Shadowing a DoctorJanuary 8, 2015
A caring and skilful dental assistant can make all the difference between a positive and negative visit to the dentist and consequently between good and bad dental health.
Dental assistants provide routine oral care under the direction of dentists and dental hygienist. They play a vital role in keeping patients comfortable and relaxed and generally spend a significant amount of time with patients. The quality of care you deliver as a dental assistant will makes a huge difference in a patients’ overall health and well-being.
Detailed Job Description
The duties of dental assistants vary widely, depending on the clinic and the scope of practice. Common duties include but are not restricted to:
- Recording the patient’s medical and dental history,
- Conducting initial tests including vital signs and blood pressure testing.
- Setting up the work area, which involves laying out the standard and specialised tools and materials required for each task.
- Conducting and processing diagnostic tests including X-rays and lab tests.
- Preventing infection through proper equipment sterilisation and handling.
- Assisting the dentist and dental hygienist during procedures by handing them the appropriate tools and suctioning excess fluids from the patient’s mouth.
- Taking impressions of patients’ teeth.
- Educating patients on dental hygiene, brushing, flossing and post-procedure home care.
- Handling clerical tasks such as making appointments, claims processing and handling payments.
- Managing the clinic’s inventory.
Depending on the setting, a qualified dental assistant may also be responsible for cleaning and polishing a patient’s teeth, applying topical anaesthetics before procedures and administering anti-cavity treatments such as fluoride and sealant application.
Dental assistants are part of a rapidly growing and important healthcare industry. Thanks to extensive research and media attention, consumers have begun to realise the benefits of good oral care.
Opportunities within the field are also increasing. With patient numbers growing rapidly, dentists are increasingly turning more and more tasks over to their assistants. The coming years are expected to see a huge expansion in scope of practice for dental assistants.
On the job you would work closely with dentists and dental hygienists, who provide direct supervision. You would also spend a significant amount of time interacting with patients and colleagues. In addition, you should also be comfortable with modern technology, which could include using specialty machines, tools, materials, chemical and sterilizing equipment.
Working in a dental setting involves some exposure to environmental hazards, mostly radiation from X-rays and infectious diseases. These risks however can be minimised by following established safety procedures and through proper use of protective clothing such as apron, mask and gloves.
Most dental assistants work in dentists’ clinics. Some of these dental clinics are dedicated to specialties such as paediatric dentistry, oral surgery or orthodontics. Some hospitals also employ dental assistants to care for patients who are bedridden. In addition, these professionals also work in the public sector caring for the oral health of school children and the medically underserved in communities.
As a dental assistant you would generally work regular business hours. On occasion, you may be required to work evening and weekend shifts to accommodate patients’ schedules. For most dental assistants, the flexible scheduling is a major perk of this specialty.