Are you aware of the benefits that Expanded Function Dental Assistants (EFDAs) can provide your dental practice? If you’re a dentist and you are unfamiliar with the role of an EFDA, don’t worry. You aren’t alone.
A 2018 survey conducted by the American Dental Association’s Council on Dental Practice discovered that many dental professionals were unaware of what EFDAs can do within a dental practice. In addition, of the 60% of survey respondents who reported employing an EFDA, less than 45% reported their EFDA was being used to the fullest extent permitted.
Expanded function dental assistants are a newer addition to the dental field. Although they aren’t permitted in every state, an EFDA can bring a lot of value to their office – and to a practice’s bottom line - thanks to the specialized training they receive. By helping a dentist use their time more efficiently, EFDAs can allow their practice to schedule and serve more patients per day. Sounds like a great deal, right? So why are dental offices hesitant to add an EFDA to their team?
Let’s explore the difference between dental assistants and EFDAs, what special skills an EFDA can bring to your dental practice, and why you should be hiring an expanded function dental assistant for your team.
The American Dental Association (ADA) describes the duties of a dental assistant as some of the most comprehensive and varied within a dental practice. Dental assistants help the dentist with patient care, including scheduling appointments, preparing patients for treatment, taking x-rays and processing lab samples, sterilizing equipment, and coordinating billing and payments. All these tasks are crucial to helping a dental office run smoothly.
Becoming a dental assistant generally involves completing an accredited program and passing an exam. However, some states don’t have formal education requirements for dental assistants and the role can be learned through on-the-job training.
Expanded function dental assistants, on the other hand, serve additional functions in a dental office as the name implies. Also known as Licensed or Registered Dental Assistants (LDA or RDA), EFDAs may perform advanced duties such as administering anesthesia, removing prosthetics, coronal polishing, and applying sealants and fluorides on patients.
It’s important to note that, like dental assistants, the training, education, and credentialing requirements for EFDAs varies state by state. In addition, expanded functions must be performed under the direct or indirect supervision of a dentist, who is ultimately responsible for all care a patient receives.
Beyond the specific functions they perform, one of the biggest benefits an EFDA brings to a dental office is efficiency. The 2018 ADA survey mentioned above found that dentists with EFDAs were able to utilize their time and skills more effectively. By allowing EFDAs to perform certain dental services, dentists had more time to see patients, allowing practices to fit in more patients per day and, ultimately, increase their bottom line.
Other benefits of having an EFDA on staff, as cited in the survey, included an increased capacity to treat patients in managed care programs, lower overall operating expenses, and an increased ability to treat patients covered by Medicaid, Medicare or public assistance.
While some staff might feel that integrating EFDAs into an established office workflow could be challenging, the key to success lies in training. When EFDAs are effectively trained on both the office systems and the practice’s philosophy for providing care, the result can be a win-win for everyone. It’s also important to make sure your new EFDA feels welcomed, so be sure to introduce them to all your patients, and remember, your confidence and positive vibes will make your patients more comfortable as well.
By giving increased responsibilities to an EFDA, a dental practice can ensure more of the dentist and staff’s time is spent focusing on patients. This in turn helps patients feel more connected to the dental team and happy with the care and services they receive.
The benefits of having an EFDA in your dental practice are clear, but what about the costs? Some offices may worry about the expense of hiring an EFDA. In reality, however, if dental practices are utilizing their EFDA effectively, they can increase office production substantially, making hiring an EFDA a more cost-effective solution for a practice than bringing on a new dental assistant.
One way to get the benefits of an EFDA without dramatically changing office dynamics is to encourage your current dental assistants to go school to become an EFDA. These kinds of growth opportunities are great for the individual dental professionals and can boost the morale and operations of the whole practice. In fact, some dental offices send their top DA to EFDA school because they understand the value of having an expanded function dental assistant who’s already familiar with the practice and their patients.
Interested in hiring an experienced EFDA for your practice? Unsure of what an EFDA could do for you and your practice’s bottom line? This is where full-service staffing firms like Dental Dynamic Staffing can help. We have experienced EFDAs on staff and we match qualified candidates with your dental practice. We also take care of all the details, allowing you to focus on what you do best – growing your business and patient care.