By Laura Thill
Dental assistants? More like dental leaders.
Dental technology has seen its share of change during the past two decades, and dental professionals have worked hard to stay current. Dental assistants are no exception. Long gone are the days of mask less, glove less staff members standing by to take orders. Today’s assistants diligently adhere to the latest OSHA guidelines, and often oversee the rest of the dental team to ensure it does the same. They have become tech savvy, relying on computers for scheduling and patient charts. And, they have pursued continuing education credits to advance their knowledge and credentials as they assume more office responsibility.
Dental assistants today continue to support their dentist. But the term assistant falls short of describing the full extent of the support they offer, not only to the dentist but to the entire team.
“Ten years ago, there weren’t digital scanners,” says Nina Diasio, a dental assistant coach and OSHA/HIPAA compliance officer at Chicago-based Acierno Family Dentistry, a DecisionOne Dental Partners supported practice. “Doctors weren’t doing as much Invisalign or placing implants. Today, it’s vital for dental assistants to be able to take a great digital impression. As the doctors grow in their profession, we have to move right along with them.” Dental assistants who are not willing to learn new techniques and adapt to new technology won’t go far in their profession, she adds.
That said, there are numerous growth opportunities for today’s dental assistants. In addition to working as a dental assistant for 18 years, Diasio has assumed the role of dental assistant coach and OSHA representative for DecisionOne Dental Partners. As such, she helps train and onboard all new assistants, as well as ensure the DSO’s practices are OSHA compliant.
Tim Whitaker, DMD, Marquee Dental Partners, agrees that dental assistants today require a much broader base of knowledge than in the past. “Dental assistants today work with much more technically advanced equipment, which assistants could not even imagine 10 years ago,” he says. In addition, they need a clear understanding of drugs used for local anesthesia and sedation, computer skills and sterilization protocols,” he adds. “As a result, they must be more highly educated and involved than ever before.”
One might ask: Considering how much the dental assistant’s role has evolved, is it time for a title change as well?