While the dentist is working with a patient their assistant is right there next to them, providing the relevant help. The assistant makes sure that the patient is comfortable and ready for the treatment. They also have administrative duties as well – they maintain health records for the various patients that come and go. While the dentist is working on the patient, their assistant is responsible for handing instruments and keeping mouths dry. The assistants also sterilize and disinfect the equipment. After the dentist is done, the assistant instructs the patient on how to care for themselves from a postoperative perspective and on general oral health care issues.
Some of the assistants’ other duties include implementing and preparing tests. They might prepare materials for impressions and restorations, expose radiographs, and process dental x-ray films. In terms of working on the patient’s teeth and gums, assistants may remove sutures and apply anesthetics and cavity preventative agents to the teeth, or place rubber dams on the teeth to isolate them for individual treatment.
Nationally, about 247,000 dental assistants work in this medium-sized occupation. Virtually all dental assistants work in private dental offices.
In 2000, there were 4,990 people employed as dental assistants in Indiana. Employment for dental assistants is expected to grow much faster than average through the year 2010. During this period, there will be an estimated 2,810 job openings. More than half of these openings will be created by the replacement of current workers.
Nationally, the number of jobs for dental assistants is expected to grow much faster than average through the year 2010.
The increasing trend for people to keep their natural teeth will fuel the demand for dental services. Older dentist, who are less likely to employ assistants, will be replaced by recent graduates, who are more likely to hire them. In addition, as dentists’ workloads increase, they are expected to hire more assistants to perform routine tasks.