A dental assistant has so many duties and responsibilities to take on throughout the day. These duties go beyond simply being a dentist’s chair-side accompaniment. Even when there aren’t patients around, a dental assistant is still expected to be overseeing various aspects of their roles. For those new to dental assistance, there are several dental assistant duties you will be expected to uphold in this position.
Duty #1: Prioritize the dentist
If a dentist calls you, stop what you’re doing and get to where he is. Unless you’re seated with a patient or trying in a crown, there’s no excuse for not being readily available when a dentist calls. Sometimes, they made need assistance urgently. It’s up to a dental assistant to be there, ready and prepared. Assisting the dentist is one of the most important dental assistant duties in this list.
Duty #2: Monitor the schedule
Time tracking is one of the key dental assistant duties. Check the schedule regularly and be there when patients arrive to seat them. Being on time with patients is important to getting them comfortable with a dentist procedure or appointment. If a patient’s not at the office five minutes prior to their appointment, call them to clarify they’re on their way and verify they haven’t run into any trouble.
Duty #3: Anticipating the needs of the dentist
As you come to work with a dentist over and over again, ideally, you’ll reach a point where you anticipate what they need to perform a task. For example, a dentist asking you for instruments repeatedly in the same order is an unstated suggestion you’re not anticipating what’s coming around the corner.
When a dentist is instructing the patient to open their mouths, it is customary for you to repeat the instruction to the patient and anticipate the next steps of care required.
Duty #4: Confirm with the patient
Throughout a procedure, check in with the patient and ensure they’re doing ok. Always speak warmly and in a personal tone. Try to build a trusting connection with them. If something hurts or, for example, if something’s been said that has hurt their feelings, you want to know about it as a dental assistant and do what you can to ensure they’re kept satisfied and happy.
Duty #5: Accompany patients
As patients are dismissed, you should accompany them to the front of the office and ensure they know where to go to complete payment. Usually, this is a front desk or account management. Information, such as route slips or services rendered forms, should also be taken by you and provided to the relevant office coordinator. Ensure the front desk staff are prepared to handle said patient with all the paperwork they need.
Duty #6: Educate
As a formally trained dental assistant, you’re also there to educate the patient on any abnormalities they might have, such as if there’s noticeable decay, fractures, or gum disease. Use your best judgment with the language you use. You don’t want to cross a line or make the patient feel as if you’re shaming them for the quality of their teeth. Kindly reinforce the need for cleanings but be aware that it’s easy for feelings to get hurt.
Duty #7: Keep things neat
The bracket tray should be neat, the countertops should be wiped and free from hazards, and irrelevant debris should be handled in a timely, appropriate fashion. As a dental assistant, you’re expected to complete these things without sacrificing attention you’d normally provide to the doctor. If you can successfully stay ahead of the game while also ensuring patients are comfortable, you’re doing an amazing job at this position.
Duty #8: Prepare the room
As a dental assistant, you’re also expected to prepare the room and any accompanying documentation as needed. Ensure materials and equipment are where they need to be. Review health history with the patient, take blood pressure, check on pre-medication, place the dental napkin on them, and prepare things for the dentist to take over.
If required, use a checklist of processes you’re expected to complete prior to the dentist getting started. This is not a checklist you want to miss something on.
Duty #9: Reassure the patient
It is one of the dental assistant duties to give reassurance to the patient if they feel anxious or apprehensive about the procedure. A patient may have general questions you can answer. Always be polite.
Let them know the dental lab contains high quality equipment, advise them on the years of experience the dentist carries, and don’t hesitate to talk up the office both as a strategy to have the patient relax in addition to encourage referrals.
Duty #10: Ensure a comfortable patient
This is no responsibility a dental assistant should take lightly or settle for being average. If you suspect there’s something more you can do to make a patient feel comfortable or if they’re telling you what they need, follow through. Do what you can to spend time with the patient, ensure they’re well aware of everything that’s about to happen and go over any relevant instruction with them.
If there’s a question you cannot answer right then and there, advise them you’re going to wait until the dentist comes in as you don’t want to give them false information.
Duty #11: Complete all post-procedure duties
When a patient is done, before they walk out the door, ensure their face has been wiped, debris has been removed, and as a kindness to them, you may want to advise them where the washroom is to ensure they have the chance to look at themselves and give everything a double-check.