Chronicle 19 : Certified Help ?
I had just started working in a new dental office and I was greeted by a dozen new faces. All the staff was very cordial and greetings exchanged very pleasant. I was assigned two assistants for the day and I had to see a lot of patients that day. I was about to start working in a super busy office and I curious and skeptical how this day was going to turn out to be. I was assigned two assistants – one who had been to the Dental Assistant program and the other who had not.
A certified assistant concept was pretty new to me as a dentist from India. We had assistants back home but they pretty much were modified versions of chai walas. In the little practice I had back home, I had noticed that the dental assistants that I worked with were not educated young people and most not wanting a career in dentistry. Most of them were there because of reasons other than that.
Being in a new world and looking at a different dentistry world, it did surprise me when the assistant said she had been to dental assistant school. She did that program to get into the dental program to be a dentist. This work experience on her resume would give her a leverage to get into the dental program.
I started working and I was seeing way too many patients that day. I saw that the assistant pretty much had a huge role to play. The dental assistant who was new and did not go to a program was bringing in patients and needed to be told at every step what I needed her to do. She seemed to be slowing me down rather than helping me out. She had to be explained what a prophy was and what instruments were needed. She almost picked up a dropped instrument and put it back in the sterilized pack.
On the other hand the trained assistant seemed to understand things better. She knew the instruments and could do a prophy as she was certified. She could also do simple procedures like doing temporary restorations, doing sealants and fluoride application. In the US, certain states allow dental assistants to do amalgam restorations and composite too. These reduce the stress and the burden on a doctor and can help run an office smoother and efficiently.
Many countries have such programs and introducing them in others who don’t have will ease the system and encourage a healthy practice. Well some may say that there are way too many dentists in the country that we dont need any assistant programs. But one has to realize that the roles are clearly defined. A dentist cannot indefinitely be the dental assistant. This is my observation that having some education with the assistant than none is better for the safety and better treatment of a patient.
Dr Meenakshi Umapathy is a General Dentist who graduated from India. She moved to the USA and completed her DDS from New York University College of Dentistry. She is currently practicing General Dentistry for Kids in Indiana. She shares her stories about dentistry in India and the US through her narratives at the DentistryUnited every Saturday
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