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Dental Assistants | What Do They Do?

Dental assistants typically do the following:

  • Work with patients to make them comfortable in the dental chair and to prepare them for treatments and procedures
  • Sterilize dental instruments
  • Prepare the work area for patient treatment by setting out instruments and materials
  • Help dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
  • Keep patientsí mouths dry by using suction hoses or other equipment
  • Instruct patients in proper dental hygiene
  • Process x rays and do lab tasks under the direction of a dentist
  • Keep records of dental treatments
  • Schedule patient appointments
  • Work with patients on billing and payment

Assistants who do lab tasks, such as making casts of a patientís teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They might prepare materials for a cast of teeth or create temporary crowns.

All dental assistants do tasks such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records, but there are four regulated tasks that assistants may also be able to do, depending on the state where they work.

  • Coronal polishing
  • Sealant application
  • Fluoride application
  • Topical anesthetics application

Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, dental assistants paint a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anti-cavity measure. For topical anesthetics application, some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of the patientís mouth, temporarily numbing the area.

Not all states allow dental assistants to do these tasks. Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants and may require them to take specific exams or meet other requirements before allowing them to do these procedures

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition


for State specific information, visit  JOB OUTLOOK BY STATE



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