If you are thinking about becoming a dental assistant, you might be wondering whether a dental assistant can perform cleanings? This blog post provides you with everything you need to know about what dental assistants can and cannot do as well as answer the question of whether dental assistants can clean teeth.
If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, consider enrolling in UEI College’s Dental Assistant Training Program. Our program can be completed and you can earn a diploma in as few as 10 months, and we will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on training that’s required for an entry-level dental assisting position.
Are Dental Assistants Allowed to Do Cleanings?
Dental assistants are not permitted to perform cleanings because it requires specialized oral health training that dental assistants do not have. Dental assistants are only allowed to perform basic oral health procedures; they are not permitted to perform invasive procedures that require them to use a dental drill or prick. So, while a dental assistant can assist a dental hygienist with performing a cleaning, a dental assistant is not permitted to do a cleaning.
That said, if you’re thinking about becoming a dental assistant, do not get discouraged simply because you cannot perform cleanings. Dental assistants play an important role in dental offices, assisting dental hygienists and dentists in performing common procedures such as cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals, and many other procedures.
Dental assistants perform many functions in dental clinics, including front office administrative tasks and back-office chairside assisting. Dental assistants are essential to every dentist’s office because they are the ones who greet patients, schedule their appointments, take them to the exam room, and assist the dentist or dental hygienist with the procedures patients have come in for. The warm, memorable personalities of dental assistants are often why patients return to a dental clinic. Dental Assistant Careers are very rewarding, so if you believe that becoming a dental assistant is something that you want, consider enrolling in UEI’s Dental Assistant Program.
What Are Dental Assistants allowed and not allowed to do?
The tasks that dental assistants are permitted to perform depend on the state in which the dental assistant is employed. Different states have different laws on what dental assistants can and cannot do. Generally, dental assistants are able to perform basic supportive dental procedures so long as they’re working under the supervision of a licensed dentist. For a dental assistant to perform extended functions beyond basic support, dental assistants must seek licensure as extended functions dental assistants. Obtaining an extended functions license typically permits dental assistants to perform more hands-on work with dental patients, such as polishing teeth, applying sealants and fluoride, and administering nitrous oxide. To learn more about your state’s laws, visit the Dental Assistant National Board (DANB). The site has listed the requirements for every state.
What does a day in the life of a dental assistant look like?
A typical day for a dental assistant begins thirty minutes to an hour before a dental clinic opens. Typically, after opening a dental clinic, a dental assistant will review the patient’s schedule and prepare patient medical records for the dentist or dental hygienist performing a procedure. After that’s done, the dental assistant will typically prepare the exam rooms and make sure that the necessary instruments are in place for dentists and dental hygienists. Exam rooms and instruments must be prepared before the first patient arrives, so these tasks typically take place early in the morning before the clinic opens.
After the clinic opens, dental assistants typically greet patients and escort them to the exam room where their procedure will take place. Once at the exam room, a dental assistant will usually place the patient’s dental bib on and ask them about their medical history to update their medical records. During the patient’s examination, you may be asked to help the dentist or dental hygienist with the procedure they’re about to perform.
Dental assistants also help dentists and hygienists keep the patient’s mouth clean and dry, as well as handing them instruments. This is what a typical day in the life of a dental assistant looks like. Overall, dental assistants assist dentists with front office tasks such as answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, and greeting patients. They also assist them in the back office by preparing exam rooms, preparing patients for procedures, and performing chairside dental assisting.
Dental Assistant vs. Dental Hygienist
So, at this point, you may be wondering, what is the difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist? When you visit your local dental clinic, you’ll probably spend most of your time under the care of a dental assistant or dental hygienist. That said, there are huge differences in the types of tasks that dental hygienists perform vs. dental assistants.
For example, dental assistants perform a wide range of administrative functions and back office assisting. Dental assistants lead patients to exam chairs, prepare patients for procedures, sterilize and prepare dental instruments, educate patients on oral health, schedule appointments, handle billing and payments, and perform chairside assisting.
On the other hand, dental hygienists are primarily responsible for cleaning teeth, examining patients for oral diseases, and educating patients on preventative dental care practices. Cleaning patients’ teeth often involve using hand and ultrasonic instruments to remove tartar, stains, and plaque from their teeth. They also perform assessments of patients’ teeth, provide their notes and findings to dentists, and educate patients on how to better care for their teeth.
How Can You Become a Dental Assistant in California?
It may come as a surprise to you, but many states have not set education, licensing, and training requirements for dental assistants so long as the dental assistant works under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. However, some states have special licensing requirements for performing certain tasks such as taking x-rays, coronal polishing, and other expanded functions. For example, in California, dental assistants do not need a degree nor do they need the training to become a dental assistant; however, a dental assistant must be certified in radiography to legally operate dental x-ray equipment. That said, training to become a dental assistant equips an individual with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on training they need to perform the duties of a dental assistant successfully. UEI’s Dental Assistant Training Program prepares students for entry-level dental assistant careers. The great thing about the program is that it can be completed and earn a diploma in as little as 10 months.
Should You Become a Dental Assistant?
You should become a dental assistant for a number of reasons. First, working as a dental assistant is a fast-paced career where no two days are the same. So, if you want a career that’s exciting and offers growth potential, then becoming a dental assistant may be the right move for you. Also, if you want a rewarding career, dental assisting may be just the thing you’re looking for. As a dental assistant, you will improve the lives of many by assisting dentists, and dental hygienists improve patients’ oral health. If a career as a dental assistant sounds interesting to you, consider enrolling in UEI’s Dental Assistant Course. This course will prepare you for an entry-level dental assistant career, and the program can be completed and you can earn a diploma in as few as 10 months.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Do dental assistants work on teeth?
Dental assistants are not permitted to clean teeth because cleanings require specialized training that dental assistants do not have. Dental assistants are only allowed to assist dentists and dental hygienists under their direct supervision.
2. Can dental assistants do teeth whitening?
In California, dental assistants are not permitted to apply bleaching agents, nor are they permitted to activate bleaching agents with a curing device. Only registered dental assistants can perform this function.
3. Can dental assistants drill teeth?
No, dental assistants cannot drill teeth. Dental assistants can assist dentists, but they are not permitted to perform procedures involving a drill or dental prick.
4. Do you need a license to become a dental assistant?
No, in California, you do not need a license to become a dental assistant. Dental assistants are permitted to provide support to dentists so long as they are working under the supervision of a licensed dentist.