Interested in working as a dental assistant? Want to know what skills make a good dental assistant? This article focuses on the 8 skills that make a good dental assistant.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Dental assistant duties may include prepping the patient for a particular operation; this duty would involve knowledge of the teeth and most dental procedures. The dental assistant may assist the dentist in performing the operation, and do such things as handing the dentist the required tools and providing secondary support.
Dental assistants may also be responsible for making appointments, filing paperwork, and handling billing for the company. Additionally, the dental assistant would be responsible for greeting patients when they walk in the door, and providing a warm, professional face for the office. Dental assistants typically do the following:
· Ensure that patients are comfortable in the dental chair
· Prepare patients and the work area for treatments and procedures
· Sterilize dental instruments
· Help dentists by handing them instruments during procedures
· Keep patients’ mouths dry by using suction hoses and other equipment
· Instruct patients in proper oral hygiene
· Process x rays and complete lab tasks, under the direction of a dentist
· Keep records of dental treatments
· Schedule patient appointments
· Work with patients on billing and payment
All dental assistants’ complete certain tasks, such as helping dentists with procedures and keeping patient records. Dental assistants are allowed to perform the following procedures in some states:
· Coronal polishing
· Sealant application
· Fluoride application
· Topical anesthetic application
Coronal polishing, which means removing soft deposits such as plaque, gives teeth a cleaner appearance. In sealant application, a dental assistant paints 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 anticavity measure. Some dental assistants may be qualified to apply topical anesthetic to an area of a patient’s mouth, temporarily numbing the area to help prepare a patient for procedures. The skill that comes in very handy with these tasks is dexterity.
Skill #1: Interpersonal Skills – This skill helps dental assistants properly interact with patients. Dental assistants must work closely with dentists and patients. Sometimes, patients are in extreme pain and/or mental stress, so the dental assistant should be sensitive to their emotions. The dental assistant must have good conflict resolution and mediation skills which comes in handy when patients are in extreme pain or mental stress.
Interpersonal skills start with good communication skills including verbal communication, non-verbal communication and listening skills (Skill #2). A dental assistant with good interpersonal skills is also a team player and works with others well in a group both formally and informally. Lastly, a dental assistant with good interpersonal skills can solve problems and make decisions, while woring with others to identify, define and solve problems.
Skill #2: Listening Skills - Dental assistants should be able to listen to patients and other healthcare workers. They need to follow directions from a dentist or dental hygienist, so they can help treat patients and do tasks, such as taking an x ray. To be an Effective listening the dental assistant must face the patient and maintaining eye contact. An effective listener must keep an open mind without judging the dentist or patient while speaking in a conversation. Lastly, an effective listener gives regular feedback to support and better understand what the dentist or patient is talking about.
Skill #3: Detail Oriented – Dental assistants must follow specific rules and protocols, such as infection control procedures, when helping dentists treat patients. Assistants also must be aware of what tasks they are allowed to complete in the state where they work. A dental assistant that is detail oriented has a keenness to explore the topic discussed and the reasons behind the issue surrounding it. They have a proactive attitude to focus on the correcting of issues and handling daily tasks. Lastly, a detail oriented dental assistant is patient and has determination to explore a problem or issue fully so it is resolved accurately.
Skill #4: Dexterity –Dental assistants must be good at working with their hands. They generally work in tight quarters on a small part of the body, using very precise tools and instruments. A dental assistant with good dexterity has control of their small muscles of the hand and fingers in conjunction with the eyes.
Skill #5: Professional Appearance – The dental assistant may be the first person a patient sees when going to a dentist office. Every dentist office is different however many dental assistants will wear clean scrubs. Good hygiene is important as dental assistants may work in close corroders with dentists and patients. Consider the fact that a patient needs to trust the dental assistant in personal situations, create an appearance you would want your dental assistant to present if you were a patient at the dentist’s office.
Dental assistants wear safety glasses, surgical masks, protective clothing, and gloves to protect themselves and patients from infectious diseases.
Skill #6: Organizational Skills – Dental assistants should have excellent organizational skills. They should have the correct tools in place for a dentist or dental hygienist to use when treating a patient. Organizational skills include physical, mental and time management. Physical organization includes keeping the dental workspace organized and un-cluttered. Mental organization involves keeping the dental assistants mind organized or being a multi-tasker. Time management skills can come in handy throughout the day as patients come in and out of the dental office. Keeping patients and examination stations clean and ready for the next patient will help the dentist move from patient to patient smoothly throughout the day.
Skill #7: Basic Computer Knowledge – Knowledge of computer applications, Microsoft Office suite, average keyboarding speed and ten key are some of the basic computer skills needed to perform successful as a dental assistant. The dental assistant may be in charge of patient files, insurance claims and transcribing notes, basic computer skills are a must to be a successful dental assistant.
Skill #8: Passion – You have a love of assisting and take pride in the knowledge that you are a dentist’s right arm and you make a difference to patients and the dental team. You have a can-do attitude and genuinely care about your patients.
Employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Dentists will continue to hire more dental assistants to complete routine tasks, allowing the dentist to see more patients in their practice and to spend their time on more complex procedures. As dental practices grow, more dental assistants will be needed.
Want to learn more about the Dental Assisting Program at Daymar College? Contact us today to find out how to advance your career as a dental assistant.
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