ROC Star Dental Assistant Loves Her Job, Shares Its Rewards

Erica Brown, Dental Assistant | ROC Dental Group

Dental assistants, sometimes called dental techs, are vital to modern dental practices. Have you ever wondered what is required to become a dental assistant or about the day-to-day responsibilities? Perhaps you know someone looking to make a career change or a recent high school graduate interested in getting into the dental field? Erica Brown, lead dental assistant at ROC Dental Group’s Bluffton location, gives us an inside look into a dental assistant’s life and what surprised her most in her career.  

Q: How did you begin your career?

I’ve been in the profession for over 10 years. I began my career in early childhood education, but the dental field always interested me, maybe because my dad was a dental health fanatic who would walk around the house brushing and flossing throughout the day! Years ago, at my son’s soccer game, a parent asked if I had ever considered becoming a dental assistant. She was a dentist and told me I had the personality for the job. I had no idea what that meant or what was required, but her comments piqued my interest. Soon after I began my journey to becoming a dental assistant.

Q: What education is required to be a dental assistant?

A: It varies from state to state and can range from 6-12 weeks of coursework, with some states requiring more. I feel like my schooling laid the foundation, but honestly, the most education came while on the job! I have learned and grown tremendously working beside experienced dentists. Watching, listening, and learning to anticipate what happens next during treatment has been invaluable.

Q: What are the day-to-day responsibilities?

When you interact with different people each day, no two days are the same; however, our responsibilities generally focus within three larger groups: room and instrument prep, patient care, and assisting the dentist. Room and instrument prep include setting up the rooms before and after appointments, organizing and sterilizing instruments, and cleaning workstations. The patient care component starts from the moment we greet the patient, walk them to the treatment room, and make them as comfortable as possible as we prepare for the doctor. The third part, assisting the dentist, is my favorite because I become the dentist’s extra set of hands, anticipating their needs. Although my focus is on assisting during treatment, my eyes are always moving between the dentist and the patient, evaluating the needs of both and being available when needed.

Q: What has surprised you most during your career?

I am surprised most by how much I lean on my educational background each day. I didn’t realize how little the average person knows about their oral health and I love educating patients about small adjustments that can have the most impact on their overall health. I am constantly coaching, training, and encouraging patients on how to care for their teeth. I love it!

Q: What advice would you give someone thinking about a career as a dental assistant?

The role of a dental assistant would suit someone who loves working as a team, enjoys people, is outgoing enough to interact with a variety of personalities each day, and wants to play a part in changing lives. This is an extremely rewarding career because it allows you to meet wonderful people with interesting stories from all walks of life. And the best part is that you get to help them. What I love the most is that even though I am not responsible for 100% of the work, I get to share in 100% of the reward!