dental clinics, hospitals and state and local public health departments.

Other dental assistant positions involve working for insurance companies or teaching others to become dental assistants in vocational or technical schools and community colleges. When you're a qualified dental assistant it's also possible to work as a dental product sales representative.

Opportunities for Career Advancement

Modern dental assistant duties create several opportunities for career advancement. You could become the office manager for a dental practice, an instructor teaching dental assistant students, or a dental product sales representative.

Another path toward career advancement involves returning to school to become a trained dental hygienist.

Job Outlook

Our population is continuing to grow, and more and more people are keeping their natural teeth longer into their lives.

This means the need for dental care is ever-increasing. As dentists become busier, they will hire more dental assistants, allowing them to focus on the more complex tasks of their profession.

Dental assistant duties seem to evolve over time to incorporate more versatile tasks and responsibilities, creating even more possibilities to grow.

In short, the long-range job outlook for dental assistants is excellent.


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