work closely with, and under the supervision of, dentists. Assistants perform a variety
of patient care, office, and laboratory duties. Dental assistants should
not be confused with dental
hygienists, who are licensed to perform different clinical tasks.
Dental assistants sterilize and disinfect instruments and equipment,
prepare and lay out the instruments and materials required to treat each
patient, and obtain patients' dental records.
Assistants make patients as comfortable as possible in the
dental chair and prepare them for treatment. During dental procedures,
assistants work alongside the dentist to provide assistance. They hand
instruments and materials to dentists and keep patients' mouths dry and
clear by using suction or other devices. They also instruct patients on
postoperative and general oral health care.
Dental assistants may prepare materials for impressions and
restorations, take dental x rays, and process x-ray film as directed by a
dentist. They also may remove sutures, apply topical anesthetics to gums or
cavity-preventive agents to teeth, remove excess cement used in the filling
process, and place rubber dams on the teeth to isolate them for individual
treatment. Some states are expanding dental assistants' duties to include
tasks such as coronal polishing and restorative dentistry functions for
those assistants that meet specific training and experience requirements.
Dental assistants with laboratory duties make casts of the
teeth and mouth from impressions, clean and polish removable appliances,
and make temporary crowns. Those with office duties schedule and confirm
appointments, receive patients, keep treatment records, send bills, receive
payments, and order dental supplies and materials.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor