How to Be Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT) - Job Description, Skills, and Interview Questions

The role of a Dental Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT) is increasingly important to the success of a dental practice. The CAT's primary responsibility is to assist the dentist by providing the necessary supplies and instruments needed during the dental procedure. By doing so, the CAT helps to optimize the efficiency of the dental practice, allowing the dentist to focus on providing quality care to the patient.

In addition, the CAT also plays an important role in patient education, helping to ensure that the patient understands their dental needs and treatment options. Furthermore, the CAT is often responsible for sterilizing dental instruments and maintaining a clean and organized workspace, both of which help to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and infection. All of these responsibilities require strong organizational and communication skills, as well as a keen eye for details.

As a result, having a knowledgeable and experienced CAT is essential for any successful dental practice.

Steps How to Become

  1. Obtain a High School Diploma or GED. Most employers require that chairside dental assistants have at least a high school diploma or GED.
  2. Obtain On-the-Job Training. Many dental offices offer on-the-job training for chairside assistants, which typically lasts four to six weeks. During this time, the individual will learn about the basics of dental assisting, such as how to properly use dental instruments, sterilize equipment, and take patient X-rays.
  3. Complete a Dental Assisting Program. This is an optional step, but one that may give the individual an edge over other candidates. Most dental assisting programs take between nine months and two years to complete and may include courses in anatomy, physiology, and radiology.
  4. Pass the Dental Assisting National Board Exam. The Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) administers an exam that chairside dental assistants must pass before they can legally practice. It covers topics such as infection control, chairside procedures, and radiographic techniques.
  5. Obtain State Licensure. Some states require chairside dental assistants to obtain licensure in order to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state and may include passing the DANB exam and completing a certain number of continuing education hours.
  6. Maintain Certification. Chairside assistants must maintain their certification by completing at least 25 hours of continuing education every two years.

In order to stay ahead and remain qualified as a Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT), it is important to stay up-to-date on the latest practices and technologies in the dental field. This can be achieved by taking continuing education courses, attending seminars and conferences, and reading industry related materials. Keeping up with the latest advancements in dental equipment and technology can help CATs stay ahead of the curve, providing better patient care and improving the overall quality and efficiency of their work.

having peer support and mentorship can be beneficial to developing and honing skills in the dental field. CATs that have access to these resources will have a greater chance of staying ahead and remaining qualified as a CAT.

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Job Description

  1. Provide chairside assistance to dentists during dental procedures.
  2. Prepare, sterilize, and organize dental instruments and materials.
  3. Prepare patient for dental procedures, including taking and recording vital signs, medical history, and dental charting.
  4. Perform routine dental procedures such as polishing teeth, taking impressions, and exposing x-rays.
  5. Instruct patients on proper oral hygiene techniques and preventive dentistry.
  6. Educate patients on the importance of early detection and treatment of dental problems.
  7. Assist with laboratory work such as making prosthetic appliances, crowns, bridges, and dentures.
  8. Monitor patient comfort levels and provide necessary adjustments during dental procedures.
  9. Take patient x-rays and develop films using specialized equipment.
  10. Maintain patient records, including digital images and radiographs.
  11. Educate patients about their insurance coverage and available payment options.
  12. Ensure the safekeeping of all dental equipment in accordance with regulations.

Skills and Competencies to Have

  1. Knowledge of dental anatomy, terminology and procedures
  2. Ability to sterilize and maintain dental instruments
  3. Ability to set up and stock treatment rooms
  4. Ability to take digital X-rays
  5. Ability to fabricate temporary crowns, bridges, and dentures
  6. Knowledge of dental materials and supplies
  7. Ability to operate dental equipment such as ultrasonic scalers, air polishers, and handpieces
  8. Ability to provide chairside assistance to the dentist
  9. Knowledge of infection control protocols
  10. Knowledge of dental insurance and billing procedures
  11. Excellent communication and customer service skills
  12. Attention to detail and organizational skills
  13. Ability to work in a fast-paced environment
  14. Flexibility to work in various locations
  15. Ability to multitask and prioritize tasks

The most important skill for a Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT) is to have strong interpersonal and communication skills. This is because CATs are routinely involved in patient care, assisting dentists and hygienists with their daily tasks. Having good people skills can help them to establish trust and confidence with patients, while communicating effectively with them and the other members of the dental team.

Good communication also helps with patient education, which is a key component of CATsÂ’ job responsibilities. Furthermore, being organized and having strong attention to detail are essential for a successful CAT, as they must be able to accurately record patient information and medical histories, as well as ensure that all instruments are properly sterilized and in good working order. Finally, a CAT should have the knowledge to properly use and maintain dental equipment, such as x-ray machines, suction devices and diagnostic tools.

All of these skills are essential for a successful career as a Chairside Assistant/Technician.

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Frequent Interview Questions

  • What experience do you have as a Chairside Assistant/Technician?
  • How comfortable are you with performing dental procedures?
  • Are you familiar with the use of dental tools and instruments?
  • What would you do if a patient is feeling anxious during a procedure?
  • How do you handle working in a fast-paced environment?
  • Describe a time when you had to handle a difficult situation in the dental office.
  • What is your experience interacting with patients?
  • What steps do you take to ensure accurate data entry?
  • How do you manage your time when there are multiple tasks that need to be completed?
  • How do you ensure that all dental instruments are properly sterilized and sanitized?

Common Tools in Industry

  1. X-Ray machine. A device used to take x-rays of the teeth and surrounding structures. (eg: Dental Panoramic Radiography machine)
  2. Dental Explorer. A metal instrument used to explore the surface of the tooth and detect cavities, decay, and other abnormalities. (eg: Hu Friedy Universal Explorer)
  3. Cavitron Ultrasonic Scaler. An ultrasonic device used to remove plaque, calculus, and stains from teeth. (eg: Dentsply Sirona Clinical Solutions Cavitron Select SPS)
  4. Amalgamator. A device used to mix and triturate amalgam alloy for dental fillings. (eg: Kerr OptiMix Amalgamator)
  5. Intraoral Camera. A device used to take pictures of the inside of the mouth. (eg: Gendex GXCB-500 Intraoral Camera)
  6. Air Polisher. A device used to polish teeth by using a high powered air stream combined with an abrasive powder. (eg: Jota Air Polisher)
  7. Handpiece. A handheld device used to cut, grind, and shape the teeth during dental procedures. (eg: KaVo Multi-Flex Handpiece)

Professional Organizations to Know

  1. National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL)
  2. American Dental Association (ADA)
  3. American Association of Orthodontists (AAO)
  4. Academy of General Dentistry (AGD)
  5. American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA)
  6. Dental Assisting National Board (DANB)
  7. American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA)
  8. International Dental Technicians Association (IDTA)
  9. National Board for Certification in Dental Laboratory Technology (NBCDLT)
  10. International Association of Dental Technicians (IADT)

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Common Important Terms

  1. Dental Charting. The process of accurately documenting and recording information about a patient's teeth and mouth.
  2. Prophylaxis. A dental cleaning procedure used to remove plaque and tartar from the surfaces of the teeth.
  3. Radiography. The use of X-rays to diagnose and treat dental problems.
  4. Restorations. The process of restoring a tooth to its natural state or providing a replacement for a missing tooth.
  5. Orthodontics. The practice of aligning and straightening teeth by using braces, retainers, and other appliances.
  6. Oral Surgery. The practice of performing surgery on the mouth, teeth, and jaw.
  7. Periodontal Disease. An infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT)?

A Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT) is a dental professional who provides chairside support to dentists and other dental personnel during patient treatment.

What qualifications do Chairside Assistants/Technicians (CATs) need?

Chairside Assistants/Technicians (CATs) typically need to have a high school diploma or GED and must be certified by the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB).

What duties do Chairside Assistants/Technicians (CATs) perform?

Chairside Assistants/Technicians (CATs) typically perform clinical and administrative duties such as preparing patients for procedures, sterilizing instruments, taking X-rays, mixing materials, providing patient education, and filing insurance claims.

What are the average salaries of Chairside Assistants/Technicians (CATs)?

According to PayScale, the average salary of Chairside Assistants/Technicians (CATs) ranges from $20,000 to $46,000 per year.

What are some benefits of becoming a Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT)?

Some benefits of becoming a Chairside Assistant/Technician (CAT) include job security, flexible hours, and the opportunity to help people in need of dental care.

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