A great dental team has a skilled and knowledgeable dentist and reliable and wise dental assistants. Dental assistants not only help around the office, clean teeth, take radiographs, but they also directly help in dental operations such as filling cavities, placing crowns, and more. This post will go more in-depth to dental assisting duties. Keep in mind, duties for dental assistants do vary from office to office in Washington.
CLEANING AND STERILIZATION
After a patient leaves, it is the dental assistant’s job to clean the room and prepare for the next patient. First, you’ll remove all of the used hand pieces and instruments. Typically, you will take these to the sterilization room in the office to be sterilized for future use. Then you’ll return to the room to wipe down the dental chair, light, counter, and anywhere else that has been exposed to the previous patient. After the room is clean, you’ll set up the next room for the next patient. What instruments and materials you set out will depend on what procedure is planned for the next patient. You’ll learn how to set up rooms to your dentist’s specifications and for each procedure through your education and in-office training.
To complete radiographic procedures as a dental assistant in Washington, you must be able to demonstrate their competency upon request to the Washington State Dental Quality Assurance Commission. Dental assistants are still trained in-office to take radiographs because it does take some skill and safety precautions to take them correctly.
Since Radiographs do expose the human body to slight amounts of radiation, typically dental assistants will limit their exposure by setting up the radiograph and activating the sensor a few feet away from the patient. In some dental offices, pregnant dental assistants are not to take radiographs. If you do have concerns about taking radiographs regularly, most dental offices will accommodate you, but there really is not much to worry about with the limited exposure.
CLEANING TEETH AND ASSISTING THROUGH EXAMS
Dental assistants will bring the patient back and prepare them for the dentist’s exam. Dental assistants prepare the patient’s teeth by cleaning them through a special procedure called a “Prophylaxis,” or “Prophy” for short. They’ll use a special type of toothpaste and a spinning handpiece that resembles a toothbrush, but it’s topped with a “prophy cup.” After cleaning their teeth, dental assistants will then floss the patient’s teeth. The dentist then arrives to examine the teeth for cavities, abnormalities, and more. Dental assistants often notate the condition of the patient’s teeth, jaw, and gums in the patient’s chart.
ASSISTING DENTISTS THROUGH RESTORATIVE PROCEDURES
The best dental assistants can predict the dentist’s next move. If the dental assistant knows the procedure well, they’ll be ready to hand off the next instrument or material used quickly. Memorizing new procedures takes time, but after learning what materials will prep teeth and what instruments are used for what, dental assistants instinctively will know what to hand the dentist next.
READY TO BECOME A DENTAL ASSISTANT IN WASHINGTON?
Through our 90 Day Dental Assisting program you can become a dental assistant in Washington while still living in Washington. This online program will not only educate you with the skills needed around a dental clinic, but will also help you find a future job. To learn more, check out our curriculum overview.