Dental Assistant Duties
If you’re wondering what a dental assistant does on a day-to-day basis, you might be surprised by the extent of their duties. Dental assistants are tasked with a multitude of responsibilities so they seldom have a typical day. Because they are responsible for such a wide range of tasks, dental assistants become crucial team members who must multitask efficiently throughout their day in order to keep a dental office running smoothly.
Here is a brief rundown of what a dental assistant does, but this can vary depending upon the size of the dental office or clinic they work in.
Dental Assistant Duties
Often a dental assistant is charged with making patient appointments, so they have to be familiar with scheduling basics as well as the typical length of time each type of treatment will take. Because some treatments will take multiple visits, they have to be able to arrange this satisfactorily with both the patient and doctor schedule so the procedures are completed in a timely manner. In addition, dental assistants might take phone calls, relay problems to the dentist or hygienist and then give the caller a satisfactory answer. The assistant might also be in charge of entering information into patient charts and helping with both bookkeeping and billing.
Usually it falls to the dental assistant to prep each room before and after a patient’s treatment. This means changing the protective coverings on the chair, cleaning and sterilizing the doctor’s work area, replacing the used tools with a set of sterilized tools for the next patient, and making sure the patient area is sanitized before the next patient is seated. This may sound simple but remember, a dental office usually has multiple rooms so these chores must be completed without disrupting the rotation of scheduled patients.
What does a dental assistant do with patients? Usually the assistant is the one who calls the next waiting client and leads them to the examining room. They seat the patient and make sure they’re comfortable. If the person seems anxious or in pain, the assistant must be able to read their moods and offer empathy and comforting words. The assistant will clip a sterile bib on the patient, lean the chair back so it’s ready for the dentist, and place the required tools within reach of the doctor’s expected position. They might also be tasked with handing specific tools to the doctor, rinsing the mouth and any other duties as requested by the dentist.
A dental assistant is usually the one who will instruct a patient on brushing, flossing and other oral care as required. She or he will also confirm patient information as required, enter it into the chart and discuss any oral health topics the patient might have during or after their treatment. Because the dental assistant is often the first and last person a patient sees during their appointment it is vital that they are able to quickly build a good rapport and present an open, friendly demeanor.
What does a dental assistant do in the lab section of a dental office? They sterilize all tools and equipment, make sure the sterilizer itself is working properly and set up work trays once the tools are sanitary. The assistant might also help make crowns and bridges, clean and polish the new crowns and process lab work. If trained in X-ray procedure, a dental assistant will also take X-rays and develop them, so will also be in charge of properly and safely running the X-ray machine.
Usually it’s also up to the dental assistant to keep track of supplies. This means keeping a detailed inventory, knowing how long each item lasts and ordering replacement supplies in a timely manner. When the supplies arrive, a dental assistant must be able to verify incoming quantity to make sure the orders were filled properly, then unpack, organize, and store all supplies in an organized fashion so that any employee will be able to easily find what they need.
Additional Training and Advancement
Much like taking X-rays, there are other areas of specialized training that can add tasks to a dental assistant’s responsibilities roster. Some examples might include taking dental impressions of a patient’s mouth that will be used as a mold for bridges or crowns, applying tooth sealant after a cleaning or procedure and managing fluoride treatments. The list of duties may also depend upon regulations, certification and licensing of what a dental assistant is allowed to do in their specific state of residence.
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