A dental assistant is usually the first person a patient sees when they enter the office. They interact with them and put them at ease until the dentist arrives for treatment while simultaneously dealing with information gathering, medical records, insurance and the like. They are often present with the dentist during consultation, and a good number of procedures, along with associated instructions to the patient, will be carried out after consultation by either the hygienist or assistant instead of the dentist. It will also be a staff member that is often the last point of contact when the patient leaves. Much more of the patient’s time is spent with staff members than the dentist.
In fact, most of the procedures performed by dentists are done with the aid of a dental assistant. This is often referred to as four-handed dentistry, a technique in which a dental assistant or dental hygienist works directly with the dentist on the procedures being done in the mouth of a patient. This allows the doctor to focus solely on the medical elements. Sterilization and preparation of tools and materials both pre and post procedure is also done by the assistant.
Dentistry is definitely a team sport. Good dental assistants and hygienists can expect to be appreciated as valued members. The cohesive bond that develops is a gratifying one that makes the daily chore of working one of mutual appreciation. Assurances of safety helps patients overcome previous trauma and fear associated with dentistry. This allows the dentist to realize a successful practice as a valued member of the community.
While the dental assistant tends to fulfill a full time schedule due to the amount of office work they also perform, dental hygienists may have a flexible work schedule. It’s not uncommon for an office to have some evening or weekend hours for their patients. A smaller practice is more likely to have more regular hours. Dental hygienists tend to work a part-time schedule, which can be very useful when raising children or wanting to have more time with the family. There are variables based on geographic location, population and number of graduates in a given area.