What Are the Allowable Duties of a Dental Assistant

Specific laws and regulations exist that clearly and explicitly define the duties that a Dental Assistant (DA) is allowed to perform. As mentioned within these specifications, there is also the level of dentist supervision required, as well as the setting where these duties can complete.

Do keep in mind that it’s considered a criminal offense to perform any function that is not part of their duties. It can be grounds for license discipline for both the assistant performing the illegal actions, as well as for the person who aids or abets this activity.

The Allowable Duties Of A Dental Assistant

There are several duties that Dental Assistants are allowed to perform, as listed below. Nevertheless, all of them have certain specifications in regards to supervision or setting.

Duties Performed Under the General Supervision of a Dentist

The functions presented here can be performed based on the instructions provided by a licensed dentist but don’t require the presence of the dentist when these they are completed.

  • Operating dental radiography equipment with the purpose of oral radiography.
  • Intraoral and extraoral photography.
  • The application of topical fluoride when operating within a school-based setting or a public health program. The latter needs to be created or administered by a governmental entity – be it federal, state, or county.

Duties Performed in a Specified Setting

The Dental Assistant can perform the task within a specified setting and under the supervision of a dentist, dental hygienist, or registered dental hygienist in alternative practice.

  • Intraoral retraction and suctioning under the supervision of a registered dental hygienist in alternative practice.

Duties Performed Under the Direct Supervision of a Dentist

These duties can only be performed under the direct supervision of a dentist who is physically present in the facility during the procedure. These duties can be completed after the order, control, and full responsibility of the supervising dentist. Once completed, these procedures also need to be checked and approved by the dentist before the dismissal of the patient.

  • The application of nonaerosol and noncaustic topical agents.
  • The application of topical fluoride.
  • Taking intraoral impressions of nonprosthodontic appliances.
  • Taking face-bow transfers and bite registrations.
  • Placing and removing rubber dams as well as other isolation devices.
  • Placing, wedging, and removing matrices used for various restorative procedures.
  • The removal of postextraction dressings, done after the inspection of the site by a supervising dentist.
  • Curing restorative and orthodontic materials with a light curing device.
  • Performing measurements used for orthodontic treatment.
  • The examination of orthodontic appliances.
  • Placement and removal of orthodontic separators.
  • The removal of ligature ties and archwires.
  • The removal of periodontal dressings.
  • The removal of sutures after proper inspection of supervising dentist.
  • The examination and seating of removable orthodontic appliances, as well as the delivery of care instructions to the patient. It needs to be performed after the adjustment being performed by the dentist.
  • Placing patient monitoring sensors.
  • Monitoring patient sedation. This duty is limited to only reading and transmitting information from the display during the intraoperative phase of the surgery. The type of surgery includes respiratory cycle data, continuous noninvasive blood pressure data, electrocardiogram waveform, carbon dioxide, and end-tidal carbon dioxide concentrations, as well as pulse arterial oxygen saturation measurements.
  • Assisting in the administration of nitrous oxide for analgesia or sedation. Dental assistants are not allowed to start the procedure or adjust the flow of gas unless specifically instructed to do so by the supervising dentist


The list of allowable duties presented here refers specifically to Dental Assistants (DA) and not to Registered Dental Assistants (RDA). For more information on the topic, as well as any dental education programs, feel free to visit the Dental Specialties Institute, Inc. website or contact us directly.