We hear many stories from dental assistants about the joy they get from helping patients and building relationships with them. It often goes both ways! For patients, a dental assistant can make the appointment go smoothly and even make it an enjoyable experience.
Here’s why patients truly appreciate what you do.
You educate them on dental care.
A clean, bright smile isn’t the only benefit patients receive from visiting a dental office. Dental assistants also educate patients about the importance of oral hygiene, how it affects overall health, and how to best care for their teeth.
Throughout an appointment, a dental assistant can share tips and information on dental healthcare, explain the dentist’s recommended treatment, and answer questions to help set up patients for a lifetime of strong oral health. Not only does education encourage patients to establish better habits, but it’s another way to build trust and keep them coming back for future appointments.
“The care and reassurance we give to patients is very crucial to any practice,” says Claretta Peralta, CDA. “The first person a patient looks at is the assistant. We have the expertise to guide the patients back for their treatment plans and educate them on proper dental hygiene.”
You ensure their visits are safe.
Patient safety is a priority for every dental practice. Since practices typically see a high volume of patients every day, it’s important to ensure waiting areas, exam rooms, and any other common spaces are clean. In many offices, dental assistants are the first line of defense when it comes to infection control.
This involves a variety of responsibilities, such as sterilizing instruments, disinfecting surfaces, practicing proper handwashing, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and establishing safety protocols for the entire staff to follow. Infection control creates a safe environment in the office, which has been especially important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and has helped patients feel more comfortable coming in for their appointments.
As of November 2021, patient volume had returned to 91% of pre-pandemic levels, according to the American Dental Association. A survey by NexHealth found that 94% of dental practices expect to have similar or greater patient volume in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic levels.
You make them comfortable.
Dental assistants spend face-to-face time with patients before, during and after appointments. They’re often the primary person a patient interacts with during their visit. This means dental assistants can have a significant impact on a patient’s comfort.
Patients appreciate dental assistants who get to know them on a personal level and ask about their lives or how their day is going. It can make them feel valued and cared for instead of “just” being another patient, which helps establish trust.
This is particularly important to patients who feel nervous. These conversations can help take their mind off the appointment and put them at ease. Patients are also grateful when dental assistants take the time to understand their fears or concerns and answer their questions. Often, a dental assistant can calm a patient just by showing empathy and compassion.
“My best patient interaction is the moment when I know they recognize my knowledge and trust me, so they are more comfortable and relaxed,” says Heather Bahr, CDA. “Many patients are so nervous about their visits, and they don’t want to ask the doctor too many questions. Being able to relieve them of their anxiety is one of my favorite parts of my position.”
In many cases, a dental assistant can help turn a nervous patient into someone who’s excited to come back to the office for the next visit.
“I love creating relationships with patients and helping them not be so afraid to return,” says Nicole Cardenas, CDA.