August 8, 2022
Dental Assisting Program at NHTI
Dental Assisting Program at NHTI

Updated September 7, 2022

“A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose,” said American cartoonist Tom Wilson. Smiles are contagious and therapeutic, and the dental assistant creates smiles daily.

But you might ask yourself what exactly is the role of a dental assistant. Since teeth live behind smiles, dental assistants provide patient care in various dental settings and to people of all ages in conjunction with the dentist and dental hygienist and through one-on-one interactions with patients. 

Promoting dental health, education, and safety are at the core of the dental assistant’s role.

What exactly is the role of a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants

  • Complete medical histories
  • Measure and document vital signs
  • Expose dental radiographs (x-rays)
  • Teach patients about oral health
  • Make impressions and models
  • Provide pre- and post-treatment instructions
  • Sterilize instruments, prepare treatment rooms, and reassure and care for patients as they sit chairside

They support the dentist in the safe delivery of dental exams, restorations (fillings), crowns, extractions, and oral surgeries. 

In many dental settings, the dental assistant is also responsible for ensuring current infection control recommendations are met, maintaining inventory, and scheduling patients.

A day in the life of a Dental Assistant

Learning about the dental assistant’s typical day and their superpowers (yes, superpowers!) might just intrigue you.

Dental assistants arrive early to manage schedule changes; prepare equipment, supplies, and instruments for the busy day ahead; and participate in the morning “huddle” with other staff to review patient needs prior to their arrival.

Dental assistants are on the move, easily logging their 10,000 steps as they float from reception to treatment areas and between treatment rooms and sterilization areas to maintain efficiency and support the dental team.

The day ends similarly to how it began: cleaning, sterilizing, and preparing equipment for the next day.

Skills to become a successful Dental Assistant

Communication and speed! Ever wonder how your dental team understands what you’re saying when they have their instruments in your mouth?

Dental assistants can do this in addition to translating dental terminology into everyday words for patients.

They are among the fastest members of your dental team at putting on layers of PPE and working proficiently within them to protect their patients and themselves.

Dental assistants are not fazed by operative procedures or tooth deposits, but instead are rather fascinated by them, which explains their strong stomachs.

They’re also drawn to teeth, looking at them constantly whether it be at work, or in the grocery line … They can spot cavities, crowding, or crowns revealed by the smile. 

Dental assistants not only know a great deal about teeth, but they also bond with the patients to whom those teeth belong and take the time to learn and respect the story behind those smiles – arguably their greatest superpower.

It’s never too late to start a career as a Dental Assistant

How does one become a successful dental assistant? NHTI offers the only Dental Assisting program in New Hampshire that is accredited by the prestigious Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA).

The nine-month (2.5-semester) professional certificate program upholds all CODA educational standards required of Dental Assisting programs and prepares the student well to legally perform all allowable expanded dental functions in N.H.

The curriculum includes coursework in sciences and practice management and three externships at dental offices. Students get immediate hands-on exposure to clinical procedures, starting with mannequins and then moving to student partners and ultimately patients.

NHTI dental assists students to treat radiology patients during their first semester and working chairside with dentists and patients during their second and final semesters.

With the help of NHTI, you will be able to train the previously mentioned skills, not only on a technical level but also on a human level so that you can contribute to the community by taking care of their smile. All of this accompanied by teachers with extensive experience in dealing with patients.

If a smile is happiness just under your nose, a rewarding career in dental assisting may be right before your eyes!

Learn more by visiting Dental Assisting – NHTIDental Hygiene – NHTI, or Allied Dental Education Courses – NHTI.  Contact Professor Kelly O’Brien, Dental Assisting program coordinator, at kobrien@ccsnh.edu  or 603-230-4000 x4123 with questions or to request a tour of the NHTI dental clinics and lab.