What is a dental assistant’s job description? Although dentists usually get most of the credit, dental assistants are essential to keeping a busy dentist’s office up and running efficiently. Without their assistants, dentists just wouldn’t have the time available to service all of their patients. Dental assistants are sure to have a challenging, yet rewarding career. In order to be a dental assistant, you must be able to handle a variety of tasks, have strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to adapt to different circumstances.

Dental assistants are usually tasked with taking molds and x-rays and attending to patients before the dentist. Dental assistants, however, are not the same as dental hygienists. Dental hygienists usually have more education as well as training in order to receive the distinction.

Dental Assistant Job Description

Dental assistants work closely with and under the supervision of dentists. Dental assistants have a wide variety of responsibilities in their larger role of aiding the dentist. As such, dental assistants are in charge of several tasks. Some of the basic roles involve interacting with patients in the office and instructing them about oral health during and after the appointments. Other routine tasks include answering the phones and scheduling appointments. Some of the more challenging parts of the job description include taking x-rays and dental impressions.

The dental assistant job description includes:
  • Learn about patient’s medical history and take their vitals
  • Prepare patients for treatments and procedures
  • Make patients feel comfortable and relaxed
  • Prepare and sterilize dental equipment to prevent infection
  • Provide assistance to dentists during procedures
  • Use suction hoses as well as other dental equipments to keep the mouth of the patient dry
  • Keeping the office running smoothly by scheduling appointments, answering phones, ordering supplies, etc.
  • Teach patient’s about their oral hygiene
  • Take dental impressions
  • Take and develop X-rays

These, however, are just the most common tasks that dental assistants are in charge of. Depending on the dental office, dental assistants may be asked to expand their skillset to other roles.

How to Become a Dental Assistant

Student’s who want to pursue a career as a dental assistant can bolster their application before applying by taking classes in biology or health. In addition, those who wish to pursue a career as a dental assistant should have a willingness to learn new things and strong interpersonal skills.

Education requirements for Dental assistants vary from state to state. Often you do not require any formal training. Some enter the professional directly after high school. In other states, dental assistants are required to enroll and graduate from accredited program before they can practice. Some states also have their exams which graduates must pass for licensure.

There are different program lasting between 1 to 2 years of schooling. Most people take advantage of the shorter one year program which results in a diploma or certification, whereas the two year program leads to an associate degree. These programs are provided by community colleges or vocational schools. More than 285 dental assistant training programs are accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

Dental Assistant Training

Many of the skills required to be a dental assistant can only be learned while on the job. As a result, dental assistants receive most or all of their formal training while working. 

Dental Assistant Certification

Certification requirements vary from state to state and it is not required in all states. Most dental assistants are not required to obtain any sorts of certifications or licenses from the state before they start working. Some states requires the assistants to obtain the CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification which then allows them to take the Certified Dental Assistant exam organized by the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB). Applicants who successfully pass the exam will be given certification. Dental assistants with certification generally have more job opportunities as well as higher starting pay.

Some dental assistants that are in charge of specialized tasks like taking x-rays will have to complete the Radiation Health and Safety exam. Some states also have mandated courses in radiology for dental assistants who take x-rays.

Dental Assistant Salary

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Dental Assistant Job Description Summary

  • Provide assistance to dentists in providing basic dental care
  • Under the supervision of dental hygienists and dentists
  • No formal education required
  • No certification required
  • 25% employment growth by 2022