A dental assistant job description is unique and varied. It requires many skills, as well as strong personal qualities. Fortunately, the skills needed to perform the key dental assistant duties can be learned through an accredited dental assistant training program. Learning to take on other dental assisting duties and responsibilities can be accomplished with job experience.
This page will outline the basic dental assistant job description, including dental assistant duties, skills, and responsibilities. Mastering the skills needed to perform these duties and responsibilities can help dental assistants earn a higher salary, and may help prepare them for advancement into other fields.
Dental Assistant Duties
Dental assistant duties mostly consist of preparing the patient for the dental examination, assisting the dentist during dental procedures, and doing front-office work. Front-office job duties might include helping patients schedule appointments and working with equipment suppliers to handle deliveries.
Some specific dental assisting job duties may include:
- Answering patient questions before an appointment
- Preparing patients for dental procedures by making them comfortable and providing any instructions
- Sterilizing dental instruments and equipment, and placing for easy access
- Preparing the dental exam room for use by the dentist by making sure it is stocked and organized
- Assisting the dentist during procedures, including passing instruments, getting supplies, and using the suction tube to keep the patient’s mouth dry
- Assisting with dental x-rays
- Assisting with dental lab work
- Instructing patients on dental hygiene and proper care of dental fixtures
- Scheduling follow-up appointments
- Keeping patient records
- Assisting with billing and invoicing needs
Additional Dental Assistant Duties
In addition to these general dental assisting duties, a dental assistant job description might also include specialized tasks, depending on which state the dental assistant works in. Some of these tasks include:
- Applying local dental anesthetic
- Cleaning teeth
- Applying dental sealant
- Applying dental fluoride
General Dental Assistant Duties and Responsibilities
Beyond the job duties described above, dental assistants also have more general responsibilities when it comes to handling patients. Mastering these responsibilities is not taught in dental assisting courses, but can be developed while working as a dental assistant.
Some general dental assisting duties are:
- Working with people. Dental assistants routinely work with patients who are in pain, are in a hurry, or don’t want to be there. Having good people skills comes in handy.
- Explaining things. Dental assistants spend a lot of time explaining things such as dental hygiene, proper care of dental fixtures, and proper use of toothbrushes and other dental tools.
- Staying focused. While the dentist is working on a patient, the dental assistant should be able to pay close attention and anticipate the dentist’s needs. Attention to detail is important.
- Working with numbers. Since some dental assistant duties involve billing patients and receiving payments, being good with numbers is a good skill to have.
- Staying organized. Part of a dental assistant’s job description involves managing the front office, so being able to keep an area organized is a responsibility dental assistants usually have.
If you master these dental assistant job duties and responsibilities through training and job experience, you will be able to earn a higher dental assisting salary and take on more responsibilities. Another step you can take is pursuing your dental assisting certification, which will help differentiate you in the job market.