Dental Assisting

Smiles and Safety: The Role of a Dental Assistant

Dental AssistingSeptember 05, 2022

If you are considering a career as a dental assistant you may wonder what the job entails and what an average day might look like.

Dental assistants play a vital role on the dental team. They help dentists deliver excellent care to their patients, and they do so as efficiently and safely as possible. More specifically, they provide an indispensable extra set of hands in the dental office and beside the chair.

There is plenty of work each day to keep a dental assistant busy. He or she may be called upon to educate patients about dental health and hygiene practices or to perform administrative duties. They help prepare patients for treatment, hold suction devices, pass instruments during dental procedures, take dental x-rays (radiographs), and in some states they can make temporary crowns or take impressions. They also sterilize instruments and ensure the exam room and all surfaces are cleaned between patients - an extra step implemented during the pandemic to protect against the spread of COVID and other viruses. In essence, they serve as infection control officers for the office or clinic and provide for patients’ comfort and care. 

General Dentistry

Many dental assistants work in general dentistry practices. These practices focus on routine, family dental care, prevention, and hygiene. A dental assistant in one of these practices would typically assist during routine procedures such as drilling and filling cavities, taking impressions for crowns, etc.  

Oral Surgery

Being an oral surgeon assistant involves many of the same skills used by general dentistry assistants. These professionals sterilize surgical equipment, prepare patients for surgery, assist with note-taking and charting, and take and/or process x-rays. They do not perform surgery but may be required to monitor or maintain the flow of any IVs or to take vital signs. 

In some states becoming an oral surgeon assistant may not require advanced training beyond that required to become a dental assistant. But candidates should be well-versed in sterile technique, and typically require on-the-job training. In addition to performing important support duties, they may be called upon to maintain the inventory of necessary supplies, and to handle ordering and restocking.

If the role of a dental assistant sounds like a good fit for you, St. Paul’s School of Nursing can help put you on the path to a rewarding career with our Dental Assisting program. Visit our program page or call (855) 822-3018 to speak to one of our admissions representatives or to schedule a tour at our Staten Island, NY campus.