Despite dentists getting most of the praise, it’s often the dental assistant who does a majority of the footwork in a dental office. From the managerial aspect of the clinic such as record-keeping and medical billing, to cleaning the teeth and gums and preventative dental procedures, dental assistants are multifaceted, talented professionals who are always on the go. So if you’ve been interested by the world of dental health and are considering applying to dental assistant schools, here’s a glimpse into the rewarding day-to-day operations of a dental assistant.
Assisting the Dentist and Hygienist
In most cases, unless they obtain a higher level of certification, dental assistants primarily assist the dentist and the dental hygienist by keeping instruments clean, obtaining supplies for both the dentist and the dental hygienist, and making sure that everything is properly cleaned and sterilized.
In a laboratory setting, dental assistants will also help by creating plaster molds of teeth, creating and polishing crowns and, if they pass the required certification, administer and develop X-rays for patients.
Successful dental assistants who go on to complete level two certification as a dental assistant are able to interact directly with patients. In a more personal setting they’ll be aiding with things like cleaning of the teeth and gums, applying fluoride to the teeth and gums and assisting the dentist and dental hygienist with filling cavities.
Billing and Scheduling
Many dental assistants are tasked with the scheduling of patients and completing the medical billing for visits. One of the first things a dental assistant will do upon coming into the office is to check that the scheduling of patients is accurate and make the appropriate changes if necessary. Patient scheduling is an extremely important part of the dental clinic that requires an excellent attention to detail to avoid overbooking or inefficiencies.
Billing is another essential duty that’s performed by a dental assistant. Enrolling in some payroll training or taking accounting courses can be a very useful way to get a leg-up on the clerical and numerical work, as it can be a little confusing at first. Billing in a dental clinic involves knowing how to properly interact and comply with insurance regulations.
First Line of Contact
Dental assistants have to possess excellent communication skills, as they are usually the first person in the office that patients will see. They should be able to make the patient feel relaxed and comfortable and attend to any needs that they might have. Whether this is making children feel more comfortable by getting them a toy, or just thoroughly explaining the procedure to a patient, having a sense of empathy and an excellent handle on verbal communication is essential.
While dental assistants don’t necessarily receive the same recognition that dentists do, their range of tasks and duties are integral to dental clinics and there’s no way that any clinic could operate without them.