Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann
Attributes of a Good Dental Assistant
Every position plays a vital role in the dental office. But I’ve always felt that Dental Assistants are the glue that hold the whole place together. Their main job is to assist the Dentist. But Assistants are the ones most involved in the instrument sterilzation process, and in keeping the clinic on schedule. 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 in some states a certification to work as a Dental Assistant. But 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 have the attributes of a good Dental Assistant.
Attitude is key. As much as I love the dental field I can assure you, goodness is not always obvious. Working as a Dental Assistant requires a positive attitude with the ability to see the good in every situation.
An Assistant should never have a ‘that’s not my job’ attitude. Being responsible for a lot of 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 people who are earning a higher salary (Dental Hygienists). 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 is 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 the Doctor’s next move.
- Keeping an eye on the schedule so you know when your next patient arrives, or if there’s an added emergency.
- Monitoring Hygiene schedules and when Doctor will need to break for an exam.
- Aware 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.
What to Do if You’re Considering a Career as a Dental Assistant
People often 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 hands-on career so you can’t just be a thinker. You must also be a doer! Best of luck to you in your new career!