Dental Environment – A broad range of career opportunities is available for the dental assistant, dental hygienist, dental technician and other auxiliary staff in modem day dentistry. They become an integral part of the dental team in a variety of settings. Broadly, in addition to the opportunities in the Hospitals, we can divide the modern dental offices or dental environment in the following categories, in which the various dental auxiliaries can become a team member.
There can be two types of general dental offices or dental environment: a private office and a group practice.
Private office. This type of office or dental environment usually consists of one general dentist with an auxiliary staff (members of the dental team). In such a setting the dental assistant is responsible for providing assistance to the dentist in preventive and restorative dental procedures.
Group practice. A group practice dental environment is formed when one or more partners make up the dental office. Often, the partners will also include one or more associates in the practice. The dental assistant, dental hygienist or dental technician working in this setting have to attuned to the different working practices of each dentist. It is their function to fit into the dentist’s mode of work in order to provide the necessary assistance. Each dentist will have his or her own techniques when working and the dental auxiliaries must be aware of these in order to perform their duties effectively. It is important to remember that the ultimate goal is to provide the best possible care to the patient and the dental auxiliaries plays a major role in attaining this goal.
ENDODONTIC OFFICE dental environment
A dentist in an endodontic office or dental environment is a specialist who deals primarily with teeth that develop a type of infection. The major procedures performed in this office are root canals and their related functions. The role of the dental assistant in this office is unique. The assistant not only provides assistance to the dentist, but also must possess good patient management skills. A majority of the patients entering the endodontic office are experiencing some form of dental discomfort. In addition, they may be anxious because their problem requires the expertise of a specialist. It is the expectation of the dentist that the assistant will be able to provide some assurance to the patient upon entering the operatory (sometimes called the treatment room).
PEDIATRIC (PEDODONTIC) DENTAL OFFICE or dental environment
The dental assistant working in a pediatric (sometimes called pedodontic) dental office or dental environment will assist with the treatment of children aged 2—13, although older teenagers and young adults may also be seen. The assistant in this setting works with a unique patient group. It is necessary for the assistant to be able to feel comfortable in this office as the young patient often requires a different style of management. To operate in a pediatric dental office the assistant must be prepared to handle a child who may be frightened, crying, or difficult to manage. The young patient may not be cooperative about the procedure to be done and it is at this time that the assistant must refer to his or her management skills to effectively assist the dentist.
PERIODONTIC OFFICE dental environment
The periodontist is a specialist who is concerned with the supporting tissues of the teeth. This involves treatment of the gums, the palate, and all oral mucosa and soft tissues. The patient referred to the periodontic office or dental environment would require preventive dental work as well as some surgical procedures. The dental assistant must be aware of periodontal gum disease and its treatments in order to provide effective aid to the dentist.
PROSTHODONTIC OFFICE dental environment
The patient who requires the prosthetic replacement of missing teeth would be referred to a prosthodontist. The specialist in this office or dental environment would treat the patient with an array of prosthetic devices including a removable full or partial denture, crowns, bridges, or dental implants. This can be a unique and interesting office in which the dental assistant is a very important part of the dental team. Once again, the assistant must be aware of the special needs of the patients in order to effectively aid the dentist.
ORTHODONTIC OFFICE dental environment
The specialist in the orthodontic office or dental environment is concerned with the correction of malocclusion, which calls for the straightening of teeth for cosmetic and functional purposes. The patient group in this type of office was, at one time, mainly made up of adolescents. However, in recent times, more and more adults are seeking the assistance of the orthodontist for both cosmetic and functional treatment. Therefore, the dental assistant in this office must be prepared to work with both young and adult patients and assist in meeting the needs of each.
ORAL SURGERY OFFICE dental environment
The dental assistant working in an oral surgeon’s office or dental environment would assist the dentist in the treatment of oral pathology. The oral surgeon is concerned with a wide range of dental procedures including extractions, the reduction of fractures, the diagnosis of tumors, and other oral pathologies. While it can be a more intense setting for the dental assistant, it is nonetheless interesting and the assistant’s role is vital.
OTHER OFFICE LOCATIONS
Hospital Setting or dental environment – A dentist may treat a patient who is currently receiving care in a hospital. This may appear to be an unusual setting for a dentist to see a patient. However, this type of visit can be critical for a patient as he or she is usually in need of emergency treatment. If a hospital patient is experiencing some oral infection or acute trauma, it can interfere with the medical treatment being received. While the hospital setting is unique, it can also provide a very challenging career opportunity for the dentist and dental assistants.
Rural Health Setting or dental environment- Rural health clinics are generally operated by some government agency. Dental care, in such a setting, consists of two facets—preventive dentistry and clinical care. The role of the dental assistant in such a clinic is mainly to provide chairside aid (help to the dentist during procedures). However, another responsibility of the assistant is to provide education to patients in regard to the promotion of good oral hygiene and the practice of preventive dentistry.