Dental Assistant

Dental Assistants Job Description

Dental Assistants offer certain types of patient care as well as laboratory and office duties, but do not perform dental hygienists’ tasks, as these involve a different licensing. A dental assistant is responsible for making the patient comfortable in the chair and preparing them for treatment, and obtaining dental records. They then will hand materials and instruments to the dentist, and use suction to keep the patient’s mouth dry. The dental assistant is responsible for sterilizing and disinfecting all instruments and equipment, preparing a tray for each procedure, and instructing the patient on post-visit care and general oral health. A dental assistant may also perform other jobs according to instructions by their dentist, like preparing the materials for moulds and impressions, or processing x-ray films. They will possibly have to remove sutures, or apply anesthetics and place rubber isolation around the teeth prior to treatment.

Dental Assistants Career Outlook

Employment in this field is expected to grow a lot faster than average, so job prospects are excellent. Employment growth is expected to be more than 36% between 2008 and 2018, making dental assistants among the fastest growing occupations in that period. There will be a great deal of opportunity for entry-level positions, but many dentists prefer to hire experienced assistants, or those who have completed a training program and meet state requirements.

Dental Assistant Requirements

It is possible to learn skills on the job, although dental assistant programs are offered by community colleges and technical institutes, or the armed forces. High school students interested in his career should make sure they have courses in biology and chemistry, health and office practices. Dental assistants have to be reliable and have good manual dexterity, as well as people skills. Some states insist dental assistants are licensed or registered, requiring them to pass written and practical exams. Dental assistants who are required to perform specialized duties like x-rays, may have to complete Radiation Health and Safety examinations which are offered by The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB), some states also require passing of a state approved course in radiology.

Dental Assistants Training

The Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) has many dental assistants training programs. These programs include classroom and laboratory instruction as well as preclinical training; in dental assistant skills and theory. Most of these programs cover one year, and finish with certification or diploma. A two-year program offered by community colleges will lead to an associate degree. All of these programs require a high school diploma initially, and some may require special science or computer related courses before admission. Entry-level dental assistants can be trained on the job by the dentist himself, but nowadays less dentists have the time or the inclination to do this, with most preferring to hire assistants who are already trained. Even so, a period of on-the-job training is often required, to familiarize the assistant with their particular dentist’s style and system of work.
Students should contact their state board directly to find out the specific requirements of their state, as to training and certification.

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