How Dental Assistants Make Our Clinic Better

The Bradford Family Dentistry team works together to provide the highest possible level of service and care for our patients. Since in March we celebrate Dental Assistants Recognition Week, we thought we would pay tribute to these hard-working team members. Here, we shed some light on their contributions and skills to help you appreciate and respect their work as much as we do! 

What Are The Qualifications Of A Dental Assistant?

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Dental Assistants are certified by the Ontario Dental Assistants Association, performing essential duties at your appointments that contribute to your oral health. There are different levels of Certified Dental Assistants in Canada, which dictate the types of skills they gain during their training. As a result, the duties they fulfill can vary, including procedures and tasks they perform both with and without dentist supervision. 

What Does A Dental Assistant Do?

Below are the two types of Dental Assistants and their respective duties based on their certification level.

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Level I Certified Dental Assistant

Level I dental assistants can perform the following duties:

  • Preparing the treatment/clinical area
  • Cleaning and sterilization of instruments and handpieces
  • Chairside assistance for dentists and hygienists
  • Using a High-Volume Evacuator during appointments
  • Preparing restorative materials
  • Performing simple laboratory work
  • Replenishing and stocking supply inventory, generally and for each treatment room
  • Training in First Aid and CPR emergency procedures
  • Helping to maintain emergency drug kits
  • Adhering to material safety handling protocols
  • Conducting spore/biological indicator tests
  • Charting patients’ records for dentists and hygienists
  • Oral health and proper pre-fitted appliance wear and care education for patients
  • Assisting with x-rays
  • Obtaining vital signs when required

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Level II Dental Assistant

A Level II dental assistant or intra-oral dental assistant can perform the above duties as well as the following without dentist supervision:

  • Polishing of the coronal portion of the teeth, not including any instrumentation
  • Taking extra-/intra-oral photographs
  • Taking impressions of the teeth
  • Taking digital/optical impressions of the teeth
  • Dental dietary counselling
  • Applying fluoride
  • Oral irrigation
  • Teeth whitening using tray-based systems for the coronal portion of the teeth

They can also perform the following tasks with dentist supervision:

  • Applying and removing rubber dams, restorative matrix bands, and wedges
  • Applying pit and fissure sealants or materials to prepare for the application
  • Applying topical anesthetics and desensitizing agents
  • Polishing restorations
  • Removing uncomplicated periodontal dressings
  • Removing simple interrupted sutures

How Does A Dental Assistant Help A Dental Clinic Run Smoothly?

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This feels like an impossible question to answer because our Dental Assistants are involved in so many aspects of our clinic. However, we like to think of our assistants as conductors of our orchestra, ensuring we all hit the right notes. They help facilitate every appointment, making sure our treatment rooms are clean and organized, our patients receive pre-treatment steps safely and properly, and ensure we can perform dental services to our best possible abilities. Dental assistants are also the glue that holds our dental clinic together.

They help keep things moving, performing a long list of tasks from leading you to your dental chair when you arrive to taking your x-rays, and providing oral hygiene instruction to ensuring our office adheres to the strict requirements of cleaning and sterilization of tools and dental equipment. They are also here to help keep your smile bright and provide chairside assistance for your dental procedures, not to mention to step in and assist our administrative team when things get hectic.

 How Does A Dental Assistant Differ From A Dental Hygienist?

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There are several key differences between Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists:

Dental Assistants

Dental Assistants require certification in Ontario based on their preferred level. Their certification allows them to assist our dentists during routine procedures, to perform non-treatment-focused duties, and limited tasks that facilitate treatment and care with and without dentist supervision, as listed above.

Dental Hygienists

Dental hygienists are educated health professionals who have earned a diploma or bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene from a college or university accredited by The Commission on Dental Accreditation of Canada. They specialize in oral health and oral disease prevention. As a result, they can work independently to perform periodontal therapy, including:

  • Assessing and recording overall oral conditions
  • Providing teeth cleaning such as scaling and root planing
  • Taking measures for oral disease prevention
  • Performing intraoral radiography
  • Applying dental sealants
  • Administering fluoride

They must also complete mandatory professional development initiatives each year in Ontario via a quality assurance program.

 What Skill Sets Do Dental Assistants Require?

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Dental Assistants require both technical and “soft” skills to keep you happy and our office running like a well-oiled machine, including:

  • Organizational skills: Dental offices are fast-paced and require assistants to be ready to handle both the planned and unplanned things that come up. They need to be organized to keep patient records efficiently, maintain an inventory of materials and sterilized equipment in each treatment room, and manage several patients at once to ensure we stay on schedule to reduce wait times.
  • Detail-oriented: Ensuring every tool, instrument, and piece of material we use is available during treatment for every patient’s appointment, and managing patient records accurately, requires detail-oriented individuals.
  • Multi-tasker: As mentioned above, every day our assistants must respond to multiple demands without skipping a beat or getting flustered. Their entire day revolves around serving the needs of our patients as well as our entire dental team.
  • Dexterity: Dental assistants use their hands all day cleaning tools and equipment, applying various topical treatments such as numbing agents, and passing instruments and materials to our dentist and hygienists during treatments. This requires excellent hand-eye coordination to keep tools or materials from dropping.
  • Professionalism: Our team relies on the professionalism of our dental assistants by being on time and coming to work dressed appropriately for working in a health care setting.
  • Friendliness and compassion: Having a positive attitude and greeting every patient with a warm smile sets the stage for the high level of caring service we offer. This also ensures patients who suffer from dental anxiety are treated with compassion and understanding.
  • Communication skills: Helping patients understand their treatment, working with other team members, and even the simple ability to carry on small talk to set patients at ease are all part of effective communication. It also includes using tact and judgement when speaking to patients. Listening skills are also important to ensure assistants understand instructions and accurately share information with the team when patients voice concerns or make requests for their treatment.

We hope you join us in celebrating the role of our Dental Assistants by wishing them a Happy Dental Assistants Week!

Call today to schedule an appointment at 905-775-5307 or click here to request an appointment.


Tags

clinic staff, dental assistant, dental professional team


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