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Assistant’s Corner: The Essentials

Will Schmidt, RDA

article by Will Schmidt, RDA

After nearly 15 years as a dental assistant, I’m well aware that dentistry without organization is a recipe for disaster. The list that follows counts down 11 of my favorite essentials that I keep close by at all times — my secret to staying organized and stress-free.

11. Vaseline®

Vaseline® (Unilever; Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), or any petroleum jelly, has many uses in the hands of a dental assistant. I’ll apply some to patient’s lips before and after — even during — procedures, and on preparations to prevent temporaries from fusing to them, especially when relining. It’s good to spread a little on lip retractors so it doesn’t pull or cut the patient’s lips. And, if the patient’s lips are cracking or bleeding, you can apply Vaseline to stop the bleeding.

10. Teflon Tape

I always keep a roll of Teflon tape on hand. I’ll often precut a few strips, then put them in sterile bags and autoclave. When I need to protect an extraction site when placing an immediate temporary, I’ll grab one of my autoclaved strips so the acrylic won’t get into the area or fuse to the sutures. Teflon tape is also great for isolating adjacent teeth. We’ll even use Teflon tape in place of a cotton pellet to insert into the screw-access hole of screw-retained implant crowns or when packing endodontic canals under temporary material.

9. Camera and Mirror Set

I’m never at the chair without a camera and a set of dental mirrors (Salvin Dental Specialties, Inc.; Charlotte, N.C.) available because I take photos of everything, from before-and-after shots to photos of shades for laboratory communication. This makes it simple to convey patients’ intraoral situations to labs and to take very detailed medical records.

8. Diamond Polish

After your doctor restores a case with composite or uses sealants, often the restorations will look a bit dull. I like to get in there after the doctor is done and give everything a nice polish with a felt wheel and diamond-infused polish, like Ultradent® Diamond Polish (Ultradent Products, Inc.; South Jordan, Utah), to make sure everything is smooth and not gritty.

7. Dental Dams

Dental dams are dental assistants’ worst enemies. I make my life easier by keeping two types of dental dams nearby at all times. The first is a dental dam that is preframed (Hygenic® Framed Non-Latex Flexi Dam® [Coltène/Whaledent, Inc.; Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio]). It’s easier to take it in and out of the patient’s mouth, easier to maintain, and is less hassle for all parties involved. The second one is the MiniDam® (DMG America; Englewood, N.J.). It comes with two prepunched holes, so it’s a breeze for single- or two-tooth isolation.

6. Proximal Saws and Serrated Strips

My two favorite tools for cleaning up and adjusting contacts are Jiffy® Proximal Saws (Ultradent Products, Inc.) and ContacEZ® (ContacEZ; Vancouver, Wash.). Instead of wasting time trying to remove cement between crowns or temporaries by scraping with an explorer or messing with the soft tissue, I reach for Jiffy Proximal Saws and ContacEZ to adjust with ease.

5. Three-Piece Bur Set

In my opinion, all a dental assistant needs in order to shape and finish temporaries is a three-piece bur set: a carbide flame (H134F.314.014 or H135F.314.014 [Komet USA, LLC; Rock Hill, S.C.]), a carbide football (H379.314.023 [Komet USA, LLC]) and a white Arkansas stone (FG Shape 138 (CN1) [Dedeco International, Inc.; Long Eddy. N.Y.]). I’ll run my handpiece at high speed with the carbides to cut the temporaries, then run it in reverse with the white stone, which gives the temporaries a high-luster polish so nice I almost don’t need diamond paste.

4. Orthodontic Bracket Box

Anytime I’m putting bonding agents or other light-curing materials into crowns or veneers, I like to put them in a box that has numbered spots to keep them organized and away from light and other contaminants. That extra level of organization will make appointments go much more smoothly.

3. TempBond® Clear

We typically use TempBond® Original (Kerr Corp.; Orange, Calif.), TempoCem® (DMG America) or non-eugenol cements, which are usually a white or grayish-white color, but for veneers and even occasionally anterior crowns and bridges I like to use TempBond Clear™ (Kerr Corp.) because it goes on absolutely clear and comes off in one piece.

2. OpalDam® Green

OpalDam® Green (Ultradent Products, Inc.) dental dam liquid is great for protecting soft tissue during whitening procedures, but I also like using it to block out undercuts, embrasures and margins while making temporaries. I’ll also use it to isolate a single tooth or when I use a really strong peroxide mix.

1. GC Fuji COAT™ LC

Number one on my list of things a dental assistant should never be without is GC Fuji COAT™ LC (GC America, Inc.; Alsip, Ill.). This little bottle of light-cured chairside sealant seems like a simple tool, but I use it for everything. A quick application and light cure followed by a bit of polishing gives composites and temporaries a nice luster.

Chairside Magazine: Volume 11, Issue 3

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