If you want to be able to do as many things as possible as a dental assistant, you’ll have to level up! Working under a dentist’s supervision, a dental assistant performs various tasks before and after the dentist and client meet during appointments. They are responsible for assisting dentists during procedures, taking x-rays, sterilizing dental instruments, and educating patients on maintaining oral health. However, dental assistants’ list of responsibilities are divided between level I dental assistants and level II assistants.
While the idea of there being two levels of dental assistants may seem confusing at first, there are pretty straightforward differences between them in terms of what they can and can’t do. Here are some of the biggest factors distinguishing level I and level II dental assistants from each other.
The Duties and Capabilities of a Level I Dental Assistant
This is the kind of dental assistant that is occasionally referred to as a “chair side assistant” and they help prepare and seat patients. They are also responsible for a number of other duties, such as sterilizing instruments, monitoring inventory, maintaining and/or preparing other dental materials and cements (as well as ordering those materials), processing x-rays, making cast models (more specifically, pouring and trimming them), and charting clients’ information. Level I assistants can also be expected to notice signs of emergencies, and should know CPR and First Aid.
They are responsible for getting clients ready for procedures, as well as giving them instructions at the end of their visits. While these aren’t necessarily all of the responsibilities a level I assistant might have, it gives you a solid idea of what the field of dentistry entails for people in this particular role.
What a Level II Assistant Can Do That a Level I Assistant Cannot
As the title might imply, a level II assistant is able to perform all responsibilities held by a level I assistant and then some, which you can learn about in dental assistant school. They have distinct responsibilities that are all their own, such as mechanical coronal tooth polishing and whitening, applying pit and fissure sealants, placing and removing rubber dams, applying anticariogenic (meaning to prevent tooth decay) agents, and applying topical anesthetics. These are duties that level I assistants cannot perform.
They can also obtain impressions for study models, expose radiographs (x-rays), apply desensitizing agents to the coronal areas of clients’ teeth, and give dietary counseling to patients. In some cases, a level II intra-oral dental assistant can even perform tasks like oral irrigation and polishing tooth restorations. Level II assistants also tend to go through more specific training and schooling compared to level I assistants. While level I assistants might be a bit more focused on the social and clerical aspects of the job, level II assistants are more directly involved and hands-on with dental procedures.
Want to start your intra-oral dental assistant training?
Contact the Canadian Academy of Dental Health & Community Sciences to learn more!