A List of the Different Duties of a Dental Assistant

A dental assistant is a vital member of a dental team. They provide support to the dentist while also performing a variety of tasks to ensure patient comfort and safety. Dental assistants typically have a wide range of duties, from preparing patients for dental procedures to sterilizing equipment.

No two days are the same for a dental assistant. Their duties may vary depending on the needs of the dental office they work in and the procedures being performed that day. However, a few assignments are typical if someone pursues a dental assistant degree.

  • Preparation of Patients

One of the essential duties of a dental assistant is preparing patients for dental procedures. This includes taking vital signs, including blood pressure and heart rate, and asking the patient about their medical history. The dental assistant will also help the patient to get comfortable in the dental chair and may provide them with a blanket or pillow for added comfort.

  • Dental Assistance

Another standard duty of dental assistants is to assist the dentist during dental procedures. This may involve passing instruments to the dentist, suctioning saliva, or applying topical anesthesia to the patient’s gums. Dental assistants also often take x-rays and provide patients with post-operative instructions.

  • Scheduling Appointments

Dental assistants may be in charge of scheduling appointments. This involves coordinating with patients, dentists, and other staff members to ensure that everyone’s schedules are compatible.

Dental assistants must be able to communicate effectively with patients to determine their needs and which type of appointment would be best. They also need to be familiar with the different types of procedures offered by the practice to make accurate recommendations.

  • Maintaining Records

Another vital duty of dental assistants is maintaining patient records. This includes keeping track of appointments, dental histories, treatment plans, and insurance information.

Dental assistants must be organized and detail-oriented to do this effectively. They also require to be able to keep confidentiality following HIPAA regulations.

  • Greeting Patients

When patients arrive for appointments, the dental assistant must greet them and make them feel welcome. This involves checking them in, answering any questions they may have, and escorting them to the treatment area.

Dental assistants should have good people skills and a pleasant demeanor to be successful in this part of their job.

  • Handling Billing

Dental assistants may also be responsible for handling billing and insurance claims. This can include submitting claims, following up on unpaid claims, and answering patient questions about their coverage.

To do this effectively, dental assistants need a basic understanding of dental insurance and billing procedures. They also need to be patient and understanding when dealing with patients who may be frustrated with the claims process.

  • Updating and Restocking

Dental assistants may update records and supplies. Dental assistants also need to keep the dental office stocked with supplies. They need to know what supplies are needed and when they need replenishment. They may also be responsible for ordering supplies.

  • Keeping Clinic and Materials Well-Handled

As well as providing clinical support to the dentist, they are also responsible for the maintenance of the clinic and materials. This includes sterilizing instruments, preparing materials for dental procedures, and keeping the surgery clean and tidy.

To maintain a high level of hygiene, all instruments must be sterilized before each use. This is a critical part of the dental assistant’s role, as it helps prevent infection spread. Instruments are first washed in a detergent solution, then rinsed in water. They are then placed in an autoclave, which uses steam to sterilize them. Once instruments are sterilized, they must be stored clean and dry.


A person with a dental assistant degree plays an essential role in the dental office, supporting the dentist and the patients. Dental assistants typically perform various tasks, including sterilizing instruments, preparing patients for dental procedures, taking x-rays, and assisting the dentist during procedures. 

Although the duties of a dental assistant can vary depending on the state in which they work, most dental assistants must complete a dental assisting program and pass a state-specific exam to be licensed.

Northwest Suburban College is an excellent choice for those looking for healthcare career training and dreaming of becoming a Dental Assistant. The college is located near Schaumburg, IL, and offers a variety of health sciences programs. Call today for more information about our programs.

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