The dental assistant takes on significant responsibility as a member of the dental health care team. Assistants greatly increase the efficiency of the dentist in the delivery of quality oral health care and are valuable members of the dental team. Dental assistants must possess strong communication skills and enjoy working with their hands.
A career as a dental assistant offers many challenges. In addition to assisting the dentist during a variety of procedures, other specific tasks dental assistants may perform include providing instructions for oral care following treatment, performing office management tasks, exposing and processing dental radiographs (x-rays), sterilizing instruments, decontaminating equipment, and taking impressions of patients’ teeth.
Dental hygienists are oral health clinicians and educators who help the public develop and maintain optimum oral health. As members of the dental health team, dental hygienists perform preventive and therapeutic services under the supervision of the licensed dentist. Specific responsibilities may include removing deposits and stain from the patient’s teeth, providing instructions for patients’ self-care and nutritional counseling, applying topical fluoride to prevent tooth decay, and administering local anesthesia.
Dental hygienists are also responsible for recording medical and dental histories, exposing and processing dental radiographs (x-rays), placing pit and fissure sealants (protective barriers) on posterior teeth, and preparing other diagnostic aids for the dentist’s use.