Oral health is a basic human requirement that will never go away. People of all ages and backgrounds will always require dental care. Unlike in previous decades, oral health is now a higher priority among the population because of the link between oral health and overall general health. This means there will always be a demand for dental assistants regardless of the state of the economy. Jobs for these professionals are projected to grow by 25% over the next seven years.
What is a typical day for a dental assistant like? To answer this question, a dental assistant job description, some general skill requirements, and a description of the working environment and hours are discussed next.
Dental Assistant Job Description
Specific job tasks include:
- Working with patients – Dental assistants interact with patients by scheduling appointments, preparing them for dental exams, giving them dental hygiene instructions, helping them relax on the dental chair, and communicating post dental instructions.
- Working with the dentist – When the dentist is performing an oral procedure, she requires the help of a dental assistant to hand her the appropriate instrument when needed and to hold the suction tube. The dental assistant also organizes the instruments and keeps them stocked. In short, the dental assistant makes it easier for the dentist to focus on the dental procedure itself.
- Performing lab tasks – These include X-ray processing such as film development, instrument sterilization, taking dental impressions, and assisting with crown fabrication.
Required General Skills
The dental assistant’s job requires intense focus and attention to detail. No two days are exactly the same so there is no mechanical routine to follow. Each day will see different patients with their unique dental health needs. In addition, three important general skills to have are:
- People skills – The dentist’s patients are his business. It’s important that the dental assistant be friendly and professional with patients who would rather be somewhere else. They are often apprehensive, in pain, require reassurance, and are in a hurry to leave.
- Communication skills – Dental assistants often answer patient questions, explain instructions, and instruct patients about dental hygiene and proper care for dental fixtures.
- Organizational skills – In smaller dental practices, the assistant will have to fill in as the front office manager. This includes appointment scheduling, maintaining patient files, billing and invoicing, ordering supplies, and keeping the office space organized. Other duties may include care and organization of dental tools and devices.
- Multitasking skills – The smaller the dental practice, the more hats you will have to wear. However, even in larger practices, dental assistants must perform a broad range of tasks and won’t always have the luxury of doing them one at a time. This is particularly true of front office work.
While dental assistants often work in private dental offices, they may find employment in clinics, hospitals, and other public health settings. The work environments are typically clean, professional, and quiet. When working with the dentist during a procedure, dental assistants wear masks, gloves, and other protective clothing to prevent the possible spread of disease.
Dental assistants can either work full-time jobs with set hours or find jobs with flexible hours. This depends on where they work. The small private offices of dental clinics normally offer full-time work with fixed hours that range from 35 to 40 hours per week. Hospitals and large offices are more likely to offer work with flexible hours.
If you like working in a health care field where your skills are in demand, the work is varied and challenging, the environment is comfortable and professional, and many career options are possible, contact us at Dental Assistant to learn more.