Every position plays a vital role in the dental office. That’s the absolute truth. But I’ve always felt like Dental Assistants are the glue that hold the whole place together. If you’re a Hygienist or you work at the front desk, your job is pretty departmentalized. But if you’re an Assistant, you’re kind of all over the place.
Their main job is to assist the Dentist. But Assistants also help the Hygienists with charting or turning over rooms. When things get backed up at the front desk, they jump in to answer a phone or greet a patient. In most offices, they wear a lot of hats.
You’re required to have specific skills and certification to be a Dental Assistant. But I think that what you need the most, can’t be found in a book or a class. If you’re considering Assisting as a career, ask yourself if you possess these qualities.
Attitude is key. A positive attitude with the ability to see the good in every situation is an absolute must!
When a task presents itself, an Assistant can’t look at it with a ‘that’s not my job’ attitude. Being responsible for many things should be a pleasure, not a chore. They might have a lot to do. But their job offers a lot of flexibility and variety, and that’s what keeps it interesting.
As a Dental Assistant you’ll either happily embrace your diverse job description because you feel useful, and you love what you do. Or you’ll bitterly resent it because you feel like you’re running circles around the Hygienists who are earning a higher salary. I’ve seen it go both ways. So choose your perspective before you commit to your career.
You have to want to move, and be fast on your feet!
You’re turning over operatories, running patients back and forth, handling things in the sterilization area, doing lab work. This is not a desk job! A Dental Assistant must have the physical ability to be up on their feet for most of the day. It’s not just that you can’t be lazy. You have to truly enjoy an active work day.
If you’re someone who’s most happy when you’re working at a computer or dealing with paperwork, Dental Assisting is not the job for you.
Some people believe that if you’re multitasking you’re not working efficiently. I have no idea what scientific evidence there is to support that. I just know that those people should not be Dental Assistants. Unfortunately it just isn’t the kind of job where your focus is ever locked in to one thing.
Even while you’re focused on the patient you’re with, you’re also;
- anticipating what the doctor needs next
- aware of the schedule, and when your next patient is due or if an emergency was added
- aware of the Hygiene schedules and when Doctor will need to break for an exam
- sure of where things are with sterilization
A good Assistant has a heightened sense of awareness, and handles multiple things at the same time without getting flustered.
I think sometimes people base their decision to become an Assistant on the interaction they have with them as a patient. But as patients we only see a very small part of what they do.
Even if you think you have the attributes of a good Dental Assistant, don’t just run out and sign up for a certification program. The best advice I can give you is to shadow one for a week or two. Make sure you spend full days with them following every move they make. You’ll learn as much doing that as you will in any of your actual classes. Being a Dental Assistant is a hand-on career so you can’t just be a thinker. You have to also be a doer!
‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.’ ~ Steve Jobs