Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from patient care to record keeping, in a dental office. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.
Dental assistants typically do the following:
Assistants who do lab tasks, such as making casts of a patient’s teeth, work under the direction of a dentist. They might prepare materials for a cast of teeth or create temporary crowns.
All dental assistants do tasks such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records, but there are four regulated tasks that assistants may also be able to do, depending on the state where they work.
Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, dental assistants paint a thin, plastic substance over teeth that seals out food particles and acid-producing bacteria to keep teeth from developing cavities. Fluoride application, in which fluoride is put directly on the teeth, is another anti-cavity measure. For topical anesthetics application, some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of the patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area.
Not all states allow dental assistants to do these tasks. Each state regulates the scope of practice for dental assistants and may require them to take specific exams or meet other requirements before allowing them to do these procedures.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition