What Does a Dental Assistant Do?

Find out what it’s like to work in a dental office

Good dental hygiene is an important part of a person’s overall health and wellness. Part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy is having regular visits to the dentist. If you are the type of person who appreciates taking care of your teeth and you are interested in the field of dentistry, you might want to explore becoming a dental assistant.

Unlike dentists and dental hygienists who go through years of training to learn how to care for patients’ teeth, a dental assistant position requires less training. Most dental assistant training programs can be completed in less than one year.

If you were to become a dental assistant, what would you do on the job? Here are some of the typical responsibilities that dental assistants might do:

  • Show patients to the exam room
  • Sterilize instruments
  • Prepare packs of instruments needed for a certain procedure
  • Set up the tray for the dentist
  • Hand instruments to the dentist during procedures
  • Operate a suction device
  • Assist in making casts of teeth, temporary crowns, and other lab work
  • Take dental x-rays (if your program qualifies you to do so)
  • Prepare the room for the next patient
  • Make patient appointments
  • Handle billing processes
  • Take inventory of supplies and place refill orders

If these responsibilities sound like something you would like, you may want to consider this career field. Becoming a dental assistant will require hard work and persistence. Consider some of the traits of a good dental assistant, and see if you fit the bill:

  • Reliable: Dental assistants need to be reliable employees. Not only do the dentists and hygienists require them to be on their game, but the patients do to! A dental office needs to be able to rely on its assistants to handle their responsibilities efficiently so the dentist can carry out the dental procedures safely.
  • Patient-friendly: Do you enjoy people? Dental assistants need to be comfortable interacting with people from all walks of life. Some people may be nervous or anxious about being at the dentist. Good “people skills” will help you talk to patients and help them to stay calm and relaxed.
  • Science-oriented: Dental assistant school requires you to learn a great deal about dental terminology, medical terminology, and dental equipment. You must also feel comfortable looking into a patient’s mouth and helping with items such as gauze and pads that may be needed during a procedure.
  • Attentive to detail: Dental assistants need to pay attention to details. In this role, you need to follow instructions carefully so that you are doing exactly what the dentist asks. You also need to be detail-oriented when sterilizing instruments and following infection prevention measures. The administrative work, such as handling patient billing or patient scheduling, also requires an eye for detail.

If becoming a dental assistant sounds like a good career path for you, give yourself the time to explore the dental assistant schools near you. With the right training, you could be on your way to your new career in as little as one year!

The American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, Florida offers a Dental Assisting program, with expanded functions. To learn more about it, contact ACMC online.