Essential Skills for Dental Assistants: Mastering the Art of Preparing Tray Setups

Dental assistants(DAs) have the responsibility of making the professional life of dentists and oral surgeons easier and more efficient. One of those tasks includes organizing the dental tray setup. You arrange all the necessary tools on a tray and prep it for use during the oral exam. Simple, right?

Well, not really. Otherwise, dental assistant schools in California won’t need to train their students to master this craft. There are a plethora of tools dentists use and the set of instruments they need varies depending on the procedure. That’s why dental assistants need to be on top of their game to make sure that the dental tray setup is perfect every time. 

The Role Of Dental Tray Setups

Every exam room will have a different dental tray setup depending on the patient. The most common arrangements include a couple of pliers, dental mirrors, a hemostat (instrument to prevent blood flow), a suction holder, and a William’s probe. These tray setups are designed to be used during every procedure and the right prep is important. With the right prep, dentists can conduct the dental process smoothly and more predictably. 

A dental assistant who has earned his credentials from a dental assistant training school assures dental hygienists, dentists, and surgeons about their capability to assist with the right setup. A proper setup is less noticeable since it doesn’t create interruptions during the dental process and keeps things quick without any delays. 

Average Tray Setup Times

Skilled dental assistants shouldn’t take too long to prep the tray. They have a look at the procedure or specifications of the exam and gather all the necessary tools that the dentists would require. The next step is to get them sterilized and finally arrange them all on the tray.  The best academy for dental assistants in California prepares DAs for preparing dental trays of multiple patient rooms. On average, DAs should be done with instrument preparation for five to six patient rooms in an hour and at least one within 10 minutes. 

Do I Need To Learn About Tray Setups?

Well, if you are a dental assistant without any training and in an administrative or other extra-oral role, you don’t need to learn about tray setups. However, without this essential skill, you stagnate your growth. The primary role of dental assistants is to help dentists during their jobs. You’re closing your options when you don’t have the essential skills to fulfill that role. 

Moreover, if you want to increase your income and move up the career ladder by becoming a registered dental assistant (RDA) after enrolling in dental assistant certification in California, you must learn about tray setups. It is one of the key skills you’ll need to demonstrate in the California Dental Assistant exam and is a part of broader topics like sterilization and disinfection.

Equipment Used In Tray Setups 

The most basic tray setup can be done with a dental explorer, a dental mirror, and a pair of cotton forceps or pliers. 

However, the setup changes drastically depending on the exam. For instance, an amalgam restoration procedure requires:

  • Everything included in a basic tray setup
  • Gauge and cotton rolls
  • Dry angle
  • HVE tips
  • Saliva ejector
  • Syringes – dental aspirating syringe and air-water syringe
  • Local anesthetic carpule that needs to be paired to the syringe
  • Topical anesthetic
  • Dental needle
  • Applicator for cotton tips and gauges
  • Matrix band and retainer
  • Amalgam capsule, carrier, condenser and well
  • Articulating forceps and paper
  • Dycal instrument
  • Dental floss
  • Dycal base and catalyst
  • Dental mixing spatula and spoon excavator
  • Parchment paper pad
  • Burnishers – ball, acorn and football burnishers to condense, polish and smoothen amalgams
  • Wedelstaedt chisel to remove crown irregularities
  • Hollenback for carving, placenta and contouring amalgams
  • Cleoid-discoid, another instrument for amalgam carving
  • Woodson

As you can see, every exam or procedure is different and requires a different set of tools and instruments. While you can get trained and gather insight about these tools on the job, you can fast-track your career by getting trained at a dental assisting school near you. 

Dangers Of Incomplete Or Disorganized Trays

Disorganized tray setups create a lot of problems. If an instrument is missing, the dentist or surgeon would get delayed and may fail to meet their schedule on a busy day. In some cases, delays may be detrimental to the success of a procedure. That’s why dental assistants need to be very careful during sterilization and organize the right tools on the tray.  

While tray setups appear simple on the surface, they are anything but that. As a DA, it’s one of your primary roles that can help save time for the dentist and help them see more patients. Master this quintessential skill to your arsenal to impress everyone at your clinic and unlock more opportunities.