So you’re thinking about a career as a dental assistant? It is a great option to explore; it can be a fun, fast paced and challenging career, one that comes with a variety of responsibilities. What’s more, a dental assistant is a valuable member of the dental team, with duties among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental field.
To be a great dental assistant, you need a broad set of skills – technical, administrative, and people – to provide patients with high quality oral care. Let’s take a closer look at those skill sets.
One of the primary jobs of a dental assistant is to ensure the patient is comfortable during the procedure. Dental assistants are responsible for much more than passing instruments, but that’s the part of the job most patients see. Dental assistants provide patient care and chair-side support as dentists complete exams and procedures. These technical duties could include:
- Assisting with dental procedures such as fillings, crowns, and extractions.
- Taking & pouring dental impressions (molds of the mouth).
To be allowed to do more advanced functions, such as taking x-rays or performing coronal polishes, many states require dental assistants to be licensed or certified, and those requirements vary by state2.
Let’s face it, not everybody loves going to the dentist. A dental assistant is probably the first face that patients see when they walk through the door, so you need to be friendly and compassionate. That’s why good people skills are so important; you’re going to have to:
- Settle patients in and prepare them for their check-up, surgery or procedure.
- Ask about their medical history and possibly take their blood pressure and pulse.
- Be a good listener (people talk a lot when they’re nervous!)
- Help patients feel comfortable before, during, and after treatment.
- Be a good communicator; you’ll provide oral hygiene and care instructions after procedures or surgery.
A lot of jobs come with administration duties, and dental assisting is no different. On top of your technical abilities and people skills, you’ll be asked to do a variety of admin tasks on a daily basis. The scope of those tasks will vary from office to office, but could include:
- Performing office management tasks, including computer based work.
- Communicating with patients to schedule appointments, make reminder calls, even sorting out billing issues.
A Mouth Watering Opportunity…
Dental Assisting is forecast to be one of the fastest growing healthcare occupations in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 18% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.
So why not explore more about this exciting dental profession? Even if you don’t choose this career, next time you find yourself in a dentist’s chair you’ll have a better understanding of what an assistant does.
 Individuals seeking to enter this career field may be subject to screenings such as, but not limited to, criminal background checks and drug/alcohol testing prior to externship, to attain occupational licensure/certification or employment, and throughout their careers.
2 Carrington College prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program. Credential preparation varies by location.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2016-17 Edition, Dental Assistants, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dental-assistants.htm (visited May 06, 2016)
For comprehensive consumer information, visit http://carrington.edu/degrees/dental-assisting/.