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4 Characteristics of a Successful Dental Assistant

2017-06-09 by Mark Harrington

Dental Assistant College in Mississauga, Hamilton, Toronto

Due to the unique skillset required of today’s dental assistants, trained professionals are highly sought after by dental offices. But what habits and skills make certain dental assistant shine above others?

If you are planning to pursue dental assistant training, or you have recently finished your program, you may be interested in learning what it is exactly that separates a good assistant from a great assistant. Read on for a list of some of the most valued dental assistant qualities.

Successful Dental Assistants are Always Proactive

Graduates of dental assistant schools recognize the importance of maintaining a proactive attitude at work. Dental assistants should always take control over both their career and life choices and be confident about the choices that they make. Having a proactive attitude means being devoted and passionate about helping patients improve their oral health. One way that a dental assistant might demonstrate a proactive attitude is by giving patients tips on how they can brush their teeth or floss more effectively.

Industry Professionals Boast Excellent Communication Skills

Communication skills are important in virtually any line of work, especially in a dental career. In a dental office setting, you will be required to communicate with dentists, patients and colleagues on a daily basis—and always do so in a friendly and kind manner. Written communication is also an integral skill to have, as dental assistants are responsible for gathering data from a patient’s visit to record onto the patient’s file. On top of this, it is important for dental assistants to know how to demonstrate sensitivity and confidentiality when speaking to a patient about their health.

Dental Experts Understand the Importance of Teamwork

The most successful dental assistants are team players. Individuals pursuing dental assistant training recognize dentistry as a team environment; therefore, it’s important for dental assistants to maintain an amicable and professional relationship with everyone in the office. Dental professionals know that their focus and attention should always be on taking care of the patients’ needs before anything else. Remember to look for solutions and agreements if any conflicts should present themselves—whether it be between colleagues, or even a patient.

Great Dental Assistants Practice Self-Care

It is a known fact that we work much more effectively when we are healthy, fresh and energized. And of course, when you are working in a health-related industry such as dentistry, it is more important than ever to appear healthy before patients. This is important because patients depend on you to help them achieve optimal oral health. If you’re health is not up to par, it will be difficult for a patient to put their trust in you.

Practicing self-care and making healthy choices will also help you work with a clear mind and a positive attitude. Some ways of promoting physical, social and mental well-being include eating nutritious foods and exercising often.

Are you interested in learning more by enrolling in dental assistant courses? Check out our dental chairside assistant diploma program for more information or to speak with an advisor.

Students In Dental Assistant School Should Know Experts Still Agree Flossing Works

2016-10-05 by Mark Harrington

dental assistant training

Flossing has been a major topic of discussion in the dental health industry for quite some time. With opinions ranging from it being unnecessary to completely necessary, dental experts still agree flossing is worth the extra time and effort. The Associated Press released a report citing 25 different studies that investigated flossing and its effects, and the report concluded flossing is not necessary; however Canada’s top dental association is speaking out and declaring it is not changing its stance on the matter—flossing is absolutely necessary for healthy gums and mouth.

If you’re planning to pursue dental assistant training, read on to learn why you’ll definitely be advising future patients to floss their teeth.

Dental Experts Still Believe Flossing is Beneficial

As dental assistant students will learn during their studies, the Canadian Dental Association has an official stance on flossing and its usefulness, believing it is an effective way to remove plaque and bacteria from in-between one’s teeth. In response to the investigation that concluded flossing is obsolete, Edmonton-based periodontist Dr. Doug Pattigrew said he believes the findings were interpreted wrongly, he states “They say there is weak evidence that flossing helps, but there is no good evidence that it doesn’t help. And people are just jumping on this.”

Damien Walmsley, dentist and scientific advisor to the British Dental Association, a well-known supporter of not flossing, says flossing is only critical when there are large portions of food stuck in your teeth, it is not necessary to floss daily. Pattigrew disagrees with Walmsley, saying “Floss is cheap and easy” and “I do a lot of surgery for gum disease. Would you rather spend five minutes flossing your teeth, or would you rather come into my office and have two hours of surgery in six different areas over six visits at $2,500 a pop?” Once you’ve completed your dental assistant training and have started your career, you might consider borrowing Pattigrew’s argument to help motivate patients to floss their teeth regularly, ensuring their mouths stay healthy.


Dental professionals urge patients to floss at home to maintain their oral health

Dental professionals urge patients to floss at home to maintain their oral health


Future Influencers are Students in Dental Assistant Programs

During your career as a dental assistant, you will become an advocate for the dental community, working in dental offices, clinics, health units, and hospitals. While enrolled in dental assistant school, you will learn proper flossing techniques which you will be expected to perform on your future patients. You may also be required to teach patients how to maintain good dental hygiene on their own. Despite the outcome that flossing is no longer necessary, The Canadian Dental Association still concludes brushing and flossing are both important steps in keeping your future patient’s mouths healthy, arguing that without flossing, one-third of the surface of the teeth will remain unclean.


Dental Assistant programs provide students the foundations of dental care knowledge

Dental Assistant programs provide students the foundations of dental care knowledge


Dental Assistant Programs Prepare Students to Work in Dentistry

At dental assistant schools like NAHB, students gain the theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills they need to thrive once they begin their careers. Through courses like Clinical Chairside Procedures, and Preventative Dentistry & Nutrition, Communications/Psychology, students learn about proper dental procedures and preventative care techniques (such as brushing and flossing regularly), and they master the communication skills needed to advise future patients about such procedures and preventative methods.

In as little as 26 weeks in NAHB’s Dental Chairside Assistant Diploma program, you’ll be prepared to take on your new role as a dental assistant, helping patients care for their teeth through regular brushing and flossing. You can expect to complete a wide variety of tasks throughout your work day including collecting patient information, performing teeth cleanings, preparing equipment, and much more.

Are you comparing dental assistant programs to find one that’s right for you?

Contact NAHB to learn more about our courses, or to speak with an advisor.

3 Common Causes of Jaw Pain: A Guide for Students in Dental Assistant Training

2016-05-04 by Mark Harrington

patient complains of toothache

When talking, eating, swallowing, or even touching the jaw area causes pain, patient’s know: it’s time to book an appointment with their local dentist’s office. If you’re considering a career in the dental field, it’s wise to prepare for the jaw problems your future patients will experience. After all, the jaw is one of the most frequently used joints in the body! It often needs expert attention.

Jaw pain is any kind of discomfort felt in the jaw area, made up of the lower jaw (mandible or ‘jaw bone’), temporomandibular joint (connecting the mandible to the temporal bone of the skull) and surrounding soft tissues.  Whether occurring suddenly or building up over time, jaw discomfort can feel like a dull ache, a sharp pain, or even restrict the mobility of the lower face.

Jaw pain is generally caused by a few key factors. To get you started on a successful dental assisting career of your own, here are three common causes of jaw pain to know.

1. Teeth Grinding: Learn About this Common Condition During Dental Assistant Training

Jaw pain is occasionally an indicator of serious diseases, disorders, and dental conditions—but most often, the relatively mild condition of teeth grinding is to blame for a patient’s discomfort.

Many people grind their teeth when they feel stressed, or unconsciously while they sleep. If left untreated, grinding can lead to tooth damage and lasting jaw pain. In your dental assistant training you will learn how to recognize teeth grinders while you perform routine cleanings. During your studies, you’ll also come to understand effective treatment methods for teeth grinders, including stress-relieving exercises and the nightly use of a custom mouth guard that protects teeth and the jaw from damage.

Teeth-grinding can be easily treated with a mouth guard

Teeth-grinding can be easily treated with a mouth guard

2. TMD: A Common, Complex Jaw Issue Studied in Dental Assistant Schools

When patients complain to skilled dental assistants about jaw pain, dental assistants often ask whether the patient experiences ‘clicking’ just in front of their ears when chewing or opening their mouths wide. A clicking jaw is a telltale sign of trouble in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), known to dental professionals as temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

TMD can be caused by wear and tear, injury, or infection in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues surrounding the joint. In severe cases, TMD can even cause the jaw to become permanently stuck in an open or closed position. When patients have regular dental appointments, dental assistants can recognize problematic TMD symptoms before the disorder becomes too serious.

3. An Abscessed Tooth: Deep Discomfort Dental Assistants Can Help Resolve

If you’re considering a dental assistant career, you likely already understand the value and importance of keeping teeth healthy. Students in dental assistant schools know that a clean and healthy smile comes from regular dental exams, treatments, and professional cleanings.

Jaw pain can often come as a result of neglecting oral health. For example, if cavities aren’t treated promptly and left for an extended period of time, infections can drive deeper into a patient’s teeth and make a home within patients’ jaws. When bacteria from cavities spread from the root of the tooth to surrounding bone tissue, a patient is left with an abscessed tooth and sore jaw.

With the right training, you’ll learn how to properly identify an abscessed tooth and assist a dentist performing the invasive oral surgeries necessary for healing its surrounding area—helping patients find relief from this painful problem.

Would you like to enroll in a top dental assistant program?

Visit NAHB to get started!

Tasks for the Dental Chairside Assistant

2014-12-17 by Mark Harrington

Dental assistant training

Many students in dental school today are training to become dental assistants. In Canada, a dental chairside assistant is a level 1 dental assistant, who works side by side with a dentist in the dental office. They will often prepare radiographs, assist with patient aftercare, and most importantly will sterilize and hand the dentists instruments during procedures. If you’re looking into dental assistant schools, read on to find out exactly what you’ll be doing as a dental chairside assistant.


Radiographs are used in dentistry to detect cavities, bone loss and an assortment of other tooth issues. Radiographs may be intraoral (taken inside the mouth) or extraoral (taken outside the mouth). There are various types of intraoral radiographs, such as a Bitewing X-ray which shows in detail only the crown to the middle level of the bone, or a Periapical X-ray which shows the full tooth down to the roots. In dental school, dental chairside assistants are trained how to take and develop radiographs. This includes taking the correct number of X-rays for proper diagnoses, and ensuring good quality radiographs.

Patient Assisting

Along with aiding the dentist during a procedure, a dental chairside assistant will also manage the patient’s file and oftentimes process their payments as well. An important responsibility of a chairside assistant is to coax a nervous patient through the procedure, and also give them post-procedure education on how to manage their teeth. For children, the dental chairside assistant will often hand out toothbrushes and give demonstrations on how to properly brush. For adults, they will explain which dental care needs must be provided for.

Dental Procedures: Fillings

When bacteria eats through the enamel, painful cavities form, which then need to be treated by a dentist. A dentist will remove the bacteria and fill the cavity with either an amalgam (metal) filling or a composite (white) filling. A dental chairside assistant will aid the dentist by handing them equipment and preparing the anesthesia. During this procedure the dental assistant may also need to insert a rubber dam into the patient’s mouth, or a bite block. Tools used during the filling procedure include a dental drill, metal scalers and a high volume suction tool which is operated by the chairside assistant throughout the procedure.

Teeth Cleaning

A key element of any dental assistant training is how to properly assist with a cleaning. This common procedure is often used at dentist checkups to professionally remove the bacteria even our toothbrushes and floss can’t reach, in order to avoid oral diseases like periodontal disease and gingivitis. A dentist will use tools such as a micro-ultrasonic scaler, which uses vibration and water pressure to clean the teeth. Hand instruments like a metal scaler are often used by the dentist to remove plaque by hand. A cleaning procedure will often end with the dentist applying a polishing paste, which removes stains and smooths the tooth.

What do you believe is the most challenging task for a dental chairside assistant?

Gum Disease and Prevention Strategies for Dental Assistants

2014-09-24 by Mark Harrington

Dental AssistantWe’ve all heard the word before, whether at home on the television, billboards on the side of the road or in dental assistant schools. That word is plaque—the sticky film which covers your teeth when bacteria forms in your mouth. The acids that form within that sticky film makes gums swell and bleed, causing gum diseases like gingivitis. You may have noticed before when brushing your teeth that your gums have bled. This is a prime indicator that you have gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, the gum tissue between the tooth and the gum can weaken, causing teeth to fall out.

Risks for Gum Disease

There are certain lifestyle choices and conditions which can make a person more susceptible to gum disease. Smoking irritates the gums and can lead to bacteria causing plaque. The elderly are especially at risk because the large amounts of medication they take can often cause dry mouth, and a lack of cleansing saliva can allow plaque to form. The elderly may also have more difficult time brushing and flossing their teeth on a daily basis. Diabetes patients are another at-risk group, because diabetics often have more sucrose in their saliva than others, and this extra sucrose can cause a build-up of plaque.

Treatment Strategies for Dental Assistants

There is a proper technique in dental assistant training for treating gingivitis at the dentist’s. This technique is called scaling and root planning. Because of the extensive nature of these procedures, usually only half of the mouth is done in one sitting. Scaling involves scraping tartar from above and below the gum line, using a small handheld metal tool called a scaler. Root planning is essentially polishing the teeth, to smooth the surface and get rid of rough spots which tend to garner bacteria.

After scaling and root planning, a dentist may use lasers to vapourize and remove damaged tissue. This laser will also kill lingering bacteria in your mouth. In cases of extreme gingivitis, surgery may be needed to pull back the gums and get at hard-to-reach tartar. It is important during any dental procedure that the dental assistant knows as much about the disease and treatment as the dentist. Dental assistant programs will ensure this. A dental assistant may be responsible for giving you numbing medication during the procedure. Some dental assistants will be trained to perform minor scaling procedures themselves. Overall, a dental assistant will be there for the duration of the procedures to aid the dentist. At the end of your appointment, they will also provide you will all the necessary follow-up care for at home.

Dental Assistant program

General Prevention Strategies at Home

There are several ways you can prevent gingivitis at home. To be noted, these are not just precautions for avoiding gingivitis, but routines you should be doing all the time in order to maintain good oral health:

  • Brush twice a day
  • Don’t smoke
  • Use mouthwash after brushing
  • Floss
  • Get routine check-ups at your dentists (once or twice a year)


Earn a $500 Referral Cheque by referring someone to join our college (unlimited earning potential)

2014-08-25 by Mark Harrington

Do you know anyone who may be interested in changing their life with quality education?  Simply refer friends and family to National Academy and you’ll receive $500 for every student who joins us for 30 days or more.

You may call our campuses directly (Mississauga: 905 273 6656; or Hamilton: 905 521 9991) with your details and all your referral names and contact details, or email inserting the subject line ‘Referral’.

National Academy of Health & Business.  Your College. Since 1979.

NAHB Referral Program Details and Form

Endodontics for Intra Oral Dental Assistants

2014-08-20 by Mark Harrington

Dental assistant schools

Most people end up in the dentist’s chair because they’re experiencing oral pain. Dental assistant schools teach students to remind patients of how important regular check-ups are, but whether it’s due to fear or just plain negligence, many of us end up waiting until something’s wrong to schedule an appointment.

But what many patients don’t know is that dental problems left untended spread quite quickly. Cavities get larger, steadily eating away through the tooth to the soft tissue inside known as pulp. Oftentimes, the pain that keeps us up at night is caused by inflamed pulp – and there’s an entire branch of dentistry dedicated to identifying, diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases of tooth pulp. It’s called endodontics – a discipline central to any effective dental assistant program or intra oral dental training.

What is Dental Pulp?

Pulp originates in the center of the tooth, underneath the enamel layer and dentin layer, in the pulp chamber. It contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and large nerves – in fact, when people refer to the tooth “nerve,” what they’re really talking about is the pulp. Pulp branches out, continues down each root of the tooth, and stops just shy of its apex or tip. Tooth pulp is particularly vulnerable to bacteria and inflammation. When infections take hold, pulpitis sets in – and a dental intervention is essential.

Signs of Pulpitis

Dental assistant training prepares students with the knowledge of endodontics required to spot signs of pulpitis right away. Intra oral assistants will perform an examination to look for typical causes, such as exposed dentin, a deep or defective restoration, or evidence of trauma. In cases of reversible pulpitis, pain is always the first indicator. In addition, there is often a sharp, super sensitivity to cold that subsides when the cold object is removed. Overall, the pain presents itself when provoked but is controllable with medication – and abates when the irritant (this could include chewing on food, a cold beverage, brushing, or dental examination) is removed. In the case of irreversible pulpitis, the pain is more enduring, can begin spontaneously and lasts even when the irritant is taken away. This throbbing persistent pain can be relieved by cold water, but always returns.

Endodontic Treatments

In the case of reversible pulpitis, the dentist may need to repair a defective restoration or fill a cavity – the most common causes of this condition. However, if the infection has reached an irreversible stage, root canal is the typical treatment. This involves performing a pulpectomy: removing the pulp entirely from the tooth. Without its living inner tissue the tooth is considered “dead,” and although it can remain in the mouth, may need special care in the future.

Have you ever suffered a case of irreversible pulpitis?

Challenges with Installing Dental Implants

2014-05-28 by Mark Harrington

Though the human body is capable of incredible feats, it’s far from infallible. Most people will experience, in their lifetimes, some form of oral surgery. Studies have shown that it’s very important to correct problems related to tooth alignment, tooth decay or complications with the jaw as soon as possible. Many routine procedures can be done quickly and painlessly, allowing the patient to continue having a beautiful, healthy smile. Some procedures, however, are more complex and require the right combination of training, preparation and skills.

Dental implants

Not long ago, when you lost a tooth your options were to either get a fixed bridge that latched onto adjacent healthy teeth, or removable dentures that rested on the gums. Both solutions were far from perfect, and led to a number of problems. Today, we have dental implants, which offer a permanent solution for patients. Though the track record for successful dental implant surgery is excellent, potential complications can still occur, both during the surgery as well as post-surgery.

With dental implants, a replacement structure is installed, usually with a titanium screw, directly inside the patient’s jawbone. The implant fuses with the jawbone, a process called osseointegration, providing the same solid connection that a natural tooth has. To complete the procedure, a fitted crown is also attached to the implant.

Though more than 95 percent of all dental implant procedures are completed without complications, problems can still arise. Potential issues include infection, fractured implants, incorrect positioning, damage to the surrounding tissue, insufficient bone mass or even bad reaction to anesthesia. Being aware of what can go wrong allows dental professionals, including graduates of a dental assistant program, to react swiftly and smoothly when necessary. Most of these problems are minor and can be resolved simply enough. If left untreated, however, they can cause significant hardships.

If a dental implant fails, a second procedure can usually be attempted after the area has had time to heal. A dental professional will be able to assess the state of the mouth and recommend a course of action to the patient.


Post-surgery, patients must be vigilant for infections, since everything they eat or drink enters the body through their mouths. Good dental hygiene is important to prevent infections, which can threatened the long-term sustainability of an implant. In general, non-smokers and individuals with good hygiene habits are much better positioned for a fast recovery. When they are properly installed and then cared for following surgery, dental implants can last a lifetime.

After the initial procedure, in which the implant is installed, the mouth heals, allowing the implant and bone to fuse. This can take about two to six months, depending on the patient’s habits and recovery speed. Once the mouth has healed, a dental professional attaches a crown to the implant to finalize the procedure. This requires reopening the surrounding gums, which means precautions must be taken to prevent infection.

In general, oral surgery can be uncomfortable for the patient. It’s normal to experience some pain, minor bleeding, or bruising and swelling of the gums and face during surgery. However, a good dental professional and his team, including professionals with dental assistant training or graduates of dental assistant schools, will know how to put the patient at ease.

A Day in the Life of a Nursery School Teacher

2014-05-14 by Mark Harrington

Responsible for caring and educating children between the ages of 3 and 5, the nursery school teacher, also sometimes called a preschool teacher, plans and carries out activities that help young children learn and progress. He or she teaches primarily through play, games, storytelling and experiments. The nursery school teacher must use the resources at his or her disposal imaginatively, so that activities aren’t particularly costly, but foster creativity amongst children while encouraging the development of good social and communication skills.

In addition to creating a safe environment in which children can learn to function both as an individual and as part of a group, the nursery school teacher must also establish a relationship of trust with parents and guardians, so that they feel their young ones are in capable hands. Getting to know parents and guardians, including their occupations, can be useful, as knowing that a child’s caretaker works in a bank or teaches at dental assistant schools helps you understand the child better.

To be successful in this line of work, you must be patient, have good communications skills and be genuinely compassionate, loving and caring towards children. Being well-organized can also be a valuable asset. With the right training, such as a program from an early childhood college, you can find employment in daycare centres, pre-schools, kindergartens, nursery schools or non-profit organizations, among others. Your early childhood assistant training will introduce you to concepts such as the role of the childcare worker, concepts of child development, program planning, health and safety, nutrition, CPR/First Aid and much more.

In the morning

Morning is often the most chaotic part of the day for a nursery school teacher. As children come in, the teacher must make sure they aren’t overly upset by their parent or guardian’s departure. Children can also be overexcited as they come in, so these scenes can create a lot of movement requiring fast-thinking and rapid interventions.

Parents often communicate important information about the child during this transition period, such as a bottle of cough syrup that should be given after lunch. If too much information comes in all at once, you may end up forgetting important tasks later on, so make sure to take notes if you don’t want to risk forgetting or misremembering.

Once parents are gone, the day is yours! Before getting an activity from your plan of the day underway, it can be helpful to start the day with a simple group exercise, such as having all the children form a circle and then sing a song as a group. Establishing a routine that structures each day in a similar way, such as starting the day with a circle, moving on to an activity, having snacks, moving to playtime and so on, can be beneficial for you as well as your pupils. Children respond well to routine and structure, as they learn to anticipate what is coming next and what is expected of them.

Some fresh air

During the day, make sure to save time for nap time, if necessary, as well as outdoor activity, if possible and if the weather permits it. Being locked up inside for too long is no fun for children, so they will appreciate some sunlight and fresh air.

At the end of the day, give yourself enough time to wrap-up the final activity before parents or guardians return. This period of the day can offer some really sweet and touching moments, as children are often overjoyed to see their caretakers again. Lastly, before the day is over, the nursery school teacher must make sure to relay important information about a child’s behaviour or activities during the day to his or her parent or guardian. These can be positive or negatives, as highlighting a child’s achievements is just as important as identifying bad behaviour.

Emerging Tools in Tooth Morphology

2014-04-23 by Mark Harrington

Two academics from the University of Sheffield have developed and released a groundbreaking dental app called “Real Tooth Morphology” that uses high resolution micro-CT scan data of real teeth. This is just one innovation out of many in the field of tooth morphology, which is getting better and more efficient at leveraging consumer-friendly tools. This is no doubt excellent news for anyone currently enrolled in a dental assistant program.

Real Tooth Morphology

Available now on most touchscreen devices through the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, Real Tooth Morphology uses data collected and processed by academics, who used 3D reconstruction techniques to allow the external and internal structures of the teeth to be explored in 3D in great detail. A free trial version of the app is available containing data on a single tooth.

A major advantage of using the data of real teeth is that many show interesting and unusual features, which a professional could find on dental patients. Included in the app is a guide to the morphology and features of the teeth, with 3D demonstrations of how they relate to the tooth in question.

For dental professionals, dental students and anyone else wishing to learn the medical structure of the teeth and mouth, this app is an incredible resource and a very useful tool. Through a combination of meticulous research as well as high detail and resolution, including the internal structures, Real Tooth Morphology offers a comprehensive look at the world of teeth and oral health. The app has the potential to complement, or possibly even replace, the dental textbook as a learning tool and has the advantage of being able to demonstrate its examples using real 3D tooth models, rather than flat diagrams.


MorphoDent, a computer-assisted learning program designed to teach tooth morphology, was recently introduced into the curriculum of dental studies at the University of Saarland in Homburg, Germany. The focus of the test program was to see how students would react to a digital learning environment, which is more flexible and dynamic than its traditional pen-and-paper counterpart, in the context of learning dental anatomy.

Almost all sophomores felt that the MorphoDent program had helped them in learning dental morphology and reported enjoying the virtual anatomical examination. Students expressed a positive attitude towards e-learning in general and indicated that the use of photorealistic 3D models of human teeth made it much easier to learn about dental anatomy or complete their dental assistant training, by demonstrating more precisely how one factor can affect another. More importantly, e-learning and online testing helped the students evaluate their own self-performance more easily, as they could practice certain tasks in a virtual environment. Overall, the feedback was largely positive, encouraging the university to continue using and improving the program.

Keep an eye out for these innovative solutions in the coming years, as it’s entirely possible that they will start being adopted by dental assistant schools across North America!


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