Certified dental assistant

Dipl. Dental assistant

Areas of responsibility of a dental assistant

As the person who works most closely with the dentist, the dental assistant takes care of essential tasks for patients’ dental care. They contribute to successful treatment with a great deal of autonomy within their scope of functional practice, providing a foundation for smooth operational processes.

Depending on the workplace, dental assistants may face additional challenges: irregular working hours, changing work rhythms, unforeseen emergencies, and other unpredictable events can result in overtime hours. Daily work at the practice presents dental assistants with a wide range of tasks:

1. Patient care

1.  Reception and greeting of patients upon entering the practice

2.  Setup of waiting room and registration area

3.  Calling and accompanying patients to the consultation room

4.  Conversation and sympathy during treatment

5.  Discharge of patients

2. Assistance at the treatment chair

1.  Preparation of instruments and materials as well as patient history prior to treatment

2.  Preparation of filling and impression materials during treatment, under instruction of the dentist

3. Preparing X-ray images

Preparation and development of X-ray images under instruction of the dentist

4. Hygienic measures

1.  Cleaning and care of equipment and apparatuses

2.  Disinfection and sterilization of instruments

3.  Environmentally sound disposal of waste

5. Administrative tasks

1.  Telephone duties, patient arrangements, and contact

2.  Maintenance of the appointment book and patient files, proper archiving

3.  Generating patient bills, booking incoming payments

4.  Management of material inventories, ordering materials

Requirements for dental assistants

The dental assistant should like to work with people, be open and friendly, and respect different personalities. Teamwork skills are very important here. A calm demeanor, courtesy, and situationally correct expression are indispensible in close contact with customers and colleagues.

Empathetic dental personnel can calm patients who are afraid of the dentist and make their treatment easier. Because dental assistants need to stand most of the time at work, which can put strain on the back, robust health is advantageous. They must not be excessively sensitive to chemicals. Handling of molding materials and fine instruments requires both precise technique and skilled hands.

A high level of awareness of the importance of compliance with hygiene rules is a prerequisite for sterile or low-pathogen work as a dental assistant. This area also includes personal appearance – appropriate clothing and healthy teeth should go without saying for a dental assistant. A good general education, ability to learn quickly, and interest in other topics related to health and dentistry are all helpful as well.

A dental assistant who enjoys commercial tasks has an advantage when it comes to billing and materials management. In order to be able to coordinate these varied tasks in a sensible and timely manner, dental assistants need other characteristics, such as organizational talent and reliability. Autonomous and correct fulfillment of all tasks makes the dental assistant an invaluable part of the team.

Education of a dental assistant

Anyone who has completed secondary school with good grades has the prerequisites for starting a career as a dental assistant and can apply for an apprenticeship. If the institution is accredited by the Canton, then basic career training can take place in a dental practice as well as a university or school dental clinic. A brief exploratory apprenticeship is always recommended, as this makes it clear in a timely manner whether the career and working atmosphere are amenable.

The three-year career training as a dental assistant is accredited by the state secretary for education, research, and innovation (SBFI). The federal agency for career training and technology (BBT) issues guidelines for career training; the supervising agency in the Canton of Zurich is the career education office of the Canton of Zurich. The Swiss Dental Association (SSO) is responsible for technical instructional content. In the Canton of Zurich, its section SSO Zurich is responsible for technical and theoretical instruction.

One day a week, the students attend the career training school in Zurich or Winterthur. After passing the final exam, the apprenticeship is concluded with a certificate of qualification as a “Dental Assistant EFZ”. (EFZ stands for “Eidgenössisches Fähigkeitszeugnis”, federal certificate of qualification.) Although the career is open to anyone in principal, and men can also complete training as a dental assistant, mostly women select this profession.

Career development options for dental assistants

No day is ever the same as the last, no patient is like any other: new experiences every day make working as a dental assistant interesting and educational. The career of a dental assistant has many aspects and so it is only logical that it offers interesting options for career development and specialization. Additional courses are offered by career training schools, dental schools, and healthcare schools, as well as professional associations and foundations. A dental assistant can be entitled to work as a school instructor for dental care (SZPI) in the future, for example.

Association certificates are available in the form of technical qualifications as a preventive care assistant or dental secretary. While the preventive care assistant is responsible for prevention and therapy of dental diseases, further education as a dental secretary enables administrative management of a dental practice. Dental assistants who wish to study further to become a certified dental hygienist HF can complete a three-year training program at one of the four Colleges for Professional Education and Training after completing their career apprenticeship and passing an aptitude test.