Practical Dental Assisting of Oregon -

Recent Posts

Dental Assistants are Important
Fears about Dental Radiation
Fluoride in Young Children- New Guidelines
Link Between Alzheimers Disease and Poor Dental Health
Benefits of Implants


Dental Health
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Dental Assistants are Important

Dental Assistants are very important to the dentist and a dental practice in general. As discussed in previous blog posts of ours assistants have many responsibilities including: instrument passing, x-ray taking, chart notes, suctioning, impressions, and many more. Without dental assistants the dentist would be greatly overwhelmed. Dental assistants tend to be the first point of clinical contact for patients, so being friendly, being able to clearly explain procedures, and ask the right questions is essential. It is important for dental assistants to build trust with patients. Some patients are feel more comfortable talking to a dental assistant rather than the dentist and will direct questions to the assistant when the dentist is not in the room. Every assistant should be prepared for questions and to reply with educational answers, without being condescending. 

How the assistant acts can determine if a patient will accept and move forward with treatment or not, therefore acting appropriately is essential. The ability to connect with your patient is important in them accepting the treatment plan proposed. This means using simple language, not overusing dental terminology the everyday patient won't understand, and reading the patient's nonverbal communication. Patient's tend to spend the most amount of time with dental assistants so these roles they play are essential.

For those out there reading this who are dental assistants, how do you connect with your patients? 

Fears about Dental Radiation

Recently it seems as though more and more people have been fearful over the amount of radiation exposure from dental x-rays. Dental offices do minimize the exposure of radiation to patients it is still best to get all the pertinent information. At Practical Dental Assisting of Oregon students must take a full mouth set of x-rays on a patient to send to DANB in order to get their radiology certification. The same precautions taken in dental offices are taken at Practical Dental Assisting of Oregon as well.
Recently in an article published by AEGIS Communications in Inside Dental Assisting magazine, AEGIS spoke to the fear of patients in regards to dental radiation. The article recognized that the average annual radiation exposure from natural sources in the U.S. is roughly 3.1 millisieverts, of which no negative health effects have been found from these levels. Radiation from medical and dental sources make up about 48% of the total radiation exposure per year. Also according to the American Dental Association dental x-rays account for about 2.5% of the total medical radiographs and fluoroscopies.
Furthermore with advances and changes in technology the amount of radiation from x-rays is continually decreasing. Currently intra oral radiographs use a quarter of 1% of the radiation that was necessary for these radiographs 90 years ago.
As a dental assistant and as a patient you should be cognizant of whether or not the office you work at or go to has good radiologic practices, some of these include:
  • use the fastest image receptor compatible with the diagnostic task
  • proper exposure and processing techniques
  • use of appropriate radiation shielding (lead apron, thyroid shields, etc.)
  • limit the number of images obtained to the minimum necessary to obtain diagnostic information
The moral of the story is that the average annual radiation exposure has not caused adverse health effects, but you should still be aware of the x-rays that are being taken to ensure they are not being taken in excess.
To read the full article from Inside Dental Assisting click here.

Fluoride in Young Children- New Guidelines

CBS News recently reported that the American Dental Association is saying that children should be given fluoride even younger than thought; as soon as their first teeth come in. In the past the American Dental Association has recommended fluoride toothpaste for kids age 2-6, but are now finding that more and more children have cavities before kindergarten, making it pertinent to start them with fluoride even younger. According to the American Dental Association more than 16 million U.S. children have tooth decay that goes untreated, making this issue ever more important. By not having fluoride children will be more susceptible to cavities and teeth wear. To read this full article by the CBS News click here. What do you think about giving children fluoride toothpaste as soon as their baby teeth erupt?

Link Between Alzheimers Disease and Poor Dental Health

          In a recent study conducted by the University of Central Lanchasire in the UK, researchers found that people who had poor hygiene or gum disease were at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer s disease, in comparison to those who had healthy teeth. This was evident in the presence of bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is commonly connected with periodontal disease, that appeared in brains of those with dementia.
         Generally the Porphyromonas gingivalis is found in oral cavities, but it can spread throughout the body through various daily activities, such as brushing your teeth or chewing, and is even more likely to enter the body through aggressive dental treatment. These various things can lead to the bacteria entering the brain. When that happens, researchers found that it can trigger an immune system response, which subsequently can cause a release of too many chemicals that can kill neurons in the brain.
        This study added to previous studies that linked Alzheimer's disease and poor general health. Studies done by places such as New York University and University of New Mexico previously found that gum disease and other viruses and diseases, such as HSV-1 can increase cognitive dysfunction risk, and thus Alzheimer's disease. To read the full article click here.
        The moral of the story? Have your teeth professionally cleaned and checked every 6 months and keep up good home care, flossing every day and brushing your teeth at least twice a day. By having a healthy mouth you will have lower risk of other health issues as well.

Benefits of Implants

A new report put out by the International Journal or Oral and Maxillofacial Implants reveals that dental implants can save costs compared to other traditional alternatives and that they improve the quality of life. The study looked at long-term costs, primarily comparing implants to bridges. It concluded that for single tooth replacement implants tended to be more cost-effective than traditional bridges. When compared with full dentures, implant based treatment yielded higher initital costs, but that in the long term implants can be cost-effective as well. Furthermore when looking at dentures versus implants, those who had implants tended more often to have improved oral health and decreased health care costs. This article appeared in Medical News Today, click here to read the full article.
Not sure what implants are or want to learn more about their benefits? Click here for more detailed information. Below are some quick facts we have put together to introduce dental implants to those who may be unfamiliar with them.
What is an implant?
An implant is a small post that is placed in the bone socket where a tooth was extracted or where a tooth is a missing. After an initial healing period to ensure that the implant integrates into the jaw a connector is added to the implant, called an abutment, where then a crown can be attached. (See photo below for a comparison of a natural tooth and an implant).
What are some of the benefits of an implant?
  • Implants look and feel like your real teeth
  • Implants help improve your overall oral health
  • Implants last much longer than other traditional alternatives, such as bridges
  • Implants have a success rate of up to 98%
Dental Implant
Dental Implant
Dental Implant compared to a natural tooth

Strategies for Finding a Job and Interviewing

Once you have successfully finished a dental assisting program how do you search for the right job and have a successful, stress free interview? The American Dental Assistant Association (ADAA) in a recent article gives some tips that can aid in this search. They reccommend a good place to start looking is online, such as places like or, because they are based on geographic locations. Some programs give assistance in searching for jobs, such as our program at Practical Dental Assisting of Oregon. Another great tool is if you are a member of the ADAA you can search for positions according to state. We would additionally recommend starting a profile on a professional site such as linkedin so other dental professionals can find you as well.
The ADAA additionally gives a few factors to consider when you are looking for a position that works well for you. The first is to consider if you are wanting a full time position, part time position, and if you want to work at one or more offices. Also if you are considering a full time position it might be important to figure out if the office provides benefits, as most part time jobs will not.
Dressing for an interview might not seem pertinent, but it definitely is in the dental field because it is conservative and appearances create a lasting first impression (whether it be good or bad). The ADAA recommends wearing business pants or a business skirt that is at or below the knee, darker colors, a simple professional blouse that's light in color and will match the pants or skirt, as well as having an appropriate neckline and sleeves. Shoes should match the dark pants or skirt and heels should be a low or mid heel, as well as keeping any jewlery that is worn simple. This will show that you're professional, put together, and serious about your career.
Now during the interview make sure to smile and make eye contact, ensuring the interviewee that you are paying attention and are interested in what is being discussed. Although you might be nervous, try not to fidget, and sit with uncrossed arms and legs to signal that you are open and focused. Be prepared for common interview questions and have an answer ready, as well as providing concrete examples of how you would add to the staff. It is also important to ask questions of the employer as well. While a formal, verbal interview is important you should also request a working interview. The most important thing in regards to an interview is to be prepared!
For additional tips and information about this subject or to read the full article, click here.

Helpful Facts for Dental Assistants to Know

For those of you who are currently dental assistants or looking to become dental assistants we have put together some interesting facts, things to know, etc. for you!
  • The 2010 median pay of a dental assistant was $33,470, with a median hourly wage of $16.09
  • In 2010 dental assisting jobs accounted for nearly 300,000 jobs
  • The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the job outlook for dental assistants from 2010-2020 is 31%, which is much faster than average
Some people also don't know the difference between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist. Dental assistants assist the dentist in primarily restorative procedures through help with things such as passing instruments, providing suction and water, sterilizing instruments, and taking x-rays. Comparitively a dental hygienist works with individual patients on their own to perform cleaning, scaling, and polishing of teeth, probing teeth and gums, and checking for any signs of disease. Also dental hygienists require more education. While the duties of dental hygienists are fairly straight forward the duties of dental assistants can vary depending on where you live, who you work for, and what type of dentist you work for. A great resource for some additional information about this is the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Here you can look up information for the state you live/work in. To go there click here.
With the many tasks that dental assistants have it is rare that the job is boring, in fact they are required to have what are called CE credits. These are "continuing education credits" which means you must take a certain amount of classes where you further your knowledge. This makes the job even more exciting and important. For a more detailed look at some things dental assistants should know including common requirements for dental assistants, click here.

Kids and Halloween

In a recent study by the American Dental Association, it was found that kids recognize that they eat too much candy on Halloween. The research showed that 94% of kids participate in Halloween, and 65% of those think Halloween is the best holidy of the year. It also reported that 2/3 of kids questioned agreed that they eat too much candy on and around Halloween. In order from most favorite to least favorite, kids said their top Halloween acitivites are trick or treating, dressing up in a costume, and getting lots of candy. This study also found that kids would still like Halloween if it was less about candy and more about other types of fun. To read more about this, click here.
Do you think that it would be possible to make Halloween more nutritous for kids? Also these studies indicate that kids are possibly being better educated about their teeth and health in relation to sugar, what do you think? We would love to hear your feedback, so feel free to share!

7 habits of effective dental assistants

There's a difference between a highly valued dental assistant in a office and one who bounces from practice to practice. By making these habits your own, you will raise your value at work and be well-versed outside the office as well. The American Dental Assistants Association gives 7 habits that effective dental assistants should practice.
1) Be proactive: This means taking responsibility for everything you do, at home and at work. Be confident in the choices you make and don't blame others for your choices or mistakes. Own everything you do.
2) Being with the end in mind: Have a vision for your career goals, why you are in the field you are in, what you want to accomplish, etc. You want to be the one to shape your own career path, not letting others do it for you.
3) Put first things first: Have the ability to say no because having a balanced life is very important. Decide what your time is most valuably spent on and stick to that.
4) Think win-win: Look for agreements and solutions rather than trying to win all the time. After all, the dentistry field is a team environment, therefore compromises and agreements must be made.
5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Communicating effectively with everyone in a practice, the doctor, patients, and co-workers, is essential. You must be willing to put the needs of others ahead of our own.
6) Synergize: cooperate with others to remedy something. Be open to others'  suggestions and solutions. Be open to different things and to change.
7) Sharpen the saw: We work more effectively when we are fresh and sharp. This means knowing how to treat ourselves to be at our best, whether it be physically, socially, spiritually, or a combination of these.

From Dental Assistant to Office Management

Often dental assistants move to management positions in their practice as their career moves along. While dental assisting is a great career many assistants have shown that they are taking on new management type roles in their offices. Also some assistants see management positions as the next step in their careers. And while this can be a great opportunity for assistants, it is important to continue your education.
With moving from a dental assistant position to management there can be a variety of new duties that you could be responsible for. These can include, but are not limited to: interpret financial reports, communicate pertinent information to all members of the practice effectively, handle accounts receivable and accounts payable, etc.
It is important to take continuing education courses to help develop such skills needed for a mangement position. These CE courses are important because not only will you learn the valuable skills needed, but you will also show your employer and patients that you are wanting to develop your skills and help improve the practice.
To read the full article about this from Dentistry IQ, click here.