A certified dental assistant (CDA) is responsible for providing assistance with dental patient care. Because they work in a medical setting, certified dental assistants must have general knowledge of medical terminology. They must also be able to comply with state and national regulations regarding safety and cleanliness, such as OSHA and the American Association of Dental Boards.
In addition to taking radiographs, performing lab procedures, and instructing patients in best oral hygiene practices, certified dental assists must also be able to do some behind-the-scenes work such as equipment sterilization and restocking inventory. Working knowledge of standard dentistry equipment, such as X-ray machines, is required. Additionally, CDAs may be required to take on front desk duties, such as taking phone calls, scheduling appointments, and using a computer for billing and other tasks.
As the name implies, certified dental assistants spend the majority of their time assisting dentists with patient appointments, doing everything from basic cleanings to taking X-rays and working alongside a dentist during procedures. A certified dental assistant works closely with a number of individuals in their office, such as receptionists, other dental assistants, and dentists. During procedures, it is important that a CDA is able to anticipate the dentist's needs and have equipment and tools prepared to cut down patient wait time. They must be confident and comfortable working extensively with patients.
To become a certified dental assistant, most employers require at least completion of a one-year dental assistant certification program, in addition to on-the-job experience (likely as a non-certified assistant). Certified dental assistants are required to obtain state licensing in most states. Most dental practices require that a certified dental assistant have CPR certification; in some cases, additional certifications may be required.
Dental Assistant (Certified) Tasks
- Take and develop patient x-rays, including digital (if certified).
- Sterilize instruments and equipment.
- Teach patients how to practice good oral hygiene.
- Assist dentist during dental treatment procedures.
- Maintain office records and supplies and schedule appointments.