Dental assistants perform many duties in dental offices such as patient care, filing, and laboratory tasks. They are also responsible for maintaining and preparing dental instruments, updating patient records, and assisting dentists during procedures. These duties and more indicate that dental assistants fill a wide variety of roles in a dental office. Therefore, an ideal dental assistant needs to be someone who enjoys taking care of patients, has the affinity to help others, is detail and service-oriented, can easily interact with other people, and knows how to follow specific instructions.
A good dental assistant is reliable and possesses good work ethic. He knows that he is working to make the day easier for everyone in the dental office. He must also be efficient in his work while being genuinely interested in the needs of the dental patients. A dental assistant must also have good communications skills to be able to clearly convey these needs to the dentist. Most importantly, dental assistants must be open to the fact that working in a health care setting will require them to partake in dental procedures and surgeries that may involve blood. Additionally, because the world of dental assisting continues to evolve, dental assistants must also have the determination to constantly learn in order to improve their skills and be the best in their field.
In order to be able to work as a dental assistant, an individual must first complete his training at an accredited school. Students may choose to attend a traditional school such as a community college, university or dental school or they may enroll in a dental assistant program online to provide them with the knowledge they need to obtain credentials in this rapidly expanding field. A certificate or a degree obtained from a dental assistant program is an acknowledgement that the student is qualified and competent to perform the duties of a dental assistant.
In most schools, a dental assistant program runs for approximately 9-11 months. Dental assistant training schools teach students entry-level skills that will enable them to work effectively in dental offices as a dental assistant. Students training to become a dental assistant will be given an education which includes medical-related courses such as anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology.
Courses primarily include dental anatomy and pathology, dental pharmacology, radiology, preventives, software, coronal polishing, dental office administration, and practice management. They will also be required to take courses in records management, typing, computer-related courses, and accounting. Dental assistant education will also provide students the training they need in taking X-ray examinations, dental equipment use and care, sterilization of instruments, preparing dental procedure setups, educating patients on good oral health, exposing radiographs, and preparing dental materials.
Dental assistant students must also be skilled in first aid and CPR. Additionally, students in dental assistant programs will have to complete their externship hours later on in the course at a recognized clinical facility to graduate. Most of the class time in spent in a clinical setting is used to practice skills needed at a real dental clinic in order to provide the students the confidence they need for their first day on the job.