10 Dental Assisting Facts

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The Role of Dental Assistant: 10 Key Facts

A dental assistant plays an important role as a member of the dental healthcare team.(1) Dental assistants provide different types of patient care in addition to performing office and laboratory duties. They must be reliable, work well with others, and have good manual dexterity. And whether they work chairside or in the business office of a dental practice, their work is varied and may include several duties or assignments. Here are 10 key facts about the role of dental assistant:

  1. Procedures that a dental assistant may perform are regulated on a state-by-state.(1) Each state has a Dental Practice Act governing the duties that dental assistants can perform in that state. Several states require dental assistants to take and pass the certification exam sponsored by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and/or a state-specific exam.
  2. Dental assistants do not perform the same tasks that dental hygienists are licensed to perform.(2)
  3. In smaller practices, a dental assistant might work with the dentist as well as manage the business aspects of the practice, such as scheduling, billing, and purchasing.(1)
  4. In larger practices, a dental assistant’s duties may be more specialized. Many dental assistants are also qualified to take X-rays, although additional certification is required to do so.(1)
  5. In most dental offices, the dental assistant is in charge of infection control procedures, which are closely regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The complexity and importance of this task is a challenge for any professional, requiring constant updates to remain current with registrations.(1)
  6. CareerBuilder.com reports that the job of Dental Assistant ranked at 22 in the list of top 30 fastest-growing occupations for 2008. The website also states that the number of available jobs for Dental Assistants will grow by 29 percent from 2006 to 2016. In 2006, Dental Assistants held about 280,000 jobs across the U.S.(3)
  7. About one-third of all dental assistants work part-time, sometimes working for more than one dental practice.(2)
  8. A degree is not a dental assisting career requirement; most dental assistants usually learn their skills on the job or through externships offered as part of technical training programs in dental assisting.(2) Programs typically take 1 year or less to complete.
  9. At the national level, the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), based in Chicago, is the oldest and largest group representing professional dental assistants.
  10. At the state or regional level, many dental associations or societies also offer news and updates on employment, continuing education and training, and local issues affecting that area’s community of dental professionals.(1)




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