Dental assistants are often described as the dentist’s right hand. They are vital members of the dental team who ensure that you are cared for in a timely, efficient manner in a super clean, germ-free practice.
While the exact duties of a dental assistant vary from state to state, province to province, and country to country, in all places their role is to help with any tasks that don’t require a dentist or a dental hygienist’s certification and training.
Many dental assistants (called dental nurses in the United Kingdom and Ireland) have both clinical and administrative skills and responsibilities. This means they help the dental practice run smoothly and efficiently and they are also directly involved with certain parts of your oral health care.
The most common interaction most patients have with a dental assistant is taking x-rays. Dental assistants have specialized training and certification to take dental x-rays and will often help out the rest of the dental team by taking care of this task.
Most dental assistants are also in charge of infection control at the dental practice. This means keeping the dental operatory and all the tools the dentists and dental hygienists use perfectly clean and germ-free. For example, metal hand tools are sterilized using a system called an autoclave that uses high-powered, super-hot steam to eliminate any microbes that could cause illness. The dental assistant also gets the dental chair ready for you before your visit.
Expanded duties or expanded function dental assistants (EDDA or EFDA) have specialized training and certification that allows them to perform certain dental procedures on a patient under the direct or indirect supervision of a dentist. For example, in some states, an EFDA can help the dentist by applying dental fillings.
Whatever a specific dental assistant’s job duties may be, his or her mission is to make sure every patient is comfortable, safe and welcome. Be sure to appreciate your dental assistant next time you visit our office!