Dental Assistants play a pivotal role in helping dental offices run efficiently and ensuring that patients are comfortable during their visit. They work alongside dentists and hygienists, providing vital assistance during exams as well as procedures. Though a career as a Dental Assistant requires a variety of skills, it is a unique opportunity to gain experience in both administrative work and direct patient care.
The Daily Duties of a Dental Assistant
Kathleen Kinsey, Arizona College Dental Assisting Graduate
“Each morning, I arrive early at the dental office where I work. I need to make sure the office is set up and ready to go before the day’s first appointments. At least half an hour before any patients arrive, the other Dental Assistants and I move through the office helping to set up by stocking and preparing each area for the day. Materials and clean tools needed for procedures have to be stocked at each chair, and X-rays and charts need to be ready to go when the dentist or hygienist needs them.
When the first patient arrives, I greet him in the lobby and have him follow me back to one of our stations. I seat him in the dentist’s chair, make sure he’s comfortable, arrange his bib, and let the dentist know that the patient is ready. Sometimes multiple patients will arrive around the same time, and I go from chair to chair preparing, arranging, and helping patients get settled while they wait for their exams. It’s not unusual for me to seat one patient, move to assist the dentist with another patient, and take X-rays for yet another patient all in a row — but I love having a job that keeps me on my toes!
Throughout the day, I see many patients — sometimes dozens. My favorite part of each day is assisting the dentist with exam and treatment procedures. Dental Assistants get to stand close by and assist with these interesting procedures while passing the right tools and instruments to the dentist. I also help keep patients comfortable during their procedures, doing things like holding back patients’ tongues and cheeks while the dentist works, and rinsing and suctioning patients’ mouths. After procedures are done, I get right to work readying the room for the next patient.
At the end of the day, I help with sterilizing, organizing, and preparing dental instruments for the next day’s exams and procedures. I also help with everything else that needs to be done around the office, from making appointment-reminder calls to developing X-rays to ordering supplies that have run out.”
The First Step to Becoming a Dental Assistant
“When I decided that I wanted to become a Dental Assistant, I looked into several training programs. I decided on Arizona College because it was really important to me to learn in a hands-on environment. The Dental Lab provided an awesome place for me to start practicing the skills I learned in my lecture-based classes, and my eight-week externship really solidified my learning. I felt the Dental Assistant program completely prepared me to start my job. My instructors at Arizona College helped guide me in a personal way, and even encouraged me and my fellow aspiring Dental Assistants in the program to get the certification we needed to work with radiology equipment. That certification gave me more on-the-job skills and helped me get the position I have now.
I loved my time at Arizona College and I love my new career even more.