Dental assistants perform a wide variety of tasks in the dental office and are integral to the smooth operation of the clinic. In dental assistant training, you’ll learn the entire gamut of procedures, everything from clerical work to aiding the dentist or dental hygienist with procedures. Dental assistants are responsible for a multitude of tasks in the dental clinic that you may have thought would fall to the dentist or the hygienist.
Hard-working and compassionate, dental assistants help make the office a comfortable, safe place for patients. Here are just some of the procedures you’ll be expected to perform or help with after completing a dental assistant program and getting a job as a chairside dental assistant.
This is usually the first thing that a dental assistant does, grabbing the patients’ chartwork and thoroughly examining it to determine if they have existing medical conditions, allergies, or are on any medications that might be problematic. After you’ve ensured that the records and chart are all in tip-top shape, you might take the patient’s blood pressure and record that on the chart as well.
Setting up the Chair
Dental assistants are tasked with setting up the chair for dental procedures, a task that requires excellent attention to detail. First, you’ll want to sanitize the entire area of the dental chair and the countertops and workspaces with a sanitizing solution. Next, you’ll need to sanitize all of the dental instruments thoroughly, ensuring that any possible bacteria are removed. Placing disposable tips on the suction device, the water syringe and the saliva ejector comes next, followed by ensuring the water reservoir is filled with clean, distilled water.
The dental assistant will be the one to welcome the patient into the cleaning area, get them set up in the chair, give them protective eyewear if necessary, and just generally chat with them and make them feel at ease. Because there’s so much patient interaction in the career, dental assistant schools tend to attract very outgoing, charming and polite people with a drive to help.
During the procedure, you’ll mostly be assisting the dentist or dental hygienist by supplying them with the tools they need to do their work. You’ll also be expected to assist with the air-water syringe to rinse the patient’s mouth or dry when needed. Generally, you’ll just be expected to fetch anything the dentist or hygienist needs, while maintaining casual conversation and making sure everything is going smoothly.
After the procedure, you’ll initiate the takedown and cleaning of the dental chair, the workspace, the countertops, and the instruments. This includes disinfecting, scrubbing everything down, rinsing and disinfecting the instruments and properly storing them.
A day in the life of a dental assistant requires assuming many roles, some clerical, others procedural, but at the end of the day, you know you’ll have made a difference.