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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

How COVID-19 is Impacting the Dental Assistant Role

July 15, 2021

COVID-19 has had an impact on dental assistant jobs. “The demand for graduates with dental assistant certifications is high,” says Dawn Wood, Program Director of the Dental Assisting Program on the SJVC Bakersfield campus. “Since last month, almost all of the graduates from the Bakersfield campus have been hired,” she says.


What has caused this increase in demand?  At first the COVID pandemic caused a shutdown of dental offices, from approximately March 2020 to July 2020. But after that, there was increasing need for employees in dental offices who could skillfully perform infection control, one of the top three dental assistant duties which every student must master before receiving an SJVC Dental Assisting certificate.


“It’s one of the most important skills in the dental assistant job description,” says Wood. “First is the ability to take X-Rays, second the management in the office of infection control, and third, mastery of professional soft skills, which includes excellent personal rapport with patients through friendliness, eye contact, listening carefully, etc.”


“But when dental offices opened back up in the summer of 2020, the increase in demand and the ongoing need in dental office for this practice put the spotlight on opportunities for those with a dental assistant certificate to meet the demand,” says Cynthia Cuellar, Program Director for the Dental Assisting program in Fresno.


“That is stuff we already do – our students are ALWAYS careful,” said Laura St. George, Program Director at the SJVC campus in Hesperia. “The SJVC Dental Assisting program has always taught universal precautions for all kinds of infections, such as HIV, SARS, etc.”


In addition, (it was observed that) the pandemic caused a change in the longer-term employees of dental offices. “When COVID hit, those who were immediately saddled with the need to stay home to care for – and even help educate – their younger children. This opened up opportunities for younger graduates to replace them, who were ready and able to handle the increasing demand for the best possible infection protocols within the office,” Wood adds.


Even though the COVID pandemic is showing signs in California of scaling down, thanks to the positive impact of vaccinations, the societal changes to deal with the pandemic will not go away quickly. As of July 15, 2021, the state of California reports 4.8 cases per 100,000 people, 2% COVID deaths reported out of 100,000 people, and a 3.5% rate of positive tests. In addition, over 42 million Californians have been vaccinated.


However, until herd immunity is achieved (A situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely) there still is the risk of COVID variants, such as the Delta variant, of keeping the rates of infection from going down further. And dental offices and the dental assistants they hire will be on the forefront of keeping that infection down, especially during the upcoming fall and winter months of 2021, when more indoor activities prevail as the weather turns colder.


It is a great opportunity to have as part of your dental assistant duties, to be on the forefront working in an environment that protects the public from future COVID infection.


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