Dental assistants are dental health care workers who assist the dentist with patients. There are different types of jobs that a dental assistant must be prepared to perform in an efficient manner. Dental assistants must possess good manual dexterity, have the ability to work closely with the dentist, and display good customer service skills. Dental assistant jobs involve making a patient comfortable during treatment, handing dentists tools, suctioning the patient's mouth, taking X-rays of the teeth, and other important tasks.
Dental assistant jobs are primarily divided into two major types. The first type is called a basic dental assistant. This type of job is a general assistant job requiring the completion of a dental assistant course. Such courses are short-term, requiring between nine and 11 months of coursework.
Upon completion of the program, graduates earn a certificate that qualifies them to work in basic dental assistant jobs. Students can earn this certificate if they enroll in a vocational or community college. Other students can earn their certificate through distance education if they desire a more flexible format.
Another type of dental assistant job is called an expanded duty dental assistant (EDDA). This type of dental assistant has a higher skill level in the field of dental assisting and requires further education. These jobs allow the dental assistant to perform restorative tasks while working under the supervision of a licensed dentist. An EDDA can perform more complex work like removing sutures, making impressions of the teeth, and placing temporary restorations. All advanced work performed by an EDDA must be supervised by the dentist.
Dental assistant jobs can be performed in a variety of settings. For example, the dental assistant can work with one dentist or a group of dentists in a dental practice. The dental assistant can work for a specialist who focuses on pediatrics, orthodontics, endodontics, or some other special area of dentistry.
Dental assistants can work in clinics, schools, nursing homes, or in public health. Some dental assistants choose to advance their careers by returning to school to become dental hygienists. Dental assistants who do not receive further education are unable to advance further in the field.
People who wish to become dental assistants can expect to enjoy a varied set of responsibilities within the dentist office. They may order supplies, assist the dentist as he or she performs dental procedures, and gather patients' medical information. Dental assistants may take dental X-rays or instruct patients on how to maintain the health of their teeth. No matter what tasks a dental assistant must perform, all dental assistants must possess a caring, competent manner. This allows patients to feel more comfortable and relaxed, contributing to a more positive experience at the dentist office.