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Dental Assistants


The dentist's job has always required more than two hands. Drilling, pulling, cleaning, and operating on teeth requires one pair of hands to operate the instruments and another pair to hand the instruments to the dentist and to hold the patient's mouth open and keep it dry and clean. Since the 1800s dentists have had assistants to help them when they could not physically perform a dental operation or examination alone.

The job of the dental assistant as we know it developed in the 20th century. Techniques in dentistry and tooth care have undergone a revolution in the past 100 years, as discoveries in chemistry and the biomedical sciences led to the development of dental radiography and improved dental instruments, materials, and treatment techniques. In addition, the discovery that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay created more work for dentists because fluoride treatments enabled many more people to keep their teeth throughout their lives. In recent decades, with greater public awareness of the importance of dental care, more and more companies began providing dental insurance to employees.

These developments in the field of dental care resulted in a greater workload for dentists. As they took in more patients and performed more kinds of dental services, they had less time to perform routine tasks such as updating patients' files, instructing them on techniques of oral hygiene, and keeping the treatment area sterile. With some training, other workers learned to take on these duties, and the dental assistant became indispensable to the modern, busy dental office.

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