A dental assistant is basically an extra set of hands for the dentist or dental surgeon. Should you happen to serve as a dental assistant in a dental clinic you will find that the role will offer you a wide variety of duties that are challenging and provide you with dynamic and invigorating work. This article will discuss the requirements of a dental assistant and what duties you may be expected to perform.
It is a requirement of a dental assistant that they possess excellent “chair assisting skills”. This means that they must be able to: prepare and maintain dental instruments, equipment and supplies; collect and record a patient’s health history; manage a patient during a dental procedure; swiftly transfer required instruments from the tray to the dentist; prepare dental materials such as composites, amalgams and cements; know and use dental procedure isolation techniques; handle dental charts; prevent and manage dental emergencies; manage and control dental inventory.
A dental assistant may also be called upon to perform “expanded functions” which may involve duties such as: placing and removing rubber dams, matrices and wedges; applying cavity liners and bases; placing, condensing, carving and contouring amalgam restorations; and placing and finishing composite resin restorations, including sealant material.
However, the term “expanded functions” also means that under the law a dental assistant is forbidden from doing certain things such as: examining, diagnosing or planning dental treatment; cutting any hard or soft tissue; prescribing medicines, drugs or lab authorizations; performing pulpotomy, pulp capping or any other endodontic procedure; performing final placement of fixed or removable dental prosthetic appliances; administering anesthesia; and taking impressions other than those intended for diagnostic casts and study models.
Whatever a dental assistant is authorized to do under the banner of expanded functions has to be done under the direct supervision of a dentist or in a dental facility; meaning that the dentist himself has to diagnose the patient’s condition, prescribe treatment and authorize the procedure, and remain in the dental office as the expanded function dental assistant directs the procedure. The dentist is required to evaluate the work performed by the dental assistant before the patient is dismissed.
Additionally, a dental assistant should know and be able to carry out dental infection control procedures. These procedures include dental office infection control plan management to conform to CDC, OSHA and ADA standards. Other parameters requiring expertise include sterilization, disinfection, instrument cleaning and dental treatment room disinfection.
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