Dental Assisting Profession for Dental Assisting Exam Study Guide
The dental assistant works closely with a supervising dentist. Dentists depend on dental assistants for a great many things. Assistants are responsible for sterilizing and preparing instruments and equipment, keeping patient records, and preparing materials and instruments in the treatment rooms. Many dentists would not know where to locate their instruments and supplies, how to sterilize them, and how to set up and break down the treatment room without the dental assistant present in the office.
The Dental Healthcare Team
The dental healthcare team consists of the following:
- Dental Assistant (in various roles throughout the office)
- Dental Hygienist
- Dental Laboratory Technician
One of the most important roles dental assistants play is to reassure patients and make them comfortable while they are prepared for treatment. Compassion is an essential quality in dental assistants. When a professional dental assistant treats a patient with compassion and concern, along with respect, the dental assistant is respected in return. A chairside dental assistant will escort the dentist throughout the entire day, moving from one treatment room to the next. The assistant will pass instruments and materials to the dentist as needed, often anticipating the dentist’s needs. The dental assistant also ensures that patient records are accurate and educates patients about oral healthcare.
A professional dental assistant adds to the overall efficiency of the dental practice. Treatment procedures run more smoothly and effectively with a professional dental assistant in place. The members of the dental healthcare team and their roles are discussed below.
The dentist is often the owner/operator of the dental practice. Although dentists treat patients and are healthcare providers, they are also running a business. A dentist can be either a generalist or a specialist. A general dentist treats patients of all ages and can perform a wide variety of dental procedures. The general dentist must take approximately seven to eight years of post-secondary schooling (four years of undergraduate work to obtain a bachelor degree, and then another three to four years of dental school) to become eligible to take his or her national and state board examinations. The national exams are written, whereas individual states give clinical board examinations.
One may notice that dentists have initials after their names: DDS or DMD. These letters represent the degree they earned from their dental school. Dental schools on the east coast of the United States generally offer Doctor of Medical Dentistry degrees, or DMD. Dental schools on the west coast of the United States generally offer Doctor of Dental Surgery degrees, or DDS. There is no difference between the two degrees. A specialty dentist must complete the same education as the general dentist and receives a DDS or DMD. After that, the individual applies to be admitted to a specialized area of dentistry that is of interest to her or him. Depending upon the specialty chosen, the dentist may attend school for another three to six years.
A specialty dentist treats patients depending on their needs. For example, an endodontist will treat patients who need a root canal performed, a pediatric dentist treats children, and so on. These are two of the nine specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.
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