Everything You Need to Know About Dental Assistants
The term “dental assistant” is an umbrella term since the job role encompasses several responsibilities. They can take X-rays, prepare patients for dental procedures, take care of patients after a procedure, or schedule appointments. If you want to become a dental assistant, we at Iqaluit Dental Clinic suggest that you read this article to familiarise yourself with the roles and responsibilities of the job.
What are the responsibilities of a Dental Assistant?
From filing paperwork to handling the patient, Dental assistants are responsible for various things. Let’s take a look at the list of some common tasks expected from a dental assistant:
1. Scheduling patient appointments.
2. Maintaining all dental treatment records.
3. Preparing the work area for a procedure.
4. Completing lab chores such as preparing x-rays and fetching sterilised equipment.
5. Ensuring that the patient feels safe and comfortable in the dental chair.
6. Ensuring that all dental instruments are properly sterilised.
7. Performing procedures such as sealant application, coronal polishing, topical anaesthetic application and fluoride application in selected regions.
8. Assisting the dentist by handing them instruments during a procedure.
9. Ensuring that the patient’s mouth remains dry during procedures, or as directed by the dentist.
10. Instructing the patient on how to take care of their teeth post-procedure and maintain proper oral hygiene.
11. Assisting the patient with payment and billing.
What are the skills required to become a good dental assistant?
A Dental assistant has several skills that allow them to do their jobs with consistency. Here is a list of all the skills that you should start developing if you want to work in the same position:
1. Listening skills – As a dental assistant, you should be a patient and attentive listener. You have to converse with both healthcare workers and patients. Part of your responsibility involves following directions given by the dentist, such as preparing patients for procedures.
You should also be able to maintain eye contact with patients and listen to what they have to say without being judgmental. You also have to keep them calm and composed.
The dentist may sometimes ask for feedback from you when they are conversing with the patient. You need good listening skills to quickly understand what the conversation is about and provide proper feedback to the patient.
2. Interpersonal skills – Patients are usually stressed during complicated procedures or during their first visit to the dentist. As a dental assistant with good interpersonal skills, you can help them take the edge off. Your job will be to reassure and comfort them if they are in mental distress or extreme pain.
Being sensitive and empathetic helps a lot. You should be able to calm the patient if they start panicking. Good communication (both verbal and non-verbal) and listening skills are the foundation of a dental assistant.
3. Attention to detail – There are several treatment protocols when it comes to dental treatment. Tough situations may arise at any time. For instance, there is a specific infection control procedure that enables a dentist to treat an infection without letting it spread. Knowing how the treatment works beforehand places you in a better position to help out.
As a dental assistant, you should learn more about the topics discussed within medical science and the reasons behind them. A proactive attitude towards daily obstacles will help you deal with critical situations that are under your jurisdiction with ease and confidence.
4. Must maintain a good appearance – As a dental assistant, you will be working closely with the dentist during complicated procedures, which can often lead to stain marks on your uniform/attire. You’re the first person a patient sees when they enter the office. They can find such stains off-putting, especially if they’re red.
First impressions matter a lot. Not only is good hygiene important for safety purposes, but it also paints a professional image of your clinic. Patients are more likely to trust a dental assistant with a clean appearance.
5. Dexterous fingers– Working inside the mouth does not offer much wiggle room, and the tight space can make it difficult to move your fingers. Having high dexterity will help you move more accurately while handling various kinds of instruments.
6. Better organisation qualities – As a dental assistant, you will be responsible for arranging the tools for the dentist. It’s your responsibility to organise the office properly and ensure that everything is clutter-free.
Sometimes, even the reception can get pretty crowded, and it’s your responsibility to keep everyone organised. The dentist will have an easier time addressing every patient only if you are able to keep the examination stations clean and ready for everyone else.
7. Good with computers – Nowadays, everything is done on the computer. Most clinics have proprietary software to keep patient records, schedule appointments, and check up on insurance claims, while others simply use Excel and Word. Basic knowledge of computers is important since you will have to manage all this.
Moreover, you might also have to learn how to use specific software, so you should also be adaptable so that you can quickly adjust to a new working environment.
8. Must be passionate – Being a dental assistant is not easy since you have to multitask all the time. On one hand, you have to attend to patients and look up medicals while on the other you’re helping the dentist with procedures.
It can get quite overwhelming at times, and the only way to maintain work consistency is to have a passion for your role.
How to become a Dental Assistant
You will need to complete an 8-month to 1-year college degree or equivalent programme in dental assistance. You can also apply for the job if you have completed secondary school with on-the-job training. However, you will need a licence if you want to perform intra-oral duties across any province. The average annual salary of a dental assistant is between $38,000 – $52,0000 in Canada.
With enough experience, you can eventually become a dental hygienist, dental/orthodontic therapist, surgical technologist, etc. There is a lot to explore. So, if you want to become a dental assistant, we at Iqaluit Dental Clinic suggest that you take a course. If you’re unsure, then begin. your journey as a trainee, and gradually take special courses once you’ve developed an interest.