Some dental procedures are performed by the dental assistant, dentist or dental hygienist. It is important for the dental assistant to be aware of the different procedures, how long they will take and how many appointments the patient may need to complete the procedures.
Teeth cleaning, polishing, fluoride treatments, sealants and teeth whitening are only a few of the basic dental procedures that a dental assisting needs to know about for filing and charting purposes. The dental assistant may also assist the dentist with fillings and crowns to replace the portions of the tooth removed as a result of cavities. They will also assist the dentist with prosthetic procedures including bridges, partials and full dentures. The dental assistant will be involved with tooth extraction procedures, and may assist the dentist with root canals or gum surgery. Understanding dental procedures is important to perform the duties of a dental assistant.
Preventative Dental Procedures
During an initial examination, the dental assistant will exam the mouth for issues including cavities, sensitivity, cheek biting, tongue problems and gum disease. They may take x-rays of the teeth to see if there are any issues not seen by the naked eye. Any issues are noted on the patient’s chart for the dentist to review after the exam or check-up.
After a thorough examination, the dental hygienist will clean the teeth of any plaque, stains or deposits. The dental hygienist will also polish the teeth and give fluoride treatments to strengthen the enamel and protect teeth. Teeth whitening may also be done by the dental hygienist supported by the dental assistant. Sealant can also be added to the teeth to cover the chewing surface of the tooth to protect it from getting warn down or acid in the mouth.
The dentist is responsible for removing cavities from teeth, but the dental assistant will make sure the work area is clean and disinfected. They will also make sure all the instruments are sterilized and ready for the dentist to perform these restorative procedures.
The dental assistant prepares all the materials that will fill the tooth structure. The dental assistant prepares amalgam, resin-based composites or cast crowns for the dentist. Amalgam is an alloy that looks silver in color and is used to restore the function of the posterior teeth. In the front of the mouth, the dental assistant will prepare resin-based composite to restore a tooth as it can be colored to match the tooth and not contrast like amalgam. If a large amount of the tooth is removed, the dental assistant will prepare a cast crown. There different types of material for crowns, they include gold alloy, porcelain fused to metal, and veneer crowns.
The dental assistant will also support in the bonding process to repair teeth with chips, fractures or discoloration. They will prepare the tooth enamel-colored composition resin for the dentist to repair the teeth.
Dental assistants will assist dentists in the casting and creation of the patient’s prosthetics. Prosthetics are used to replace a missing tooth and include the construction of bridges, partials and dentures. The dental assistant will coordinate the prosthetic creation with the dental laboratory for the dentist.
A common type of prosthetic is a bridge that requires that teeth on either side of the missing tooth be crowned. These teeth form the anchor for the artificial replacement tooth. Two other types of removable prosthetics are partials and full dentures. Partials are similar to bridges but can be removed from the mouth. The partial is held in place with a metal framework that wraps around the anchor teeth. The dentist will use full dentures if all of the teeth in the arch are missing. The dental assistant will need to take care with the size, shape and shade of the replacement teeth so they closely resemble natural teeth.
The dental assistant will support the dentist during surgical procedures. The surgical procedures include tooth extraction, root canals and gum surgery. Simple extraction involves the removal of one or more teeth without the need to cut bone or remove tissue. Surgical extraction on the other hand requires cutting of tissue and possible removal of bone to remove the teeth. The dental assistant will support the dentist during these surgical procedures with suction, water to rinse the teeth, and the passing of the proper dental instruments for the surgical procedure.
A dentist will also perform root canals and gum surgery with the assistance of a dental assistant. Root canals are used to treat diseased or abscessed teeth. Gum surgery is performed on gums that are infected with a disease. The two major stages of gum disease are gingivitis, a mild reversible form of infection and periodontitis.
The dental assistant is a vital part of the dental team, along with the dentist and dental hygienist.
Are you interested in learning more about how to become a dental assistant? The Dental Assistant training program at Meridian College provides extensive hands-on training including a school externship at a dental office where you will assist the dentist to treat actual patients.
Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a dental assistant.