One of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a dental assistant is seeing firsthand the positive impact that dental work can have on clients. Whether they’re fixing a smile or relieving the pain of a toothache, dental assistants go to work every day to help fix people’s problems and improve their oral health. To do this, they draw on the wealth of knowledge and experience they’ve gained from their dental assistant training, combining classroom theory with hands-on practice with real dental patients.
During your time as a dental assistant you can expect to encounter a broad range of issues, but some will be much more common than others. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a dental assistant, here are three problems you can expect to encounter fairly regularly during your work.
1. Cavities Are Very Common but Largely Preventable
Although they are largely preventable, cavities, also known as dental caries, are one of the most common dental conditions you’ll see in your dental assistant career.
Cavities are the result of tooth decay, which can itself be caused by a number of factors. One of the most common of these is plaque – a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth, which can then react with the sugar in foods to produce acids that weaken tooth enamel. As the enamel erodes, teeth are left unprotected, which allows for the formation of cavities.
When you become a dental assistant, you can help your clients avoid cavities by encouraging them to brush twice a day using a toothpaste containing fluoride, avoid sugary food and drinks, and maintain a regular schedule of cleanings and check-ups.
2. Help Catch Gum Disease Early When You Become a Dental Assistant
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can often develop slowly and without causing pain. If left untreated for too long, it can cause tooth loss, but if caught early, it can be treated. For these reasons, you should always be on the lookout for gum disease in your dental assistant career.
Like cavities, gum disease most often begins with plaque. When plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar, which cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. The formation of tartar can then lead to an infection (gingivitis) where the gums attach to the teeth. Over time, this infection can worsen, leading to attachment loss, which is when the gum tissue holding teeth in place begins to break down.
When it comes to treatment for gum disease, the key is catching it early, removing the tartar and plaque, and maintaining a healthy dental hygiene regimen.
3. There Are Many Possible Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
When the enamel on teeth is worn away, it can expose what’s called dentin – a porous tissue in your teeth, which has microscopic channels connecting to nerves. When dentin is exposed, teeth can become highly sensitive, with hot or cold food or drink, or sometimes sweet or spicy foods, causing pain and discomfort.
A variety of factors can contribute to tooth sensitivity. Overzealous brushing, for example, can wear enamel away, exposing the dentin beneath. Tooth grinding can do the same. In other cases, sensitivity can be a result of gum disease exposing the sensitive roots of teeth.
Some tips you can give to clients after dental assistant college to help them avoid tooth sensitivity include using a soft-brushed toothbrush, using toothpaste meant for sensitive teeth, brushing regularly and being sure to clean between teeth and along the gum line, as well as avoiding acidic food and drinks.
Are you ready to begin a new career as a dental assistant?
Contact Discovery Community College to learn more about our dental assistant training program.