Careers in Dental Assisting
The dental assistant takes on significant responsibility as a member of
the dental health care team. Assistants greatly increase the efficiency of
the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable
members of the dental care team. If you have strong communication skills,
enjoy working with your hands as well as your mind and want a career with
responsibility, dental assisting is for you.
What do Dental Assistants Do?
The duties of a dental assistant are among the most comprehensive and varied in the dental office. The dental assistant performs many tasks requiring
both interpersonal and technical skills. Although state regulations vary,
some specific tasks dental assistants may perform include:
- assisting the dentist during a variety of treatment procedures;
- taking and developing dental radiographs (x-rays);
- asking about the patient's medical history and taking blood pressure
- serving as an infection control officer, developing infection control
protocol and preparing and sterilizing instruments and equipment;
- helping patients feel comfortable before, during and after dental
- providing patients with instructions for oral care following
surgery or other dental treatment procedures, such as the
a restoration (filling);
- teaching patients appropriate oral hygiene strategies to
maintain oral health (e.g., tooth brushing, flossing, and
- taking impressions of patients' teeth for study casts (models
performing office management tasks that often require
the use of a personal computer;
- communicating with patients and suppliers (e.g., scheduling
appointments, answering the telephone, billing and
ordering supplies); and
- assisting with and helping to provide direct patient
care in all dental specialties, including orthodontics,
pediatric dentistry, periodontics and
What are the advantages of a Dental Assistant career?
VARIETY: Dental assistants have one of the most diverse and interesting
of all positions in a dental office. Dental assisting is a challenging and
rewarding career, demanding versatility and a willingness to assume responsibility
for many different tasks.
FLEXIBILITY: Since dental assistants are in demand, career options include
both full-time and part-time positions.
EXCELLENT WORKING CONDITIONS: Dental offices are interesting, pleasant,
people-oriented environments in which to work.
PERSONAL SATISFACTION: Dental assisting involves people contact, and with
this personal interaction comes the personal satisfaction of knowing you've
really helped someone by helping to provide a valuable health service.
Where do Dental Assistants work?
Since many dentists employ two or more dental assistants, employment opportunities
in this field are excellent. The types of practice settings available to
dental assistants include:
- solo dental practices (practices with only one dentist);
- group practices (practices with two or more dentists);
- specialty practices, such as oral and maxillofacial surgery (removal
of teeth and correction of facial deformities), orthodontics and
dentofacial orthopedics (straightening teeth with braces or other
(root canal treatment), periodontics (replacement of lost teeth)
and pediatric dentistry (treatment of children);
- public health dentistry, including settings such as schools and
clinics which focus on the prevention of dental problems within
- hospital dental clinics, assisting dentists in the treatment
of bedridden patients; and
dental school clinics, assisting dental students as they
learn to perform dental procedures.
What education/training does a Dental Assistant need?
Dental assistants can be informally trained "on the job" or formally
trained in an accredited program. CCRI has an excellent dental assisting
program in Lincoln and Kingston. Lincoln Technical Institute also has an accredited dental assisting program.
- CCRI Dental Assisting Program
- Lincoln Technical Institute
the Rhode Island Dental Association at (401) 825-7700.
» More information on careers in Dental Assisting from the ADA