What does a Dental Assistant do during Chairside Assisting?

dental assisting, dental assistant training programAiding the dentist during procedures helps to increase productivity

Of the many day-to-day responsibilities of a dental assistant, chairside assisting can be the one of the most interesting and challenging parts of your day. What is chairside assisting? Chairside assisting is just what is sounds like: sitting alongside the patient’s chair and assisting the dentist with the tools and procedures that are needed. The term “four-handed” dentistry is also used, referring to the four hands of the dentist and dental assistant working together during the procedure.

Why is chairside assisting important?

Chairside assisting is a very important part of dentistry. Dentists can complete procedures much faster with the help of chairside assistance, making the entire experience shorter for the patient and more efficient for the dental office.

Chairside assisting is particularly challenging as a dental assistant, because you are responsible for anticipating the dentist’s needs, and at the same time, you must be flexible if the needs change in the middle of a procedure. It requires strict attention to the dentist, the procedure, and the patient’s needs. It can also be the most exciting part of your job, since you are playing a key role in delivering an important dental service to the patient.

In order to perform effectively when you are chairside assisting, there are two main areas where you can prepare ahead: (1) Preparing your tray with the right instruments and (2) understanding the dental procedure.

Tip #1: Good preparation helps with your dental assistant role

To help procedures go as smoothly as possible, a lot of advance preparation is needed. Before each procedure, the dental assistant prepares trays or kits that contain all of the instruments that the dentist will need for the particular procedure. The trays are laid out so that the instruments are placed in the order in which they will be needed.

For example, to prepare for a typical composite procedure (cavity removal and tooth filling), a composite tray will mostly likely include the following tools, as well as any additional tools that the dentist may request.

  • Mouth mirror
  • Explorer
  • Cotton pliers
  • Periodontal probe
  • Gauze
  • Cotton rolls
  • Shade guides
  • Spoon excavator
  • Acid etching agent
  • Bonding agent
  • Plastic instrument
  • Composite resin
  • Wedge
  • Articulating paper and holder
  • Rubber cup and pumice
  • Polishing paste

In addition to these basic tools, you will probably need an anesthesia kit, since most procedures involve some anesthesia. Most anesthesia set-ups include such items as:

  • Topical anesthetic and cotton swab
  • Cartridges that hold the local anesthetic
  • Syringe
  • Needle
  • Needle recapping device

Depending on the procedure, the dental assistant may also need a rubber dam set-up. A rubber dam is a thin sheet of latex rubber that is placed in the mouth to isolate certain teeth. Certain procedures require a rubber dam while others do not. The rubber dam kits typically contain:

  • Topical anesthetic
  • Lubricant for patient’s lips
  • Rubber dam material, frame, and clamps
  • Rubber dam forceps and punch
  • Plastic instrument
  • Scissors

Tip #2: Knowing the procedure will help you anticipate the dentist’s needs

As a dental assistant, it is critical that you understand the procedure that the dentist is going to perform so that you know when certain instruments will be needed. At times, the dentist will request instruments from you, and at other times you will simply wait to be called upon while the dentist is working. During these brief “down” times, you should check the patient’s well-being. You may offer comforting words to the patient, such as explaining what step is next, or asking them if they are okay.

During the procedure, you will also be asked to operate important instruments, such as the high volume evacuator or other suction device, and the air-water syringe. The suction device removes extra fluid from the patient’s mouth, while the air-water syringe provides air or water as needed to help reduce the heat caused by the drilling or to help clean an area of the mouth.

As with any job, the first time you do chairside assisting will probably be stressful. But as you learn the dental procedures more closely, and get to know the dentist’s preferences, you will get the hang of it! Remember, as a dental assistant, you are playing a vital role in the operation of the dental office. If you take pride in your job, and take the time to be well-prepared, you can increase the efficiency and productivity of your office, and have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a difference.

This article was provided by the Harris School of Business. The Harris School offers a dental assistant training program at its campuses in Upper Darby, PA; Voorhees, NJ; and Wilmington, DE. If you are interested in this program, contact the Harris School today!