The purpose of formal dental assistant training is to teach dental assisting students the skills they need to perform as professional dental assistants. This can include hands-on skills such as handling dental instruments, sterilizing equipment and assisting the dentist. But it also includes foundation subjects, such as healthcare basics, communication skills, and business skills for running a dental front office, as well as people-oriented skills for working with patients. At the right school, dental assistant training can be a varied, rounded education that prepares graduates for solid, lucrative careers.
Most training programs last from nine months to around two years, resulting in a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. Training can be found at dental assistant schools including junior colleges, career schools and some universities.
Individual training programs vary, but the course subjects students are trained in generally cover the topics below.
- Patient Care and Comfort: One of the chief responsibilities of a dental assistant is making sure patients are calm and comfortable. Thus, dental assistant training usually covers courses on patient care. These courses are important in helping dental assistants learn to create a positive experience for the patient while keeping them safe. Dental assistants are trained to exhibit a calm, confident demeanor in the company of patients.
- Safety and Hygiene: Dental assistants are responsible for ensuring patients to not contract an infection from a non-sterile environment. As part of dental assistant training, students learn to create and enforce infection control protocols to guarantee that patients are never exposed to contaminated materials. They are also trained to ensure fluids and substances that might be liberated by a dental procedure are cleaned, and that the patient space is sanitized before another procedure is performed.
- Instructing Patients in Proper Dental Care: After a procedure is completed, dental assistants are often tasked with instructing patients on how to care for themselves at home. Dental assistant training includes instructing patients on how to keep their teeth in optimum health. Examples may be teaching patients how to brush and floss properly, how to properly apply vitamins and other medicines, and how care for sutures from oral surgery.
- Office Management Tasks: Since dental assistants are essential for keeping a dentist’s office running smoothly, training for dental assistants may include classes in office administration and business management. Dental assistants often work with patients or suppliers on a number of tasks that require the use of computers. Some of these duties include scheduling appointments and deliveries, placing orders, or billing.
- Working with X-Rays: Another important responsibility covered in formal training is the taking and handling of patient x-rays. Dental assistants must know how to operate complex radiological equipment, prepare patients, and record x-rays for the dentist to examine.
Benefits of Formal Training
Besides preparing students for the basic job skills of dental assisting, formal dental assistant training provides the background education and knowledge needed to understand dental work on a broader scope, and to manage the business side of dental assisting. The skills and background education received during training makes dental assistant program graduates more attractive to employers, and also gives them the foundation to move into other areas of healthcare if so desired.