The Importance of Dental Assistants

Dentists and dental assistants are key contributors to keeping the population healthy. You might have heard from a dentist once or twice that you need to do a better job of brushing or flossing your teeth. You might have disregarded their warnings and carried on with your life as if they had never said anything.

However, oral health is facet of your life that you should take seriously, because you may be prone to infections if your oral hygiene practices are sub par. The bacteria that live in your mouth can cause heart disease and other cardiovascular problems if they are allowed to spread to other parts of your body due to poor dental hygiene.

Oral health can also be an indicator of other health problems in your body. For example, tooth loss from periodontitis might be a symptom of osteoporosis and the drugs used to treat it. Diabetes, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease are among the other health conditions whose symptoms include effects on your oral health, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Given the adverse effects oral hygiene has on your health, it should be no secret how imperative a dental practice’s role is in perpetuating proper cleaning practices for many people and families. Dentists utilize their dental health expertise to help patients learn excellent oral hygiene practices and perform procedures to fix problems in order to keep patients healthy.

However, dentists are not alone in bettering the oral health of the public. Having established the importance of oral health and the doctors who help us as a population maintain it, we will shift focus to the importance of dental assistants, on whom dentists and other oral healthcare doctors rely.

Assisting with Dental Procedures

A significant portion of a dental assistant’s job responsibilities consists of performing and assisting with the execution of dental procedures.

Dental assistants are typically the ones who take X-rays and make sure patients are comfortable in the chairs, in addition to sterilizing equipment prior to surgeries and dental cleanings.

Dental assistants are also a vital part of successfully completing surgeries and other procedures. Prior to and during these procedures, dental assistants are often tasked with responsibilities such as readying the patient and the affected area for surgery, handing the dentist the appropriate tools and using tools like a suction hose to keep the patient’s mouth dry.

Depending on the location and the type of dental practice, dental assistants may also perform tasks, including:

  • Taking dental impressions
  • Applying dental sealant
  • Administering fluoride rinse
  • Cleaning a patient’s teeth

A dental assistant’s permission to do these jobs depends on the state they are employed in and its certification or licensure rules. A comprehensive list of each state’s respective requirements can be found at the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) website.

Dental assistants handle quite a few tasks in the patient care realm of dental offices across the country, but they help out in other areas as well.

Administrative and Clerical Tasks for Dental Assistants

While dental assistants play a vital role in the patient care aspect of a dental office, their services are just as important in the administrative upkeep of the practice. Dental assistants help out in this department in many different ways.

Such tasks include scheduling appointments, maintaining patient dental records and serving as a liaison between the dental office and external parties (i.e., patients, insurance companies, suppliers, etc.).

Dental assistants may also perform other office management responsibilities, like patient billing and payment, depending on the office’s needs. It might be obvious that dental assistants are jacks of many different trades given their office and patient care capabilities, but there is an additional service they offer, completing the triumvirate of their professional skill set.

Educating Patients on Dental Health and Hygiene

Just as the dentists who have worked hard to obtain DDS degrees, dental assistants also educate patients on proper dental hygiene practices and make suggestions for better oral health. Dental assistants, especially those who are certified and eligible to perform patient checkup duties, have extensive knowledge of oral anatomy and use that expertise to help patients.

There is a proverb that states: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. This is a perfect metaphor for the relationship between dentists and dental assistants and the patients whom they serve.

With all of the roles dental assistants play in a variety of professional dental and oral health settings, it is easy to see that they are indispensable assets to the dental practices that employ them. Dentists’, orthodontists’ and other oral health doctors’ practices would not function as they do without the dental assistants who keep the offices running like a well-oiled machine.

Interested in Becoming a Dental Assistant?

Now that you have a firm grasp on just how important dental assistants are to dental health offices and, subsequently, the oral health of the population, perhaps you might be considering the profession as a career path. Regardless, we will now provide some additional information about the occupation.

First off, the job outlook for dental assistants is promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of dental assistant positions is expected to increase by 18 percent until 2024.

The demand for dental assistants is anticipated to remain healthy due to the increasing number of people who have access to health insurance and senior citizens’ desires to keep their natural teeth. Population growth will aid the demand as well, considering the fact that two thirds of Americans age two and older had at least visit to a dentist in 2014, per data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Dental assistants earned a median salary of $36,940 in May of 2016, per BLS data. This median was more than $3,500 greater than the median of other healthcare support workers. Approximately one third of dental assistants work part time, which also has an effect on that number.

Most dental assistants get their start by completing a dental assistant training program at a community college or trade school. Many programs can be completed in less that one year’s time, after which they enter the workforce as dental assistants.

Usually dental assistants begin working under the supervision of a dentist for further training as they complete mandatory certification or licensure requirements. As discussed earlier, licensure and certification requirements vary state by state.

Once they are licensed, dental assistants are qualified to work in a variety of different dental health offices and facilities such as dental schools and public health clinics. Dental assistants may take on increased duties, depending on the practice.

If dental assisting sounds like the career for you, the first step is to find a training program that suits your needs.

Discover a Great Dental Assistant Education at Summit

A quality dental assisting training program can help set you apart from the pack in the eyes of employers. Summit College’s Dental Assistant program arms students with the proper skills and knowledge they need to effectively contribute to dental offices everywhere.

Summit College’s nine-month program is offered days, nights and weekends at the Colton, California, campus. This allows optimal flexibility for students who have other jobs and obligations. An additional benefit is that students are able to enter the workforce sooner than those who chose to attend four-year colleges and universities.

Summit’s instructors in the Dental Assistant program are experienced and knowledgeable professionals who provide students with individual attention to ensure they learn the necessary dental assisting skills. Students learn the ins and outs of the profession in classroom and laboratory settings.

Throughout Summit’s Dental Assistant program, students are adequately prepared to assist dental professionals. Some of the skills they will learn include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Coronal polishing
  • Oral anatomy
  • Office management
  • Patient anxiety and relief

Summit College’s Dental Assisting program curriculum also includes courses in subjects such as dental radiology, chair-side restorative materials and preparation for patient care.

Summit College prides itself on effectively readying students for employment following completion of the program and the pursuit of certification following 12 months of paid experience working under a dentist’s supervision and meeting other certification requirements. The state of California requires dental assistants to be certified.

Once students achieve certification, they are ready to assist dentists and other oral healthcare professionals in a multitude of different dental environments.

Summit College also offers students career assistance in finding employment, including resume help, mock interviews and externships. This wealth of resources can help dental assistant students on their way to making the most of the lucrative openings in their field.

Dental assistants in California earned a median salary of $37,220 in 2015, according to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). On the high end of the spectrum, some California dental assistants came close to making $58,000, per O*NET data.

Dental assistants are an integral part of dental offices running at peak performance. Set yourself apart from the field with a stellar dental assisting education. What are you waiting for? Discover the Summit Difference. Get started today at