It’s undeniable that dental assistants are important. We often hear from your colleagues and patients who express their gratitude for all of your contributions in the dental office.

But unless someone is immersed in the ins and outs of a typical workday, they may not fully grasp everything dental assistants know and do. It’s a pretty extensive list! Below, we take a closer look.


1. Dental assistants help keep patients safe.

Most dental assistants play an instrumental role in ensuring patients’ safety by helping implement infection control guidelines and protocols. Those who have honed their infection control knowledge are often seen as leaders in the practice, well-equipped to share their knowledge with their peers and patients.

Successfully completing the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program™ is a key way dedicated dental professionals can demonstrate their commitment to patient safety.

Sarah S., CDA, a dental team infection preventionist, is working toward completing this rigorous program. This year, she plans to attend the 2021 virtual Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP) Dental Infection Control Boot Camp. Later, she will pursue OSAP-DANB Certified in Dental Infection Prevention and Control™ (CDIPC™) certification, to be launched in early 2022.

“I will be using the knowledge I gain to help support dental facilities with their general infection control and COVID-19-based response needs,” Sarah says.


2. Dental assistants have a lot of responsibilities.

It goes without saying that dental assistants do much to assist both the dentist and patients. But not everyone is aware of the many duties completed behind the scenes.

Many dental assistants work in a clinical setting — in a dental office or hospital, for example. There, they set up and break down treatment areas; prepare instruments; seat, educate and comfort patients; and anticipate the dentist’s needs. Most dental assistants also perform infection control duties and some front desk and office management work. Plus, some dental assistants might perform expanded functions as their states allow.

Lately, dental assistants also fill a critical role in helping implement new social-distancing, screening and infection control protocols to prevent COVID-19 exposure.

As you can see, this is no small list.

“Dental assistants are responsible for so much in the office,” agrees Alyse M., CDA, who has worked as a dental assistant in a dental office and currently is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in health policy and administration.

Alyse continues: “Assistants are responsible for keeping patients feeling at ease in the dental environment, making sure things are sterilized and disinfected, making sure the doctor has all the instruments for the procedure, keeping everybody safe, and more.”


3. Dental assistants are educated professionals.

To perform at their highest level, successful dental assistants recognize the importance of education to grow their knowledge base and skill sets. While it’s not always a requirement, many assistants complete a formal dental assisting educational program. And no matter what path they take to enter the profession, dedicated dental assistants constantly brush up on the latest dental healthcare news and information — because there’s always more to learn about dental terminology, protocols and procedures.

To this end, many dental assistants — 37,000 and counting — earn and maintain DANB certification. One requirement for maintaining DANB certification is to complete continuing dental education, such as the online CE options available through the DALE Foundation, DANB’s affiliate. DANB certificants appreciate all the benefits that come with certification, and they prioritize maintaining their education.

What’s more, dental assistants must stay up-to-date on each state’s requirements for dental assistants, since these — as well as job titles and allowable functions — can vary.

To help keep assistants in the know, DANB maintains a search-by-state map on its website. Also, DANB’s state publications are newly available to dental assistants online.

Karen W., CDA , understands the importance of completing continuing education and otherwise staying aware of dental news and trends. “I love to grow and learn,” she says. “I’m never stagnant. I’m always thinking, ‘What’s the next thing I can learn to benefit myself and the practice where I work?’ If you don’t grow, you’re holding yourself back, ultimately.”


What else do you wish were more well-known about dental assisting? Contact us.