Skills For A Dental Assistant (With Tips To Improve Them)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Dental assistants work alongside dentists as they examine and treat patients and perform various patient care duties. These dental health care professionals use dexterity, compassion and administrative skills to perform various tasks, like managing appointments or keeping the clinic organised. Learning about the skills of a dental assistant can help you understand the role requirements and succeed in your career. In this article, we discuss the meaning of essential skills for a dental assistant, explore a list of types of these skills and review the ways to improve them.

What Are The Skills For A Dental Assistant?

Skills for a dental assistant are the professionals' strengths and abilities that focus on helping dentists during dental procedures and while they examine patients. Their various skills equip them with integrity, accountability and a commitment to continuous learning to improve patient care. Dental assistants perform a variety of patient care and laboratory duties, like seating patients in the treatment area and processing x-rays.

Their skills and abilities allow them to make patients feel comfortable and prepare them for the treatment, by briefing them on the procedure with information like the duration and how long it may take to recover. These professionals also possess technical skills that help them assist dentists during dental procedures and treatment.

Related: 18 Commonly Used Dental Tools (With Tips On Maintenance)

12 Types Of Dental Assistant Skills

Below is a list of types of dental assistant skills that are essential to success in this role:

1. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are important for dental assistants, as they are required to interact with patients. These skills help them work cordially with both dentists and patients. This means they are sensitive towards the emotions of a patient and help them feel comfortable if they are in pain or feeling stressed. These skills help dental assistants interact with patients from different backgrounds. With these skills, they are better able to guide patients through dental procedures and understand the issues or problems they are facing effectively. Interpersonal skills help create an understanding between the patient and doctors.

2. Listening skills

A dental assistant carefully listens to the requirements of a patient, as this helps them to understand their problems. Their listening skills allow them to follow the directions of a dental hygienist or dentist, like processing an x-ray or cleaning removable appliances. Dental assistants take interest in the details the patients want to share with them, like what they ate last night that caused the discomfort in their tooth or jaw. They also use these skills to note medicines that dentists are prescribing to the patients or accurately explain to the patients when and how to take their medicines.

3. Organisational skills

Dental assistants work in a fast-paced environment, which often presents unique challenges. They employ their organisational skills to keep the office organised and remain productive. These skills help them demonstrate preparedness and meet deadlines. Organisation skills also help them manage and use resources efficiently. Their organisation of work may often include maintaining accurate information about patients, storing the records in a safe place, ensuring the equipment properly works and checking if the supplies are in stock. From scheduling patient appointments to managing paperwork, organisational skills help dental assistants to complete varied tasks successfully.

Related: Organisational Skills: Definition And Examples

4. Attention to detail skills

Attention to detail is important for these professionals because it can reduce the likelihood of errors and help ensure the accuracy and success of the treatment or procedure. These skills facilitate quality work and improvement of workplace productivity. When dental assistants apply these skills in the workplace, they utilise their cognitive resources to achieve reliability when accomplishing tasks. With these skills, the professionals are also better able to recognise the factors that may make a patient nervous. Detail-oriented dental assistants are adept at recording patient details correctly and completing their tasks on time.

5. Communication skills

One of the primary responsibilities of a dental assistant is to communicate with dentists and patients coherently. This helps them to manage the schedules of dentists and appointments of patients efficiently. When they utilise their communication skills, they provide personalised care to the patients by understanding their concerns and giving appropriate responses. Talking over phone calls, sending e-mail messages and describing medical terms simply are better possible when dental assistants possess strong communication abilities. These skills also include cultural awareness, which helps them to communicate with patients from different backgrounds.

6. Professionalism

A dental assistant may often be the first point of contact for patients. Individuals who show professionalism help patients trust a clinic and its dentists. This skill allows them to interact with patients cordially and create a positive impression on them. Professional dental assistants uphold the value and core competencies of the health care industry. When they possess professionalism, they realise the importance of integrity, accountability, ethical behaviour and respect towards people. Professionalism also helps dental assistants foster collaborative relationships with other members of the health care teams and stay updated on the latest standards and best practices.

Related: What Are Examples Of Professionalism Skills?

7. Dexterity skills

The dexterity skills of dental assistants help them work efficiently with their hands while performing dental procedures. These professionals work with intricate machines and complex dental tools. With these skills, using the tools correctly becomes easy. Dexterity is essential for dental assistants, as they work with delicate components and by using them efficiently, they can help ensure the quality of dental procedures. A dental assistant also applies these skills to fulfil various administrative tasks, like typing or taking notes.

8. Technical skills

Dental assistants require technical knowledge to operate several machines, understand different relevant medicines and help dentists with various procedures. These skills allow them to predict and follow the sequence of tasks in dental procedures. Their technical skills enable them to process x-rays, develop dental radiographs, sterilise and prepare treatment rooms and equipment or keep a patient's mouth dry by using suction or other devices. They may also use computer programs to operate different devices and compile patient reports.

9. Administrative skills

Apart from technical procedures, dental assistants often have different administrative tasks, like managing appointments, organising patients' files or answering phone calls. Their administrative skills include excellent time management to stay efficient in the workplace. They also possess the understanding of file systems to better organise their work. Good administration ensures improved customer service and provides convenience to business management.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions And Examples

10. Compassion and empathy

Health care focuses on caring for each patient by employing compassion and empathy. These two attributes of a dental assistant help them make patients feel comfortable. Empathetic professionals can assess patients' feelings and recognise their inhibitions and respond accordingly. This way, they can better work with patients and reassure them if they are feeling stressed or worried. For instance, a patient may not understand how to follow a care routine. A considerate dental assistant utilises their patience and explains the routine calmly to the patient.

11. Ability to follow instructions

There are several safety measures, protocols and procedures that a dental assistant may require following accurately. To do so effectively, they require the ability to comprehend complex instructions and implement them. By following strict instructions, they can keep the office clean and ready for patient visits or treatments. These abilities also help them follow the instructions of a dentist during dental procedures, like preparing trays and giving them tools.

12. Positive attitude

Assisting dentists and patients may sometimes be a stressful job, but keeping a positive attitude helps dental assistants remain motivated. They use their positive attitude to focus on assisting patients and helping them improve their health and lifestyle. This approach allows them to make a patient's dental health care experience a positive one. Positivity also helps them to manage their stress well and to motivate their colleagues to complete their tasks and maintain concentration levels. These professionals are self-aware, which allows them to analyse their emotional responses and stay positive.

Related: What Is Self Motivation? And How To Use It To Meet Your Goals

Tips For Improving Your Dental Assistant Skills

Below is a list of tips you may review to improve your dental assistant skills:

  • Set goals. When you set short-term and long-term goals, you enhance your learning process by accomplishing tasks that can help you achieve those goals. Setting goals that challenge your skills is a great way to find learning opportunities and work on areas of improvement.

  • Speak to your colleagues. Professional development increases when you speak with your colleagues and receive their opinions on your style of working. This exercise creates an opportunity for you to discuss novel ideas and find insights into your learning procedures.

  • Attend conferences and events. At conferences and events, you can meet several professionals who may share their experiences and findings with you. This allows you to understand different perspectives and approach problems in inventive and efficient ways.

  • Pursue courses. Advance your knowledge by pursuing dental assistant programmes, as these courses may help you gain skills which can make you more versatile and enhance your employability. Determine areas you think require improvements and find a course that covers them.

  • Find a mentor. Finding a mentor may help ensure that you learn from an experienced professional and get crucial insights into the industry and related information. Their extensive work experience and knowledge may allow you to overcome complex challenges or perform administrative duties better.

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