Pediatric dentistry focuses on babies, children and teenagers. These clients have unique dental needs because their mouths are still developing, and they also are prone to different dental issues than adults are. Youngsters also generally benefit from a different psychological approach. The primary duty of a pediatric dental assistant is assisting with dental procedures. There also might be some clerical and reception duties.
A pediatric dental assistant cleans and sterilize instruments, and sets them out in the examination and treatment rooms. During procedures, she suctions saliva from the patient's mouth and hands instruments to the dentist. She assists with fluoride treatments and dental sealant applications, and places and removes rubber dams around teeth to isolate them for dental fillings and other procedures. Like all people working in dentistry, the pediatric dental assistant needs excellent manual dexterity, and especially so because she works with smaller instruments that fit into the mouths of babies and children.
Pediatric dental assistants often teach proper oral hygiene to young patients and their families. They show children how to brush properly and how to floss. Pediatric dental assistants talk with parents about the importance of caring for baby teeth as well as adult teeth, and how to manage the difficulties of cleaning small teeth in little mouths. They emphasize the importance of regular brushing, because children love eating sugary and starchy foods, and they tend to get cavities if they do not brush and floss regularly.
While some dental assistants work chairside throughout the workday, others also have administrative duties. Dental assistants may greet clients at the front desk, take patient histories and obtain insurance information. They bring each child to the exam or treatment room and get him settled into the chair, applying protective garb over his clothing. Administrative tasks also include taking payments, answering the telephone, scheduling appointments and answering questions. Additionally, dental assistants keep track of inventory and order supplies.
Pediatric dental assistants must like children and enjoy working with them. An outgoing personality is a plus. They need to be patient and understanding with children who are afraid. Additionally, some dental issues are more common in pediatric clients than in adults, such as cavities. Children also are more prone to mouth and teeth injuries related to sports, bicycle accidents or falls from playground equipment. Pediatric dental assistants must do the technical assisting in these procedures, and also help calm the patient and deal with families that may be upset.
Education and Training
In some states, dental assistants must be certified, registered or licensed, which requires passing a written exam, and sometimes a practical one as well. In states that do not have this requirement, some employers prefer dental assistants to have certification, which can be obtained by passing a written exam after completing an accredited dental assistant program at a vocational school or community college. However, many pediatric dental assistants are trained on the job. They usually are required to have a high school diploma or equivalency.
Median hourly pay as of 2009 for a certified or registered dental assistant working at a pediatric practice is $15.26 per hour, according to the payscale.com salary survey website. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows average hourly pay for all dental assistants in 2008 at about $16 per hour.
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