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Why We Appreciate Dental Assistants | Dental Assistant Recognition Week

By Wyatt Dilling on February 20, 2020 in Clinic and Provider Tips


Everybody who’s been to the dentist has worked with one, but what exactly are the job duties of a de

What are the job duties of a dental assistant? Everybody who’s visited or worked within a dental office has come across them. Whether you’re a dentist or a patient, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn dental assistants do more than you think. These helpful people handle many things around a dentist’s office from paperwork to bedside manner.

In addition to a concrete set of skills, dental assistants must have patience, and be up to date on all safety and infection protocols and procedures. Dental assistant responsibilities have changed, and in most offices, they have increased. They need empathy, compassion and understanding, and it also requires them to be a good listener. Often the dental assistant is the first and last touch point a patient has in the dentist office. Sometimes it may be the receptionist or the dentist themselves, but in many offices, the dental assistant is the person you may see the most.

Dental assistants grease the cogs that keep the wheels turning. For patients, they hear their concerns, listen to their requests, and even calm nerves. The job duties of a dental assistant can reach beyond what’s learned in a book or class. Many responsibilities include more than what’s going on in your mouth. It could include managing patients’ fear and helping them relax during their exam. Dental assistants must enjoy people. If that sounds like you, consider a career as a dental assistant.

In honor of these key employees, here is a breakdown of some other responsibilities of dental assistants:

A dentist and his dental assistant make a young female patient laugh in the dental chair.

Preparation and TakedownBefore you’re even in the dentist chair, the dental assistant has been hard at work prepping the space for your appointment. Then it’s rigid cleaning procedures to maintain dental instruments and patient care areas in strict accordance with safety and infection protocols. This includes cleaning anything left over from a previous session, setting out the sterilized instruments that will be used, and whatever else is needed based on the patient. Once the patient has completed their appointment and left the office, this same process starts all over again for all subsequent patients. 

A dental assistant works in the exam room to prepare for the next dental appointment.

Assisting the DoctorThe dental assistant typically begins an appointment by taking the patient to the examination room and discussing their needs. Then they take X-rays and get other assessments for the dentist. The assistant helps the dentist with tasks during the appointment including instrument handling, rinsing and suction, and limiting the spread of bacteria. Dental assistants also take impressions of teeth and provide post-care instructions.

Two dental assistants review a patient’s x-ray on a computer at the dental office desk.

Office management Often, the role of dental assistant isn’t limited to just patient-facing tasks. There’s more to keeping a dental practice running smoothly, like ordering supplies, scheduling appointments, submitting claims, billing customers, and other administrative tasks. Many dental assistants also take care of these responsibilities. They’re some of the best multi-taskers around. 

While helping the dentist, the patient, and the office work efficiently, dental assistants are often mind readers, anticipating the needs of those around them!

Dental Assistant Recognition week is designed to honor those important team members in every dental practice. The job duties of a dental assistant are multi-faceted, though hopefully not thankless. So, the next time you go in for a check-up, appreciate the dental assistant you see. They help make each and every appointment happen.

Looking for a provider? Use our handy dentist search to find someone near you.

*Updated March 2022