Dental assistants are part of the dental delivery healthcare team under the direct, personal supervision of a dentist. They perform a variety of support functions as allowed and determined by being either an unlicensed dental assistant or a New York State certified/registered/licensed dental assistant.
It’s important to note the distinction between an unlicensed dental assistant and a New York State certified/registered/licensed dental assistant:
Unlicensed dental assistants may provide supportive services to a licensed dentist who is personally performing a service or procedure to a patient. The dentist must be physically present at the chairside and attending to the patient. An unlicensed dental assistant acts as an extra pair of hands for the dentist during procedures, performing tasks such as suctioning excess saliva, providing instruments, or holding a matrix strip or curing lamp while the dentist is practicing on the patient. This is often referred to as "four handed dentistry" and may only be performed while the dentist is physically attending to the patient with the dental assistant.
An unlicensed dental assistant may not perform any supportive service while the dentist is not physically present at the chairside and attending to the patient.
Unlicensed dental assistants may perform additional tasks such as:
- preparing the patient for treatment by seating patients, obtaining records and applying protective garb;
- preparing instruments, materials and medicaments to be used;
- taking dental x-rays in accordance with section 3515(4)(c) of the Public Health Law and section 89.45 of the Administrative Rules and Regulations for Public Health;
- decontaminating, scrubbing, packaging and sterilizing all instruments;
- performing solely mechanical work upon inert matter in a dental office, e.g. trimming or mounting impressions taken by the dentist.
New York State certified/registered/licensed dental assistants may perform a variety of support functions including those listed above. Based on their scope of practice, licensed dental assistants are also allowed to:
- provide patient education;
- take preliminary medical histories and vital signs for review by a dentist;
- place and remove rubber dams, matrix bands, ligature ties and temporary separating devices;
- remove orthodontic arch wires, periodontal dressings, and temporary cement (not including temporary fillings);
- select and pre-fit temporary crowns and orthodontic bands;
- take impressions for study casts, diagnostic casts, space maintainers, orthodontic appliances, and occlusal guards (guards that prevent grinding of the teeth);
- remove stitches placed by a dentist; and
- apply topical cavity-preventing and desensitizing agents to the teeth.
Only individuals who have met all the requirements for certification and have been issued a license to practice as a New York State licensed certified dental assistant may use the title "Certified Dental Assistant". (see Licensure Requirements and Procedure section)
Dental Assisting Program of Study
Dental assisting programs of study deliver a curriculum which provides students with knowledge and skills related to the field of dental health. Program components may include clerical and administrative tasks, maintaining computerized dental records, medical terminology, patient communication, infection control and sterilization techniques, preparation of restorative and impression materials, dental radiography, and CPR. The didactic learning combined with supervised clinical experience (see below) comprises a program of study.
Dental assisting programs of study which are not approved/registered (Inventory of Registered Programs) through the New York State Office of Professions, are considered dental chairside programs and prepare students only for unlicensed dental assisting careers.
Health sciences education prepares secondary and adult students for employment in the health care industry and for postsecondary education. The three integral components of all health sciences programs of study are a health science education core curriculum, content specific curriculum, and supervised clinical experience.
Health Sciences Core Curriculum
A health sciences education core curriculum serves as the foundation to prepare students for individual health sciences careers and must include Health Science Learning Standards.
The National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE) Health Science Standards are acceptable learning standards on which to develop the Health Sciences Core as part of a Health Sciences program of study.
Supervised Clinical Experience
- Affiliation agreement(s) must be established (a written contract with partnering healthcare facilities).
- Students may enter a clinical setting only after receiving prior program instruction, demonstrating related skill and knowledge, all under supervision by the school’s program instructor.
- 108 hours (1 unit) of clinical experience must be conducted in a work setting as defined by the program of study.
- Scopes of practice under various state licensures must be considered when developing hands on activities in implementation of health sciences programs.