A Day in the Life of a Dental Assistant

Each day in the life of a dental assistant is rarely the same. Dental assistant’s duties vary from day to day. While some responsibilities must be performed daily, like greeting patients and sterilizing equipment, each day in a dental office can bring new and exciting experiences and challenges. 

So what does a day in the life of a dental assistant look like? Let’s dive into it. 

Dental Assistant Working Hours 

Working as a dental assistant can mean varying hours, but it largely depends on where you work. Dental assistants in traditional dental offices usually have 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts. Some dental offices are open only Monday through Friday, while others are open on weekends and evenings to offer more availability to their patients. Your schedule will be dictated by the dental office where you work.

Some dental offices have part-time positions available, but it’s not guaranteed. If part-time hours would be best for your schedule, it is something to keep in mind as you look toward a dental assistant career path.

Dental Assistant Daily Routine and Responsibilities

Office Arrival 

A dental assistant’s day usually starts with arrival at the office and familiarizing yourself with the day’s schedule so you know what to expect and are ready for patients to arrive. 

There’s typically a morning meeting with the dentists and hygienists to walk through the schedule for the day. The dental assistant helps provide information about each of the appointments and patients, such as allergies or sensitivities.   

Daily Preparations

Dental assistants also assist dentists and hygienists by sterilizing equipment, preparing dental records and files for incoming patients, and reviewing patient treatment plans before arrivals. This helps the patients have a seamless experience once they arrive for their appointment.

Additional administrative duties might also include:

  • Setting appointments and managing cancellations. Before the day gets started, dental assistants likely check any calls or emails from the previous day that need responses and ensure the calendar is up to date with last-minute appointments and cancellations. This helps keep the office running smoothly for both patients and staff. 
  • Handling billing and insurance for patients. Billing includes keeping balances updated so that patients know what they owe for their procedures and ensure the dental office is paid on time. 
  • Managing patient payment plans for more advanced procedures and treatments, like oral surgery or braces. 

Patient Arrival and Records 

A dental assistant’s responsibilities continue once patients arrive. Typically, a dental assistant is the first person the patient sees when they walk in the door. You’ll greet the patient and assist them on any pre-procedure paperwork and questions that may be needed. Dental assistants are often also responsible for ensuring that patients are ready for their treatment or procedure by asking necessary questions or requesting that they brush their teeth before going back to the dental chair. It is important to make sure the patients feel comfortable and welcome. 

Dental assistants can also be in charge of patient records. This includes gathering accurate medical records from previous health providers, updating insurance information, and recording patient intake with the dentist or dental hygienist. Accurate records mean safety and efficiency for the office. 

Procedure Prep and Assistance 

Dental assistants will help set up equipment by confirming it is sterilized and in the proper location for the dentist or hygienist. Sometimes you’ll also be required to clean the dental chairs and make sure the materials are stocked in each room. 

Dental assistants are often relied on as extra hands when needed. They can be asked to assist with suction to remove moisture from a patient’s mouth during a cavity fill or help hand the dentist tools during a root canal. Dental assistants give dentists and dental hygienists the support they need to work quickly and efficiently.

Another extra responsibility includes collaborating with dentists to set up rooms for X-rays. This involves making sure parts and angles of the mouth are X-rayed for the dentist to properly diagnose a patient. Dental assistants manage patient records, therefore, they often tell dentists what teeth need to be evaluated or when a patient needs updated X-rays for their file. 

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Why Become a Dental Assistant?

A career in dental assisting is ideal for individuals searching for a meaningful, hands-on career in the healthcare industry. Dental assistant training can be completed in significantly less time than traditional two or four-year college programs, making it the perfect career choice for someone who’s ready to start a career, but doesn’t want to spend several years in school. MTI’s Dental Assisting Program can take you from the classroom to the workforce in less than a year. 

Meet Alyssa Wright, a graduate from MTI’s Dental Assisting Program. She shares her experience and how it prepared her for a career as a dental assistant. 

Dental Assistant Salary

The median annual wage for dental assistants in May 2022 was $44,820. However, a dental assistant’s salary can differ based on several factors, such as specializations. Dental assistants who work in a more specialized type of dentistry, like cosmetic dentistry or prosthodontics, might have higher earning potential than those who work in family dental offices. 

The average dental assistant salary will also vary based on location. For more information about dental assistant salaries in your area, check out the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Start Your Dental Assistant Training at MTI

To start a career as a dental assistant, you must first obtain your high school diploma or GED. Further requirements will vary from state to state, so check your state’s dental assistant certification and training requirements. 

If you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, consider completing an accredited dental assistant program, like the Dental Assisting Program at MTI. This program will teach you all the skills you need to start a career in dental assisting. 

To learn more, fill out the form below to request more information.