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Dental Assistant  

A computer displays shows dental images of a patient


Dental assisting is both a challenging and a rewarding profession. Dental assistants are people who like helping others, enjoy working closely with patients and other members of the dental team, and like working with their hands. In fact, assistants frequently are relied on as the dentist’s “other set of hands.” 

There is no lack of variety in the types of tasks that dental assistants perform. They prepare equipment, materials, and instruments for patient care; perform sterilization and disinfection procedures; provide patients with instructions for dental procedures; create temporary crowns; provide coronal polishing and placement of sealants; take impressions of teeth; create study casts (molds); take and review patient medical histories; expose and develop radiographs; and perform a variety of other duties. They may also be responsible for administrative tasks, such as billing, patient verification, scheduling of various types of treatment appointments, and material inventory.

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Assistants may work in a general-practice office where a dentist provides multiple types of treatment, including restorative/operative work (fillings), prosthetics (crowns, bridges, and dentures), and perhaps some surgery. They may want to specialize for work in periodontics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, pedodontics, or orthodontics.

In the state of New Mexico, dental assistants can become certified to perform the following expanded duties: radiology (taking x-rays), coronal polishing (polishing of teeth and removal of stains), fluoride treatments (the act of placing fluoride on a patient’s teeth), and sealant placement (used to prevent decay). These certifications are obtained through the State Dental Board and are a portion of the Dental Assisting National Board Certification Exam.

The Dental Assistant program at DACC is nationally accredited by the American Dental Association, Commission on Dental Program Accreditation. It is also recognized by the New Mexico State Board of Dentistry as a continuing-education provider.

What Dental Assistants Do

The Dental Assisting and Dental Hygiene Programs will share the educational facilities and faculty will be working to develop a variety of opportunities for students and faculty in both Programs to work and learn together.  It will be important for everyone to develop an understanding of both professions and learn about their potential contributions to the overall practice of dentistry.

The goal is to develop a true sense of teamwork, based on mutual respect for the unique and common characteristics of each profession and the special attributes of every individual involved. This will help students transition to clinical practice where the importance of each profession and each professional can be truly appreciated.

It is expected that students and faculty will develop a collegial and supportive environment for learning and working. Effective communication and teamwork are essential, especially in the early stages of this transition. One factor that will help the community recognize the importance of both professions will be to always refer to the DACC clinical facility as “the Dental Clinic” – not “the Dental Hygiene Clinic” or “the Dental Assisting Clinic”.

Faculty will work to develop opportunities outside of the professional educational curricula where students from both programs can participate. For example, students could work together at health fairs, community service projects or in fund raising activities which could be used to support professional development. If you have ideas about how to help bond the two programs please contribute your suggestions.

The DAS program combines classroom learning with hands-on practical learning. Students will learn in our campus dental clinic as well as with our contracted dental offices off-campus. All students challenge the Dental Assisting National Board Radiation Health and Safety exam during the first semester in order to begin their radiology certification process for the New Mexico Board of Dental Health Care.

The yearly employment average for graduates from the program is 98%.

Dental Assisting students have the potential to be exposed to Blood-Borne Pathogens, such as Hepatitis B, AIDS/HIV and other potentially infectious diseases. More information can be obtained in the Dental Assisting Program application and student handbook.



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