Dental Assistant Duties

A dental assistant can simply be described as the extended hands of the dentist or dental surgeon and therefore a vital member of the dental health professional team. A dental assistant will find that they are offered a wide variety of challenging duties and be presented with dynamic and invigorating work. A dental assistant must possess excellent chair assisting skills. As such a dental assistant job description involves duties which would include the following:

•    Preparing and maintain dental instruments, equipment and supplies
•    Collecting and recording a patient’s health history
•    Managing patients during dental procedures
•    Smoothly and swiftly transferring required instruments from the tray to the dentist
•    Preparing dental materials, composites, amalgams, cements, impression materials etc
•    Knowing and using dental procedure isolation techniques
•    Handling dental charting
•    Preventing and managing dental medical emergencies
•    Managing and control inventory

Other dental assistant duties may involve those of expanded functions expertise which means an assistant in course of their duties must be able to:

•    Place and remove rubber dams, matrices and wedges
•    Apply cavity liners and bases
•    Place, condense, carve and contour amalgam restorations
•    Carve and Contour amalgam restorations
•    Place and finish composite resin restorations, including sealant material

The term ‘expanded functions’ implies that a dental assistant is also forbidden from doing certain things which may include but not be limited to:

•    Examining, diagnosing or planning dental treatment
•    Cutting any hard or soft tissue during his work
•    Prescribing medicines, drugs or laboratory authorizations
•    Performing Pulpotomy, pulp capping or any other endotontic procedure
•    Performing cementation/final placement of fixed or removable dental prosthetic appliances
•    Administering parenteral/inhalation sedation, local anesthesia, general anesthesia or nitrous oxide analgesia
•    Taking impressions other than those taken for diagnostic casts and study models

Whatever duties a dental assistant is authorized to do by way of expanded functions has to be done under the direct supervision of a dentist or in a dental facility; meaning that the dentist himself is responsible for diagnosing the patient’s condition, prescribing treatment and authorizing procedures. The dentist will also be required to remain in direct supervision of the dental assistant whilst he/she performs their expanded functions. The dental assistant’s work will be evaluated by the supervising dentist before the patient is dismissed. The expanded functions that a dental assistant may provide will vary from one state to the next.

A  dental assistant will also be required  to carry out dental infection control procedures. These procedures include dental office infection control plan management to conform to CDC, OSHA and ADA standards. Other parameters requiring expertise include sterilization, disinfection, instrument cleaning and dental treatment room disinfection

Dental Assistant Resume

A dental assistant resume needs to be shaped in such a way that it carries a summary of your qualifications, highlights your achievements and projects you as a serious candidate to fill whichever position it is that you’re applying for. Practical experience outweighs educational achievements so make a point of putting your relevant work experience at the top of the resume rather than your educational qualifications.

The dental assistant resume should be formatted in such a way so that your name and address at the top center of the page.

Follow this by a statement of your objective with the heading of your statement given in bold in the center of the page. A couple of lines should be sufficient to describe your objective.

You must then provide a detailed list of your achievements under the heading ‘summary of qualifications’ given in bold in the center of the page.  Mention all qualifications here that make you the ideal fit for the position. Each statement in this part should consist of a short, precise and self-explanatory sentence. Use bullets for highlighting. How this should look is provided in the sample dental assistant resume below:

Summary of Qualifications

•    Over four years of experience as a Dental receptionist and dental assistant providing direct patient care …

•    Graduated with Associate degree in Dental Assisting from the Deakin University.

•    Sound understanding of clinical procedures

•    Expert knowledge of medical terminology etc.

Then a list of relevant experience should follow in reverse chronological order with your most recent job placed at the top. It should also reflect the time period, which you have spent on the job. If you have worked with reputable dental facilities/clinics at good positions you must take care to put strong emphasis on your job titles and the names of your employers. In addition you should emphasize your duties and achievements describing them clearly under each job title. The salient point of a dental assistant resume should is that it should highlight a list of all your major achievements in the first part of the resume.

For example:

Health Care Experience

Dr Sharon Fawcett, M.D. Pittsburgh, PA                                         2006 – Present

•    Managed accounts payable/receivable
•    Managed scheduling of patient appointments
•    Got patients ready for surgical procedures, record blood pressure, temperature, administer sedatives, etc.

•    Provided necessary post operative care to patients. Record all vital signs at ten minute intervals till patient regains consciousness. Ensure patient comfort at all stages and give all information related to new medications and possible side effects to the patient.

Dr Stephen Jenkins M.D. New York, NY                            2003 – 2006

Joined as Dental trainee, promoted to Dental Assistant
Processed x-rays, sterilizing instruments, scheduling patient appointments, maintaining patient relations

Finalize your resume by providing details of your education such as


Associate degree in Applied Science in Dental Assisting form Hartford University…..
Computers- MS Office …….. etc.

Following these guidelines set out in this sample dental assistant resume can help you prepare an effective designed to win you an interview for your new job.

Dental Assistant Certification

There are over 30 states in the United States of America that mandate the certification of dental assistants. Others states may require that applicants undergo state approved dental assistant programs to seek registration as dental assistants. Dental assistant certification serves as proof of professional competence and specialized education of the incumbent. It is evidence that the person has received theoretical and practical instructions which have endowed him/her with specialized knowledge and skills in respect to the work he/she is expected to perform. Certification is an important aid while searching for employment and is an asset for the job seeker.

Certification of dental assistants is done by the Dental Assisting National Board or DNAB which is recognized across the US. The DANB is a regulatory body that conducts a certified dental assistant exam. Established in 1948, this institute is a nonprofit organization for credentialing qualified dental assistants. The DANB is a leading institution recognized as a national body for qualifying certified dental assistants by the American Dental Association. The DANB conducts programs and certified exams for providing the oral health care community with competent and qualified dental assistants in order to enhance the quality of dental health care. The dental assistant exam administered by DANB is authorized by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The dental assistant exam programs run by DANB have also been judged satisfactory by the National Organization for Competency Assurance. Supported and authenticated by all these prestigious Agencies, the DANB assures objective, valid and reliable dental assistant exam testing procedures.

The minimum academic level required for entry into certification programs is a high school diploma or equivalent. Specific programs may require the applicant to have studied science (chemistry and biology) and/or computers in high school to be eligible for admission. Alternatively, he/she needs to have relevant working experience as a dental assistant either full time for two years or part time for four years. Additionally, current certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation is also a must. After obtaining initial certification, the individual has to be re-certified annually by earning continuing educational credits. Apart from the DNAB certification, there are various organizations, mostly at state level, that offer registration as a dental assistant through their individual dental assistant programs.

There is a different online administrative dental assistant certification programs offered only through accredited colleges and universities. An Administrative Dental Assistant certificate is awarded to the student after successful completion of the course. The course is targeted at the business management aspects of dental practice. The instructional area of the program covers anatomy, dental terminology, account receivable and reimbursement management, medical records management, patient billing, patient scheduling, procedural and diagnostic coding etc. to prepare an individual for an office career in a dental office. This course is spread over 240 hours.

Dental Assistant Training

A 1 year dental assistant training program usually leads to a certificate or diploma. For those seeking to do an advanced course, you  can look to gain admission into any community or junior college that offers a two year program in dental assistance, leading to an associate degree. There are also a number of lesser valued 4 to 6 month programs that are conducted by many vocational schools; however the credentials obtained by completing such courses may be insufficient for many dental assistant job openings. Many employers will only accept certifications accredited by the Commission of Dental Accreditation.

A typical dental assistant training program leading to certification as a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) covers three semesters of course work. During those three semesters a student will need to complete about 42 credit hours of course work that include dental assisting procedure courses, dental x-rays, dental materials, dental nutrition, office procedures, office emergencies, pharmacology and head and neck anatomy. During the final semester of the program, students will also be required to complete a clinical rotation in two or three dental offices. The curriculum for different semesters will be something similar to what is given below:

Semester I
•    Chairside Assisting
•    Dental Science
•    Dental Radiology
•    Communication Skills for Trades
•    Psychology of Personal Adjustment

Semester II
•    Dental Assisting Applications
•    Dental Materials
•    Dental Radiology in the Clinic
•    Dynamics of Human Relations
•    Medical Terminology

Semester III
•    Clinical Dental Assistant
•    Dental Office Management
•    Preventive Dentistry
•    Advance Dental Science

Institutions offering dental assistant programs will have the necessary infrastructure in place to deliver the best dental assistant education to its students. These facilities may consist of computer equipped dental assisting laboratories, dental operatories, high class dental materials labs, x-ray rooms, sterilization rooms, lecture areas and class rooms. When graduating from such institutions, students get their Certificate in Radiology, Infection Control and Jurisprudence along with CDA certification.

One can opt for higher education in their pursuit of a career in dental assisting. To do this, it is necessary to enroll for an associate degree program offered only through accredited US community and junior colleges and universities and which take around two years to complete. Upon graduating you will be awarded an Associate in Applied Science degree in dental assistance. As an Associate in Dental Assisting, you will be equipped with greater knowledge and skills when compared with certificate holders and will be able to assist the dentist or dental surgeon in advanced dentistry functions like sterilization, polishing, fluoride applications, preparing acrylic crowns and bridges, radiography certification and charting.

Dental Assistant Salary

A dental assistant salary will range from 12 to 21 dollars per hour with the median annual salary of a dental assistant being 33,324 dollars. Dental assistant salaries will also depend on the number of hours that a person puts in and many assistants also supplement their income by taking part time jobs with different dentists to get additional earnings. A dental assistant salary should also include other benefits such as paid holidays and vacation, free dental care, paid sick leave, the 401[k] pension plan, uniform allowance and health insurance.

Many dental assistant jobs provide regular work and one might only have to work for 3 or 4 days of the week. Since the work of a dental assistant is to provide an extra set of hands to the dentist, a good dental assistant can expect to receive regular pay increase, if he or she proves invaluable to the dentist.

The size of a dental assistant’s salary also depends on the skills that have been acquired by the assistant and the location of the clinic in which they work As with any profession, a good dental assistant should see a progressive rise in his or her salary as their skill level improves with time and experience.

Dental assistants have different work requirements as compared to dental hygienists and after the treatment. They also provide information to the patients regarding post-operative care and methods to maintain general oral health. They also need to take dental x-rays and to process them, place rubber dams during dental treatment, take out excessive cement or other fillers used during the filling process, and also help in removing sutures after dental surgeries. A dentist might pay a decent dental assistant salary, if he or she sees good potential in the assistant.

To become a dental assistant, one might have to complete a dental program, which would include theory and practical training in a laboratory and also internship in a dental clinic. Most programs last up to 1 year and there is a certificate or a diploma awarded upon successful completion. All programs require a high school diploma or any equivalent form of education and some require additional science related courses before admission.

Private schools also offer short term courses, but they are not recognized by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Different states have different requirements on the licensure, registration and the certification required by the dental assistant for him or her to operate. Dental assistant jobs are projected to grow at the fastest rate of 29% from 2006 to 2016, according to reports.

Dental Hygienist Training

A large number of high school graduates these days are looking to pursue dental hygienist training due to the flexible work schedule that can be enjoyed by a dental hygienist. As a specialist in preventative oral health care, a dental hygienist has the option of working full or part-time, in the evenings or only on weekends.

Recent surveys suggest that most dental hygienists only work part-time – amounting to less that  35 hours per week. Dental hygienists also have the freedom to work in more than one dental office. This is due to the fact that dentists usually hire hygienists for only two or three days in a week. Dental hygienists are often seen working side-by-side with dentists, cleaning teeth and educating patients on how to best care for their teeth and gums before and after dental appointments.

A prospective dental hygienist can best prepare themselves for formal training by studying the right subjects at high school. You must have a high school diploma and college entrance test scores in order to join a dental hygiene school. Those looking to pursue dental hygienist training will have preferably studied subjects like biology, chemistry, and mathematics in their senior high school years. In some states it is mandatory for applicants to have completed at least 1 year of college. Though it varies from one school to another, you may sometimes expect specific entrance requirements to join the training program.

Trainees in dental hygienist programs you will learn a variety of skills enabling you to know how to collect information about a patient’s oral and medical health history. You will be taught to examine teeth and gums as well as inspect the neck and head to find out if there are any abnormalities or other health problems. You will become skilled in the use a diverse set of tools such as hand and rotary instruments and ultrasonic devices to clean and polish teeth, including removing calculus, stains and plaque (hard as well as soft) from all surfaces of the teeth. You will learn to apply preventative materials like fluorides and sealants and fluorides to the teeth. You will be taught to use x-ray machines, to take dental pictures, and also how to develop the film.

In certain states, trainees are also taught to place and remove filling material, temporary fillings and periodontal dressings. They are taught the art of smoothing and polishing metal restorations, preparing clinical and laboratory diagnostic tests to be interpreted by the dentist. You also learn how to administer anesthetics before a major oral surgery is undertaken by the main dental surgeon.

Most dental hygienist courses grant an associate dental hygienist degree, although some also offer a certificate, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree. A minimum of an associate degree or certificate in dental hygiene is generally required for practice in a private dental office

Once your training is complete you will need to apply for a formal license in order to work in a particular state, depending on the local laws. You will have to demonstrate that you have passed both a written and clinical examination. The written examination is conducted by the American Dental Association’s Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations, which is accepted by all states and the District of Columbia.