Five Secrets To Becoming The Ultimate Dental Assistant

  1. High-speed evacuator placement: The high-speed evacuator is a critical component in a dental assistant’s arsenal of tools. Aside from being used to evacuate saliva and dental debris generated from restorative procedures, the high suction can be used for lip, cheek and tongue isolation. During the isolation process, it is critical to be gentle with the patient’s mouth. Angulation of the evacuator should be parallel with the patient’s lips or gums as to not poke oral tissue and cause discomfort.

Pro tip: Resting the evacuator straw against the lips and then slightly pulling out while retraction will prevent the lips from getting pinched.


  1. Efficient tool transfer: Dentists are typically infatuated with workflow efficiency. Having the ability to proficiently transfer instruments hand-to-hand during the procedure will not only speed up individual patient visits, but relieve unconscious stress from the dentist. Removing the distraction of the dentist reaching and searching for the next tool eliminates an unnecessary stall in the work process. Passing tools with your thumb and index finger and receiving the previously used tool between your middle and index finger keeps one hand free for suctioning. Creating a habitual rhythm with your dentist will reduce stress and panic while increasing daily productivity.

Pro tip: Avoid passing instruments over a patient’s face, it will minimize risk of accidents.


  1. Proper pre-op material setup: The layout of a dental assistant’s tray has proved to be a huge efficiency boost for tool ease-of-access. Traditionally the dental assistant dictates the speed of a procedure, and it all starts with the pre-op setup. My favorite method is to order instruments/materials from right-left, in the order that they will be needed. The smooth transition from one step to another is what is key to becoming the ultimate dental assistant.

Pro tip: Having pre-cut pieces of floss for checking contacts or a prepared Tofflemire Band will save an incredible amount of time and headache.


  1. Digital X-ray FMX-20 workflow: The new patient X-ray process seems to be a bottleneck during the initial consultation visit. Learn how to move through the x-rays faster, and you will be learning how to make your life easier. Whether your office uses Eaglesoft or another dental software, starting with the anterior teeth seems to be the most efficient because of its variability involving the patient’s palate. The palate makes the anterior x-ray shots the most difficult and thus should be tackled first. Moving onto the posterior x-rays, followed by bitewings should not take more than 20 minutes from beginning to end.

Pro tip: Verbalize your actions to keep the patient informed, this will psychologically motivate the patient to be more compliant and relaxed.


  1. PREDICT THE FUTURE: In my perspective, this tip is the most important facet of being a beast at dental assisting. Dentist’s all have their unique hand movements, eye movements, nods and gestures for signaling a specific thought. Picking up on these subtle cues for moving to the next procedural step will streamline the workflow and keep you one step ahead of the dentist. I love the feeling of being askied for a tool, only to look up and realize the tool is in my hand just inches away from his work site. Keeping a close eye on your patient’s eye movements and noise will allow you to sense pain or discomfort even before they verbalized, once again helping you save essential time.

Pro tip: Staying mentally vigilant and aware by trying to predict the dentist’s next movements will keep you be proactive, not reactive.


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