It’s undeniable that dental assistants are important. We often hear from your colleagues and patients who express their gratitude for all your contributions to the dental office and beyond.
But unless a person is immersed in the ins and outs of an assistant’s specific workday, they may not fully grasp everything dental assistants know and do. It’s a pretty extensive list. Below, we provide a closer look.
1. Dental assistants help keep patients safe.
Infection prevention and control duties are often delegated to dental assistants in the practice. Most dental assistants play an instrumental role in ensuring dental patients’ safety, as well as dental office staff safety, by helping to implement and follow the appropriate infection control guidelines and protocols. Plus, those who have honed their infection control knowledge often are seen as leaders in the practice, well equipped to share their knowledge with their peers and patients.
Successfully completing the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program is one key way that dedicated dental professionals can demonstrate their commitment to patient safety.
Sarah S., CDA, a dental team infection preventionist, is working toward completing this rigorous infection control program. She also plans to attend the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) Dental Infection Control Boot Camp, and to pursue Certified in Dental Infection Prevention and Control (CDIPC) certification.
“I will be using the knowledge I gain to help support dental facilities with their general infection control and COVID-19-based response needs,” Sarah says.
2. Dental assistants have a lot of responsibilities.
It goes without saying that dental assistants do much to assist the dentist. But there are many duties done behind the scenes that not everyone may be aware of.
Many dental assistants work in the clinical setting, in a dental office or hospital, for example. There, in addition to setting up and breaking down treatment areas; preparing instruments; seating, educating and comforting patients; and anticipating the dentist’s needs, most dental assistants also perform infection control duties and may do some front desk and office management work. And some dental assistants might perform expanded functions as their states allow.
As you can see, this is no small list.
“Dental assistants are responsible for so much in the office,” agrees Alyse M., CDA, who has worked as a dental assistant in a dental office and currently is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health policy and administration.
Alyse continues: “Assistants are responsible for keeping patients at ease in the dental environment, making sure things are sterilized and disinfected, making sure the doctor has all the instruments for the procedure, keeping everybody safe, and more.”
3. Dental assistants are educated professionals.
To perform at their highest level, successful dental assistants recognize the importance of education to grow their knowledge base and skill sets. Completing a dental assisting program is not necessarily a requirement for entering the dental assisting profession, although many dental assistants do. Whatever path they take, dedicated dental assistants are constantly brushing up on the latest dental healthcare news and information — there’s always more to know about dental terminology, protocols and procedures when you work in dentistry.
To this end, many dental assistants — 36,000 and counting — commit to earning and maintaining DANB certification because they know the benefits it can bring to their careers and practices. One requirement for maintaining DANB certification is to complete continuing dental education — such as the online CE options available through the DALE Foundation, DANB’s affiliate — so DANB certificants especially prioritize maintaining their education.
What’s more, dental assistants must stay up to date on their state’s requirements for dental assistants, since these — as well as job titles and allowable functions — can vary depending on location. To help keep assistants in the know, DANB maintains a search-by-state map on its website.
Karen W., CDA , understands the importance of completing education and otherwise staying aware of dental news and trends. “I love to grow and learn,” she says. “I’m never stagnant. I’m always thinking, ‘What’s the next thing I can learn to benefit myself and the practice where I work?’ Self-growth and self-value are so important. If you don’t grow, you’re holding yourself back, ultimately.”