Dental Care

Dental Assistant Jobs

The dental assistant jobs responsibilities are very diverse, with challenging and rewarding opportunities.

You are well suited for this kind of work if you're a social person; this is a very people-oriented position with lots of personal interaction. Dental assistants work chair side, right along with the dentist.  It is your responsibility to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. 

If you work as a dental assistant, you are likely to find jobs that offer very flexible work schedules.  Approximately half of all dental assistant jobs consist of a 35- to 40-hour work week.  The schedule can include Saturdays or evenings, usually on a rotating basis with other dental assistants who work at the same place.  The other half of available positions offers part-time opportunities with the freedom to schedule the days or shifts that most appeal to you. 

Dental Assistant Jobs and Tasks

You'll find a wide variety of tasks, which contribute to the interesting nature of dental assistant jobs.  Some of the responsibilities include the preparation of materials to be used for impressions, taking the dental radiographs (x-rays), and making impressions for student-cast models.  You also apply topical anesthetics to the patient's gums and take his blood pressure and pulse. 

It is also the dental assistant's job to take care of the tools that the dentist will use on the patient.  They must be sterilized and disinfected.  Usually trays are assembled with the tools that are needed for specific types of procedures.  Sometimes the dentist will ask you to put a dam into place to isolate a tooth he must work on. 

While the dentist is actually working on the patient, you hand him appropriate tools as he requests.  You must also stand by with suction equipment to keep the patient's mouth dry. 

When the dentist is finished working on the patient, you are responsible for ensuring that the patient understands his follow-up care instructions.  If the patient is returning to the office following an extraction or other mouth surgery, you might be expected to remove the sutures. 

Dental Assistant Jobs - Front Side

Some dental assistants work in the front of the dental office, too.  That means you are the person who receives the patients into the office and makes them feel comfortable.  You are the one who must check their insurances for benefits and eligibility.  And when patients leave, you are the one who schedules their next visits.  Front-side assistants also receive payments and make bank deposits, order office and dental supplies, and maintain the patients' charts. 

Dental assistants work in close proximity to patients, and it is necessary to protect yourself from any infections the patient might be carrying.  And, for those times when you are carrying the germs for a cold or virus, you need to protect the patient from your own germs.  Today's health professionals are very conscientious about infectious control procedures, usually referred to as universal precautions.  Face masks, gloves, eyewear and sometimes aprons provide effective barriers between you and your patient.  When you take x-rays, you will wear a lead apron to protect yourself from exposure to the radiation.  Granted, the amount of radiation used on one patient's x-rays is minute, but if you consider all those patients added up, day after day, you can see why protection is necessary. 

There are many environments where you might find yourself working as a dental assistant.  Some people find dental assistant jobs in private dental practices.  Others work in clinics with multiple dentists.  There are also specialty practices, such as those that treat only orthodontic, endodontic, periodontic, or pediatric patients.  Dental assistants are needed in state and local public health departments.  There are dental assistant jobs available with insurance companies.  Many dental assistants end up as teachers, helping others learn the skills of their vocation, and they work in community colleges or technical skills.  And if you find that you are good at marketing products, you can find yourself in a career as a dental product sales representative.

This is a career with excellent growth potential.  Dentists are performing ever-increasing levels of complexity in their work, and they need dental assistants to take over more and more of the minor duties.  Population growth, plus the fact that people are simply keeping their own natural teeth longer than years ago, contributes to a growing need for dental assistants. 

This is a career that offers flexibility for growth and change.  You can begin as a chair-side dental assistant and evolve into the office manager for a dental practice or clinic.  You can become a dental-assisting instructor, or segue into a career in sales.  And it's also possible to return to school for the additional training you need in order to become a dental hygienist. 

More on dental assistant duties.

In a separate article on dental assistant training, you will learn how to prepare for a career as a dental assistant.


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