Chairside Assisting for Dental Assisting Exam Study Guide

Updated on Jun 23, 2011

Practice problems for this study guide can be found at:

Chairside Assisting for Dental Assisting Exam Practice Problems

The dental office has many exciting areas in which to be a team member. Chairside assisting is an example of one such area. Assistants are utilized to their fullest capabilities. They must possess extensive knowledge in order to truly be effective at the chair. Dentists appreciate assistants who can anticipate their needs as operators and help them treat their patients. Efficient chairside assistants will increase the overall production of dental practices by aiding dentists in completing their procedures more quickly and more effectively.

Concepts and Skills

Knowledge of the following concepts and skills are necessary to become a licensed, highly skilled, and efficient chairside dental assistant. Chairside assisting is divided into ten main topics:

  • Layout of a Dental Office
  • Equipment in the Operatory (Treatment Room)
  • Chair Positions
  • Light Positions
  • Clock Concept of Operating Zones
  • Delivery of Dental Care
  • Local Anesthetics and Analgesics
  • Dental Support Aides
  • Other Duties of Dental Assistants
  • Dental Specialties

Layout of a Dental Office

A dental office can be organized in many ways. Some dentists prefer to work out of many operatories, while others will choose to work out of two treatment rooms. All offices will have the areas listed below. An informed assistant should be cross-trained to assist the dentist in the best way possible.

Reception Area

Patients enter this area first when arriving at the dental office. First impressions are important. This area can be decorated in any way the dentist chooses, but it should be welcoming and calming. It is important to straighten up the reception area continually throughout the day.

Front Desk

The front desk handles the business operations of the dental office. The assistant at the front desk is responsible for making appointments, answering the phone, insurance billing, patient invoicing, treatment-plan presentation (in some offices), and handling all financial matters.

Operatory or Treatment Rooms

This is where all dental services are performed. The dentist will typically work out of several rooms, while the hygienist works out of one assigned treatment room.


This area has many uses. Dental appliances can be fabricated here or sent to an outside lab if the dentist chooses. Lab cases can be stored here, and, if needed, this area can serve as overflow storage for back stock. There is specialized equipment found in the lab, such as a dental lathe and model trimmers.

Sterilization Area (Central)

This area is often referred to as “Central” because most dental offices are arranged to situate the sterilization area in the middle of the office, and all operatories feed into this area. Instruments are processed here using an autoclave or a similar type of sterilizer.

Team Lounge

This area serves as a private area for the dental team members. Purses, lunches, and other personal belongings should be stored here during the workday.

Dentist’s Private Office

This area is where the dentist will be able to have privacy while reviewing and signing patient charts and for other private matters.

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