What Does a Dental Assistant Do? Your Questions Answered

Dental assistant taking x rays

If you’re considering a career in the medical field, dental assistant work can be challenging and enjoyable. The job comes with a number of responsibilities and you’re an active part of making sure that the dental clinic runs properly. 

In this guide, we’re going to talk about the daily duties of a dental assistant and what dental assistants do. 

What Are The Duties of a Dental Assistant? 

What does a certified dental assistant do? They’re present to provide chair-side support as dentists complete exams and perform procedures on patients. Their main role is to assist the dentist by passing instruments and assisting with procedures. 

Another important role of dental assistants is patient care and preparation. The dental assistant will likely be the first person you encounter when they come out into the waiting room to bring you back. The RDA will talk to you, ask you questions, and get you comfortable prior to the dentist coming in. 

An RDA is also responsible for taking dental impressions, x-rays, and may also schedule appointments. 

Once the procedure is complete, an RDA will be responsible for cleaning up, sterilizing the equipment, and preparing the examination area for the next patient. These are some of the things you may not see that happen behind the scenes. 

It’s often misunderstood and people believe that RDAs are just there to pass instruments to the dentist. The job is a lot more fulfilling and important than it may look. 

What Does a Dental Assistant Do on a Daily Basis?  

While no day is the same in the dental hygiene field, an average day might go something like this. 

The RDA will come into the office and will likely look through the schedule for the day. They’ll review the various procedures and start to prepare exam rooms so the dentist has everything they need when the patient is in the chair. 

When patients start arriving, the dental assistant will likely be the one bringing them back to their room and taking down their information. 

Once the dentist is ready to begin, the dental assistant will work alongside them ensuring they have everything they need and that the patient is comfortable. The dental assistant may provide suction for saliva and take x-rays throughout the procedure. 

As the day winds down and patients leave the office, the dental assistant will make sure all the equipment is sterilized. They also perform a number of administrative tasks such as preparing schedules for the following day. 

The dental assistant might actually be the last person to leave the clinic on many days and might be the first one back the next morning! 

What Are 4 Essential Skills of a Dental Assistant? 

The four essential skills of a dental assistant are:

  • Technical
  • Interpersonal
  • Administrative
  • Compassionate 

A large portion of an RDA’s job is assisting with procedures so it’s important that they possess the technical knowledge needed to anticipate what is going to happen next. 

Many people do not like going to the dentist so it’s important that a dental assistant can communicate well and also be compassionate enough to understand that a patient might be nervous about their procedure. 

Administrative duties are an important part of a dental assistant’s job. They need to schedule appointments, make reminder calls, and even order supplies.

What are Dental Assistants Not Allowed to Do? 

What do dental assistants do? They do a little bit of everything but keep in mind, there are a lot of tasks they’re not allowed to do. 

Dental assistants are different from dental hygienists because they’re not allowed to clean your teeth and almost all of their work is done with direct supervision from a dentist. 

An RDA is present to assist with procedures but cannot perform any of them on their own. 

That said, the RDA is one of the important people in the office and no one could do their job without them. 

What Does a Dental Assistant Do? How to Get Training 

If you’re thinking of becoming a dental assistant, there is some training you’ll need to go through. You can become a certified dental assistant in as little as 10 months and be eligible to take your exam. 

We offer dental assistant programs that can help propel you towards the career of your dreams. At Howard Healthcare Academy, we offer coursework both online and in-person so it can work around your busy schedule. 

Click here to learn more about our Dental Assistant course at Howard Academy!

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