When you’re a dental assistant, no two days are ever the same. Dental assisting is an ever-evolving profession, one that offers continual opportunities to take on new challenges and learn new things. Chances are, even if you started in the field just a few years ago, you’ve seen plenty of changes in your daily work.
Naturally, dental assisting will continue to change and progress in 2022. Here are some of the dental assisting trends to keep an eye on as the year unfolds.
Ongoing developments in technology
Perhaps the biggest change for dental assistants over the years is increased use of technology. From improved tools and instruments to innovative computer software, technological advancements have created a better experience for patients and made life easier for dental assistants.
“The technology has gotten so advanced and makes our jobs easier,” says Danielle Neeb, CDA, RDA.
There’s no sign of that slowing down in 2022.
Dental offices continue to implement technology that improves efficiency and produces better results for patients. Increasingly, practices are taking digital dental impressions and using 3D printing to create mouthguards, retainers, implants, and more. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“Computers, microscopes, intraoral cameras, digital radiographs, cone-beam CT and digital 3D intraoral scanners are amazing pieces of technology, aren’t they?” says Laura Ruscio, CDA, CPFDA, CRFDA, EMT-B. “Their introduction into dentistry has exponentially enhanced our scope of practice as assistants, expanded our dentist’s diagnostic capabilities, and made for efficient collaboration of care.”
Practices are also using software to automate administration tasks, such as collecting patient information and confirming appointments. This allows dental assistants to focus on other responsibilities around the office.
“I hope that technology, equipment and materials keep advancing, which makes for more efficiency and less chair time for patients,” says Michele Gambardella, CDA.
Jennifer Nicholas, CDA, agrees: “I cannot wait to see where our future is headed. So many cool toys and technology for us — digital photography, 3D printing dentures, CAD/CAM, and so much more!”
Continued emphasis on infection control
Infection control has always been critical for maintaining a clean, safe environment for patients and staff. But it has taken on a larger emphasis during the pandemic — one that should continue moving forward.
More and more dental offices are doubling down on infection control efforts, not only to slow the spread of COVID-19 but also to prevent transmission of other contagions and diseases. Dental assistants are central to these efforts.
“In our office, dental assistants are in charge of infection control, making sure we’re up to date on our OSHA training and ordering supplies,” says Jody Mathes, CDA, RDA, EFDA. “We help to keep our doctor on track and work as a team.”
To create more consistent infection control knowledge and protocols nationwide, the DALE Foundation and the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) created the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program. Additionally, DANB and OSAP have developed the Certified in Dental Infection Prevention and Control certification (CDIPC), the first clinically focused dental infection control certification in the United States. The new certification will be available in spring 2022.
“In my eyes, there’s no gray area in infection control. It’s black and white,” says Ashley Johnson, CDA. “It’s something every dental assistant should hold to the highest standard, in my opinion.”
Opportunity for additional responsibility
Many dental offices continue to face staffing shortages, including dental assistants. While this has understandably led to added stress for some in the profession, it’s also a golden opportunity to take on a larger role at work and advance your career.
For example, some dental assistants have decided to meet requirements for expanded functions. An Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) can perform advanced duties in the office. Others have taken continuing education courses through the DALE Foundation to become dental office managers or gain more knowledge in a specific area of dentistry.
Taking on more responsibility — especially if it comes with DANB certification — has led many dental assistants to earn more pay, as well.
“Thank goodness the pay has gone up! We are given so many more responsibilities,” says Heather Spangler, CDA, EFDA.
Nancy Lawrence, CDA, EFDA, sees dental assistants continuing to take on additional functions in the office. But she hopes one aspect of the job doesn’t change: “My hope is that, as a profession, we will continue to be kind, caring, cheerful, thoughtful team players, and a bright spot in everyone’s day."