assistants work closely with, and under the supervision of,
dentists. Assistants perform a
variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. Dental
assistants should not be confused with
dental hygienists, who
are licensed to perform different clinical tasks. Dental assistants
sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment, prepare and lay out
the instruments and materials required to treat each patient, and obtain
patients' dental records.
Assistants make patients as comfortable as
possible in the dental chair and prepare them for treatment. During
dental procedures, assistants work alongside the dentist to provide
assistance. They hand instruments and materials to dentists and keep
patients' mouths dry and clear by using suction or other devices. They
also instruct patients on postoperative and general oral health care.
Dental assistants may
prepare materials for impressions and restorations, take dental x rays,
and process x-ray film as directed by a dentist. They also may remove
sutures, apply topical anesthetics to gums or cavity-preventive agents
to teeth, remove excess cement used in the filling process, and place
rubber dams on the teeth to isolate them for individual treatment. Some
states are expanding dental assistants' duties to include tasks such as
coronal polishing and restorative dentistry functions for those
assistants that meet specific training and experience requirements.
Dental assistants with
laboratory duties make casts of the teeth and mouth from impressions,
clean and polish removable appliances, and make temporary crowns. Those
with office duties schedule and confirm appointments, receive patients,
keep treatment records, send bills, receive payments, and order dental
supplies and materials.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.