What Do Dental Assistants Do?

Like many medical settings, a dental office can be a hub of busy activity. With numerous people coming and going, dentists might require additional personnel to ensure that patients are treated in a kind, efficient manner. Dental assistants are vital members of the dental team who can help keep operations running smoothly.

Dental assistants have some of the broadest job descriptions in a dental office, and their work can require both technical and interpersonal elements. Ultimately, the tasks they may perform are regulated by state law and may vary according to location.

  • Their responsibilities might include preparing instruments and materials necessary for treating a patient, obtaining dental records, and assisting a dentist during a procedure.
  • They may take and develop x-rays; take a patient’s medical history; help patients feel comfortable before, during, and after treatment; make models of a patient’s teeth for study; or even perform office management tasks.
  • A dental assistant’s job can also include teaching patients about postoperative and general oral health care.

Dental assistants aren’t often found far from a dental chair, as they need to be able to help a dentist right away when called upon. Work schedules can be full-time or part-time. Approximately half of all dental assistants in the U.S. worked between 35 and 40 hours a week in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than one-third had a part-time schedule. Some held more than one job, which they fit in around the hours required at their primary office. The work possibilities are considerable.

Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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