Dental Assistants assist the dental operator (dentist or other treating dental auxiliary) in providing more efficient dental treatment, by preparing the patient for treatment, sterilizing instruments, passing instruments during the procedure, holding suction devices, exposing dental radiographs, taking impressions, and fabricating provisional crowns. Dental operators can focus more time on the procedure; the dental assistant then effectively becomes the operator's extra hands.
In some states, dental assistants can work in the field without a college degree, while in other states, dental assistants must be licensed or registered.
Dental assistants are required to meet the minimum certification to work in the field. There are many things that dental assistants must consider while working in the field and arguably the most important is infection control.
The Commission on Dental Accreditation of the American Dental Association accredits dental assisting school programs, of which there are over 200 in the United States. To become a Certified Dental Assistant, or CDA, dental assistants must take the DANB (Dental Assisting National Board) CDA examination after they have completed an accredited dental assisting program, or have at least two years of on-the-job training as a dental assistant. Some dentists are willing to pay a dental assistant-in-training that has a good attitude and work ethic.
Expanded duties dental assistants or Expanded Functions Dental Assistants, as they are known as in some states, may work one on one with the patient performing restorations after the doctor has removed decay. Ideally a dental assistant should have both administrative and clinical skills although it's still acceptable to have one or the other. Duties may also include seating and preparing the patient, charting, mixing dental materials, providing patient education and post-operative instructions. They also keep track with inventory control and ordering supplies.
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