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One profession, many hats: dental assisting is a far more expansive profession than one might think.

Back in the day, dental assistants wore a cap or a hat, but at present, dental assistants wear many hats.

The public largely thinks of our profession in the clinical sense. They perceive the dental assistant as a team member dealing with the patient in a hands-on capacity with or without the dentist present. It's a proper perception, but one that is extremely limited as compared to the whole, true picture.

Let's talk about the clinical assistant for a moment. He or she may work in a state where the dental practice act restricts the assistant's clinical role to one of cleaning the area and handling instruments. Or perhaps the state is at the opposite end of this spectrum and the assistant is performing expanded functions, including scaling and placing sealants, and truly functions as an extension of the dentist's skills. This is particularly true in military venues where the assistant must fill an ever-growing need.

In the same office but down the hall from the operatory, the administrative dental assistant is dealing with scheduling, billing, collections, purchasing, insurance coding, personnel concerns, OSHA compliance bulletins and virtually every aspect of the non-clinical practice concerns in order to free the clinical staff for their hands-on responsibilities.

Then there's the dental assistant who has moved out of the practice and is on the receiving end of the coding and filing that the administrative assistant is handling. This is the person who is now working in the insurance field and lending his or her knowledge to the complex procedure of getting the bills paid after the work is done.

And there's more. So many of the sales reps and service representatives of manufacturers and distributors started in the treatment room and the practice business office, and now bring their knowledge of dentistry to bear in their work of helping the dental office in making appropriate purchases and keeping the equipment running.

And last, but certainly not least, are the educators, those men and women who have taken their expertise back to school to share it with our future--the dental assisting students attending classes today. These professionals teach and administer, they develop programs, tests and textbooks, engage in grant writing, and create and maintain budgets, all while keeping their own skills current through clinical visits, continuing education and independent study.

There's no end to what dental assistants do today and which hats they wear. We have assistants volunteering in Africa, South America and other emerging nations as well as right here at home wherever there is a need. We have military dental assistants jumping out of airplanes to practice their professions in dangerous areas as well as in field hospitals and home-based facilities. We have dental assistants working in the correctional system at the state and federal level in clinical, administrative and managerial capacities, and in private and public hospitals throughout the world.

Look around your own corner of the world and be

(President's Message continued on page 48)

Stephen E. Spadaro

ADAA President, 2008-2009

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Title Annotation:President's Letter
Author:Spadaro, Stephen E.
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Previous Article:Editor's desk.
Next Article:General treatment considerations for the patient with special needs: how to create an individualized approach in Special Care Dentistry.

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