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Tasks for the Dental Chairside Assistant

December 17, 2014

Dental assistant training

Many students in dental school today are training to become dental assistants. In Canada, a dental chairside assistant is a level 1 dental assistant, who works side by side with a dentist in the dental office. They will often prepare radiographs, assist with patient aftercare, and most importantly will sterilize and hand the dentists instruments during procedures. If you’re looking into dental assistant schools, read on to find out exactly what you’ll be doing as a dental chairside assistant.


Radiographs are used in dentistry to detect cavities, bone loss and an assortment of other tooth issues. Radiographs may be intraoral (taken inside the mouth) or extraoral (taken outside the mouth). There are various types of intraoral radiographs, such as a Bitewing X-ray which shows in detail only the crown to the middle level of the bone, or a Periapical X-ray which shows the full tooth down to the roots. In dental school, dental chairside assistants are trained how to take and develop radiographs. This includes taking the correct number of X-rays for proper diagnoses, and ensuring good quality radiographs.

Patient Assisting

Along with aiding the dentist during a procedure, a dental chairside assistant will also manage the patient’s file and oftentimes process their payments as well. An important responsibility of a chairside assistant is to coax a nervous patient through the procedure, and also give them post-procedure education on how to manage their teeth. For children, the dental chairside assistant will often hand out toothbrushes and give demonstrations on how to properly brush. For adults, they will explain which dental care needs must be provided for.

Dental Procedures: Fillings

When bacteria eats through the enamel, painful cavities form, which then need to be treated by a dentist. A dentist will remove the bacteria and fill the cavity with either an amalgam (metal) filling or a composite (white) filling. A dental chairside assistant will aid the dentist by handing them equipment and preparing the anesthesia. During this procedure the dental assistant may also need to insert a rubber dam into the patient’s mouth, or a bite block. Tools used during the filling procedure include a dental drill, metal scalers and a high volume suction tool which is operated by the chairside assistant throughout the procedure.

Teeth Cleaning

A key element of any dental assistant training is how to properly assist with a cleaning. This common procedure is often used at dentist checkups to professionally remove the bacteria even our toothbrushes and floss can’t reach, in order to avoid oral diseases like periodontal disease and gingivitis. A dentist will use tools such as a micro-ultrasonic scaler, which uses vibration and water pressure to clean the teeth. Hand instruments like a metal scaler are often used by the dentist to remove plaque by hand. A cleaning procedure will often end with the dentist applying a polishing paste, which removes stains and smooths the tooth.

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