5 important things dental assistants do

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Dental assistants make significant contributions to their offices. And there is a lot to highlight! Some might even say there are too many items to list.

“We have so many important roles in the dental office,” agrees Jessica M., CDA.

Here, we’ve compiled five of the most important things a dental assistant does.

1. Comfort and listen to patients

One of a dental assistant's most important priorities is providing patient care.

Often, patients may feel nervous or uncomfortable about visiting the dental office. Dental assistants play an important role in helping to alleviate any anxiety patients may have. You make them feel welcome in the practice — so that they feel positive and comfortable about accessing needed, dentist-recommended treatment.

Dental assistants will regularly talk with patients, answer their questions and educate them about treatment options, and reassure them regarding upcoming procedures. Whether it’s before, during or after the appointment, you’re with patients every step of the way!

“The most important thing a dental assistant does it listen to patients,” agrees Brenda J., CDA. “Sometimes, all they want is someone to hear them. Fears are real, and having someone to talk with and feeling heard can be the biggest things patients need to get treatment completed.”

2. Serve as an extra set of eyes, ears, and hands

Dental assistants are frequently called “mind readers” because they are extremely helpful and observant of both the dentist’s and patient’s needs. Dental assistants can anticipate what’s next in the procedure and what the dentist will need so that the entire appointment goes quickly and smoothly. They can also pick up on what the patient might be feeling and provide that extra bit of comfort when needed.

“Dental assistants are the right hand of the dentist,” says Aslin G. “We are the key people for ensuring an efficient functioning of the dental office to provide quality services to patients.”

“The most important thing a dental assistant does is make the dentist’s job easier,” agrees Janneth G., CDA.

3. Keep things running smoothly

We’ve heard dental assistants say they are the air-traffic controllers of the dental office. And it’s no wonder — dental assistants are tasked with the important job of maintaining the practice’s schedule and keeping everything on track. You ensure that the patients are seated on time or rescheduled when needed. You also support dentists to keep them working through scheduled appointments in a timely manner so they can be ready for the next patient. In fact, 97% of dentists and dental office managers agreed dental assistants allow the dentist to move to the next patient more quickly, according to the DALE Foundation’s research study on the Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice.

Dental assistants are expert multitaskers and organized professionals. You can manage and juggle every last schedule detail.

“It’s important that the dental assistant stays two steps ahead of the doctor and five steps ahead of the schedule and day-to-day duties,” says Eryn E., CDA.

“Keeping the doctor on schedule is probably one of the most important things a dental assistant can do,” echoes Holly S.

4. Support the team

To ensure ultimate practice efficiency, the entire dental team must work together. According to the DALE Foundation’s research on the Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice, 98% of dentists and dental office managers responding agree that effective dental assistants contribute to team synergy and make all team members more effective. Additionally, dentists and dental office managers agree that being a team player is one of the top 10 qualities a dental assistant can have.

When there’s a strong bond among dental teammates, the entire team shines. You operate seamlessly, and put forth a positive, professional image on behalf of the practice. The most successful teammates pitch in to help one another, and strive to uplift each other when the workday becomes stressful. Because you support your teammates, everyone finds success in the dentist’s office. This includes the dentist, the dental team, and — most importantly — the patients.

“The best part of dental assisting is being part of a team,” shares Karen E., CDA.

Similarly, Josee says she enjoys “being a part of a large family that helps people feel better about their oral health.”

5. Perform infection control duties

Another extremely vital task a dental assistant does is performing infection control duties — that is, implementing federal infection prevention and control standards and related state regulations. Busy dental offices see thousands of patients each year, and proper infection prevention and control is critical. In many dental practices, sterilization and disinfection duties are delegated to dental assistants in the practice.  Dental assistants are on the front lines of keeping patients and providers safe.

“Sterilization is the most important thing we do, in my opinion,” says Stela C., CDA.

Ultimately, the most important thing a dental assistant does is “ensure that patients receive the best care in a safe and welcoming environment,” concludes Latoya N., CDA.