What Dental Assistants Do*
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:
- Work with patients to make them comfortable in the dental chair and to prepare them for treatments and procedures
- Sterilize dental instruments
- Prepare the work area for patient treatment by setting out instruments and materials
- Help dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
- Keep patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses or other equipment
- Instruct patients in proper dental hygiene
- Process x rays and do lab tasks under the direction of a dentist
- Keep records of dental treatments
- Schedule patient appointments
- Work with patients on billing and payment
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
- Sealant application
- Fluoride application
- Topical anesthetics application
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.
The median annual wage of dental assistants was $33,470 in May 2010. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,680, and the top 10 percent earned more than $47,090.
Most dental assistants work full time. However, almost 2 in 5 assistants worked part time in 2010. Some work evenings or weekends, depending on the hours of operation at the office where they work.
*According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Dental Assisting is a career for individuals who enjoy patient contact, set or fl exible hours and the security of marketable job skills. It is ideal for the young high school student searching for a stable career, the mom who is looking for part-time work or the adult seeking a second career.
The Dental Assistant Program is a 12-month course of study designed to provide students with learning opportunities to enable them to assist the dentist in any routine operative or office procedure.
The teacher-to-student ratio in the Dental Assisting Program is 1 to 10, insuring individualized attention. Being a graduate of one of only three accredited programs in the state of Mississippi makes the opportunity for employment very favorable.
Students who satisfactorily complete all course requirements for Dental Assisting Technology will receive a technical certifi cate and will be eligible to sit for the Dental Assisting National Board certifi cation examination.
- Be 18 years old by date of program completion
- Compete a Pearl River Community College admissions application
- Submit accredited high school transcript* or pass GED test
- Submit ACT score of 16 or higher (if taken after October 1989)**
- Submit any college transcripts.
Selected applicants will be invited for personal interviews.
Applicants will be selected based on the following:
- Admission requirement ranking
- High school transcript or GED rank
- Personal interview
Priority will be given to in-district applicants, out-of-district applicants, out-of-state applicants.
Alternates on a waiting list may be selected to fi ll vacancies before the end of late registration.
A physical, including drug screening, is required for applicants accepted for admission.
* Graduates of non-accredited high schools must have 16 acceptable Carnegie units and a minimum ACT composite of 16.
**Or complete with a “C” Human Growth and Development, Anatomy and Physiology I and II and Nutrition within last fi ve years.
Dental Assistant Certificate of Proficiency
DAT 1111 Orientation
DAT 1214 Dental Assisting Materials
DAT 1313 Dental Science I
DAT 1415 Chairside Assisting I
DAT 1513 Dental Radiology I
DAT 1323 Dental Science II
DAT 1423 Chairside Assisting II
DAT 1522 Dental Radiology II
DAT 1612 Dental Health Education
DAT 1714 Practice Management
DAT 1815 Clinical Experience I
Written communication elective
DAT 1822 Clinical Experience II
DAT 1433 Chairside Assisting III
Public Speaking I