What to Expect to Do as a Dental Assistant

So you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, but you’re not quite sure what tasks you’ll be responsible for on a daily basis. You’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn what you can expect to do in that role.

Generally, the tasks of a dental assistant include the following:

  • Preparing and sterilizing dental instruments
  • Maintaining strict sterilization and infection control procedures
  • Assisting the dentist in treatment procedures
  • Prepping and developing dental x-rays
  • Performing office management tasks

Taking Care of the Patient

More than these tasks, however, arguably the biggest responsibility that a dental assistant has is interacting with patients and representing the dental office. In most cases, the dental assistant is the first person a patient comes into contact with, and so it’s that person’s job to ensure that the patient has the most comfortable experience possible. This may mean calming them down if they are nervous or scared, or even holding their hand to reassure them. Related to interacting with patients, it’s the dental assistant’s job to review medical documents and prep the patient for treatment or to see the dentist.

Dental Assistant Workload

The hours of a dental assistant may be slightly less than those of a dental hygienist or lab technician – 35-40 hours per week as compared to 40+ hours per week. Though the hours may be less, dental assistants have their own unique set of challenges. Depending on the day and the number of appointments, it can be easy for a dental assistant to fall behind in paperwork or feel overwhelmed with all the tasks that need to be completed.

Additionally, dental assistants may suffer from back pain, as they can bend over or bend down for long periods of time. Wrist and carpal tunnel pain can also occur considering the amount of office work they need to complete. However, these obstacles can easily be dealt with by being aware of one’s emotional and physical well-being. Good shoes and good posture are a helpful start to preventing discomfort and pain, and dental assistants should not be afraid of asking for help or taking a break when they feel they need it.


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