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Health Care

Dental Assistant vs Medical Assistant: Which Career Path Is Best For You?

When it comes to choosing the right career path, there are so many things that one should consider. Given that you are going after something that you are passionate about, the job duties, salary, experience, and educational background are significant things to contemplate as well. Having a hard time choosing between dental assistant vs medical assistant? Let’s determine their differences so you can finally start your life as a healthcare worker.


An Overview

A dental assistant and a medical assistant are both healthcare professionals that provide the utmost assistance for patience. While they are practically the same in many aspects, they still differ in fields, job duties, assistant training experiences, salary, and requirements.

In general, medical assistants are the subordinates of doctors and physicians in hospitals and medical settings. On the other hand, dental assistants are expected to be of assistance to dentists during dental operations and perform administrative duties. They are typically responsible for preparing the tools, equipment, and treatment area that will be used by dentists.


Life Of A Dental Assistant

team of dental professionalsWhen it comes to dental treatments, dentists need the help of someone in order to provide the highest quality of care given to patients. Aside from assisting them directly in performing dental treatments, surgeries, and procedures, a dental assistant is also tasked to do administrative works.

They are specifically responsible for disinfecting and sterilizing used tools and equipment. The overall cleanliness and tidiness of the entire dental office are also in their hands.


Specific duties of a dental assistant
  • assisting the dentist side by side
  • exposing dental radiographs
  • instructing patients on oral hygiene
  • providing dietary information related to oral health
  • coronal polishing
  • application and removal of a dental dam
  • take notes of the preliminary examination
  • application of treatment liner
  • removal and application of wedge and matrix
  • fluoride placement
  • sealing pit and fissure
  • disinfecting materials
  • application of anesthetics
  • performing tooth whitening procedures

Moreover, a dental assistant is also tasked to do the job duties like:

  1. preparing treatment rooms or facility
  2. greet and prepare patients for their procedure
  3. fill in medical records of the patient
  4. provides the necessary tools and equipment needed for specific procedures
  5. share diagnostic information according to X-ray results
  6. maintain and regularly checks the cleanliness of the facility adhering to the rules and regulations
  7. keeps inventory in order


Education and Training Requirements

It only requires a short period of time for an individual to pass as a dental assistant. Most of them attend proper assistant training programs with the help of the local community, vocational courses, and technical institutes.

After attending the program, they will receive a certificate stating that they have finished the course and are ready for accreditation. But that does not end there, to become a Certified Dental Assistant, they will need to pass an examination to evaluate how much they’ve learned during their training.

These requirements are needed to ensure that the healthcare workers are fully equipped and ready for the demanding world of dentistry.


Important Skills And Qualities

Having the right educational background, certification, and training are not the only thing that matters in being a dental assistant. Most dentists are looking for assistants with the following qualities:

  • Detail-oriented. This is particularly important as you will be in charge of the patient’s medical records, arrangement of the dental tools as well as the entire office.
  • Skillful. You will be performing minimal dental procedures like polishing and teeth whitening, so it’s imperative for you to have a pair of hands that can work with skills.
  • Friendly and approachable. As an assistant, you will be working closely not only with the dentist but with the patients as well. Sometimes, your job will even require you to calm nervous patients down.
  • Listening skills. Before the dentist meets the patient, you will be tasked to note down their concerns, symptoms, and everything that brings them to the clinic.
  • Organized. Dental clinics are meant to be neat and tidy, part of your job is to guarantee that everything is in place and organized.


Becoming A Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are often found in hospitals, clinics, and all kinds of healthcare facilities. Just like dental assistants, their job duties do not end in providing services to the patients and being the doctor’s wingman. They also go through extensive assistant training programs to get certified.

Specific duties of a medical assistant
  • answering patient concerns
  • greet and welcome patients
  • updating medical records of patients
  • file and organize different forms
  • schedule doctor’s appointments
  • manage hospital admissions
  • arranging laboratory services required by the doctor
  • billing and bookkeeping duties
  • answering phone calls
  • update medical software
  • taking and filing the medical records of patient
  • explaining aftercare procedures
  • preparing patients for laboratory tests and examinations
  • provide assistance to the physician
  • collection of specimens
  • educating patients about proper diet
  • providing medication instructions


Education And Training

Becoming a medical assistant is not an easy job. It requires multiple skills as well as patience and tolerance.

First and foremost, medical assistants are required to finish and get a high school diploma which is 4 years in total.

After that, they will need to attend and finish a medical assistant training program for about 2 years. They will learn a lot of things during the training which is essential once they work in the field. Some of the subjects that you will learn are:

  • medical terms used in hospitals and clinics
  • patient relations
  • key components in healthcare operations
  • medical communication basics
  • bookkeeping and organizational skills
  • systematic appointment scheduling
  • policies
  • rules and regulations
  • ethical requirements for medical assistant


Needed Skills and Qualities

Apart from your training, here are some of the specific qualities that most hospitals look for in a medical assistant:

  1. comminucating with co workersGreat communication skills. One of the most important jobs of medical assistants is interacting with patients and understanding their concerns. Without great communication skills, you will have a hard time relating the issues to the doctor.
  2. Clerical skills. Your job duties are not limited to assisting patients. In fact, you will be spending most of your time doing clerical responsibilities. This might include answering phone calls and typing documents.
  3. Knowledge about the field. Everything that you learned during your training will be put to test as your knowledge and proficiency in providing medical assistance will be of great use every single day.
  4. Safety and sanitation awareness. One of the main concerns of medical facilities is the safety not only of their patients but of workers as well. As a medical assistant, it is one of your obligations to maintain the cleanliness of your area and of the doctors you provide service to.
  5. Computer literate. We are now living in an era where technology basically takes over everything. Most patient files and records are kept in soft copies as part of keeping documents safe and secured. You will most likely update files on a computer and do typing jobs so it is important that you know how to operate a computer.
  6. Customer service skills. Let us admit it, not all patients and customers are very understanding of protocols and correct procedures. There are a lot of cases where they usually lash out with healthcare workers when they don’t get what they want. A medical assistant is required to have great customer service skills to prevent events like this from happening.


Whether you choose to be a dental assistant or a medical assistant, the most important thing to remember is that you are doing this because it is in your heart to help and serve people with medical needs.

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