The Professional Dental Assistant
American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) Professional organization that represents the profession of dental assisting on a national level.
Certified dental assistant (CDA) The nationally recognized credential of the dental assistant who has passed the DANB certification examination and keeps current in practice through continuing education.
Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) National agency responsible for administering the certification examination and issuing the credential of certified dental assistant.
Professional Person who meets the standards of a profession.
A highly skilled dental assistant is a vital member of the dental healthcare team. Reducing patient anxiety, making decisions, simplifying treatment procedures, maintaining appropriate infection control measures, and improving the quality of patient care are all part of a dental assistant’s day (Fig. 2-1).
You chose an exciting and challenging career when you decided to become a professional dental assistant. A career in dental assisting offers variety, job satisfaction, opportunity for service, and financial reward. It is a career that requires dedication, personal responsibility, integrity, and a commitment to continuing education.
Characteristics of a Professional Dental Assistant
Becoming a dental assistant involves more than acquiring the knowledge and developing the skills necessary to perform a variety of duties. Becoming a dental assistant is about becoming a professional.
Professionalism is an attitude that is apparent in everything you do and say, in and out of the dental office. Professionalism is what distinguishes people who “have a job” from those who “pursue a career.” The public’s expectations of healthcare workers are higher than expectations of individuals in other occupations. The dental assistant must demonstrate patience and compassion when communicating with patients and other team members. When you demonstrate your professionalism, you receive respect and acknowledgment from your colleagues and patients as a valued member of the dental healthcare team.
A dental assistant’s professional appearance promotes the patient’s confidence in the entire office and improves his or her dental experience. The essential aspects of a professional appearance include (1) good health, (2) good grooming, and (3) appropriate dress.
To stay in good health, you must get an adequate amount of rest, eat well-balanced meals, and exercise enough to keep fit. Dental assisting is a physically demanding profession.
Good grooming requires paying attention to the details of your personal appearance. Personal cleanliness involves taking a daily bath or shower, using a deodorant, and practicing good oral hygiene. Do not use perfume or cologne. You are working in very close personal proximity to coworkers and patients, who may be allergic to or irritated by some scents. Avoid the use of tobacco products because the odor lingers on your hair and clothing and is offensive in a professional setting.
Appropriate dress involves wearing clothing appropriate for the type of position in which the dental assistant is working (see Chapter 3). Regardless of the type of professional wear, it must be clean, wrinkle free, and worn over appropriate undergarments (Fig. 2-2). In any dental position, excessive makeup and jewelry are not considered appropriate for a professional appearance. Infection control requirements must also be considered when one is selecting clinical wear (see Chapter 19).
Knowledge and Skills
Depending on the type of dental practice, the duties of a dental assistant will vary. Ideally, dental assistants should have both front desk and chairside (clinical) skills. This is very convenient when a team member is absent from the office. Generally, dental assistants choose to stay in the position they prefer. Regardless of the type of dental practice, the day of a dental assistant is never boring or “routine.”
Teamwork is extremely important in a dental office. The letters in the word team mean that “T