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Expanding Roles of Dental Assistants

Dental Assistant Expanding ROles

Once upon a time dental assistants were only trained to hand instruments, clean equipment and answer a phone. Times are changing and the role of a dental assistant is expanding. Nowadays, dental assistants are trained to take x-rays and impressions and even assist with cleaning of teeth. The duties of a dental assistant may legally perform vary by state, and some states allow expanded functions with additional training and certifications. 

Dental assistants can prep themselves for taking on more roles in the office and perhaps land a promotion by obtaining an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA) license. As the rules vary state to state, typically an EFDA allows dental assistants to place composite and amalgam restorations, place sealants, complete coronal polishing and apply fluoride. Some states are looking to expand the role of dental assistants even more so by having assistants take on more responsibility under less supervision.

In the state of Wisconsin, all dental assistants may:

  1. Expose, process and evaluate dental radiographs
  2. Perform infection control and occupational safety procedures
  3. Perform other duties not specified by this state’s dental practice act

Below is an extensive list of comprehensive dental assistant duties. According to the DANB these selected tasks were determined to be representative of a broad range of a dental assistant's responsibilities. 

  • Perform mouth mirror inspection of the oral cavity 
  • Chart existing restorations or conditions 
  • Phone in prescriptions at the direction of the dentist 
  • Receive and prepare patients for treatment, including seating, positioning chair, and placing napkin 
  • Complete laboratory authorization forms 
  • Place and remove retraction cord 
  • Perform routine maintenance of dental equipment 
  • Monitor and respond to post-surgical bleeding 
  • Perform coronal polishing procedures 
  • Apply effective communication techniques with a variety of patients
  • Transfer dental instruments 
  • Place amalgam for condensation by the dentist 
  • Remove sutures 
  • Dry canals 
  • Tie in archwires 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of ethics/jurisprudence/patient confidentiality 
  • Identify features of rotary instruments
  • Apply topical fluoride
  • Select and manipulate gypsums and waxes 
  • Perform supragingival scaling 
  • Mix dental materials 
  • Expose radiographs 
  • Evaluate radiographs for diagnostic quality 
  • Provide patient preventive education and oral hygiene instruction
  • Perform sterilization and disinfection procedures 
  • Provide pre- and post-operative instructions 
  • Place and remove dental dam 28. Pour, trim, and evaluate the quality of diagnostic casts
  • Size and place orthodontic bands and brackets
  • Using the concepts of four- handed dentistry, assist with basic restorative procedures, including prosthodontics and restorative dentistry 
  • Identify intraoral anatomy
  • Demonstrate understanding of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard
  • Place, cure and finish composite resin restorations
  • Place liners and bases
  • Place periodontal dressings 
  • Demonstrate understanding of the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard
  • Take and record vital signs 
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Clean and polish removable appliances and prostheses 
  • Apply pit and fissure sealants 
  • Prepare procedural trays/armamentaria set-ups
  • Place orthodontic separators
  • Size and fit stainless steel crowns 
  • Take preliminary impressions
  • Place and remove matrix bands 
  • Take final impressions
  • Fabricate and place temporary crowns
  • Maintain field of operation during dental procedures through the use of retraction, suction, irrigation, drying, placing and removing cotton rolls, etc. 
  • Perform vitality tests 
  • Place temporary fillings
  • Carve amalgams 
  • Process dental radiographs 
  • Mount and label dental radiographs
  • Remove temporary crowns and cements
  • Remove temporary fillings
  • Apply topical anesthetic to the injection site
  • Demonstrate understanding of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines 
  • Using the concepts of four- handed dentistry, assist with basic intraoral surgical procedures, including extractions, periodontics, endodontics, and implants 
  • Monitor nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia 
  • Maintain emergency kit
  • Remove permanent cement from supragingival surfaces 
  • Remove periodontal dressings 
  • Place post-extraction dressings
  • Fabricate custom trays, to include impression and bleaching trays, and athletic mouthguards 
  • Recognize basic medical emergencies 
  • Recognize basic dental emergencies 
  • Respond to basic medical emergencies 
  • Respond to basic dental emergencies 
  • Remove post-extraction dressings 
  • Place stainless steel crown 

Dental Assistants Are Becoming More Involved In The Treatment Process

As we know, the dental workplace continues to evolve along with the overall healthcare environment. Dental assistants will be expected to take on a greater role in the treatment process as larger clinics with multiple specialties start to grow. A dental assistant may be required to prepare treatment rooms for each type of specialist along with understanding the different procedures and which instruments are needed.

Some of the role expansion for dental assistants may also take place on the business side of the office. These roles range from estimating insurance co-pays and managaing bills to reviewing treatment plans with patients.

Keeping Up With Technology 

It’s crucial for dental assistants to keep up with the latest technology. As an important skillset of dental assistants, it's increasingly important dental assistants are computer literate, and know how to operate current dental software. It is also recommended for dental assistants to learn as much about dental insurance as possible so they can manage bills and inquires from patients. 

Becoming Dental Hygienists

Another avenue dental assistants often take is to continue their education and become dental hygienists. The experience and schooling of a dental assistant provides great leverage when applying for jobs. Already knowing and understanding the dental industry provides a great advantage for dental assistants. Working as a dental assistant helps to ensure your interest within the field. Learn the difference between a dental assistant and hygienist now to become more knowledgeable, giving you the confidence you need to choose the right career path.

If you are ready to start a bright, new future contact Weekend Dental Assistant today to learn about our 10-week program and apply online now. Our no-fee, application form is quick and simple to complete! 

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