3 ways dental assistants go above and beyond

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Dental assistants are called the heart of the dental office for many reasons. At the top of the list is their unparalleled dedication to their profession. Not only do dental assistants have a hand in almost every aspect of a dental practice, but they continually display a willingness to go the extra mile. In honor of Dental Assistants Recognition Week 2024, March 3-9, here are some of the many ways dental assistants go above and beyond in their roles.

Helping teammates

One of a dental assistant’s primary responsibilities is helping their dentist during procedures, from preparing and disinfecting the exam room to anticipating what instruments the doctor will need, suctioning saliva and water, and updating patient charts and records. However, dental assistants regularly help other members of the dental office as well. They might help the hygienist by preparing the exam room or assist the office manager by answering phones, scheduling appointments, and ordering supplies. Dental assistants are natural helpers and always ready to support teammates whenever possible.

“We are the choreographers to a very intricate dance that is called dentistry,” says Juneia. “We orchestrate every move made throughout the day’s operations.”

Jody, an office manager, agrees: “Dental assistants are the worker bees in the office. They take care of their own patients, help out in the hygiene operatory, fill in at the front desk, and make the office run smoothly.”

Comforting patients

For many dental assistants, providing patient care is the best part of the job. And they’re willing to go the extra mile to ensure their patients feel safe and at ease. Dental assistants are with patients throughout their appointments, greeting them, communicating and answering questions about procedures, and providing post-op instructions. They’re also skilled at calming patients who feel anxious. Dental assistants will hold a patient’s hand when they’re nervous, distract them with a story or conversation, or even provide them with a blanket or stuffed animal. Assistants may call patients after their appointments to check in on them and address additional questions or concerns they have.

These efforts contribute to giving patients bright and healthy smiles, restoring their confidence, and making them look forward to — or, at the very least, no longer dread — their dental appointments.

“I want my patients to feel confident in their appearance, but I also want them to feel heard and valued when receiving dental treatment,” says an anonymous dental assistant. “Whether they are nervous, aggravated, or confused, rest assured I will help make the process as comfortable as possible and be as supportive as I can to their needs and requests.”

Staying educated

For dental assistants, learning doesn’t stop when they graduate from a dental assisting program or complete their new-hire training. They regularly seek out continuing education, usually outside of regular work hours, to hone their skills and keep up on the latest research, techniques, and technology in the field. This allows them to provide optimal patient care and be the best teammates they can be. It also gives them the opportunity to earn certifications, perform expanded functions, and take on new roles in dental assisting and beyond.

“There is nothing that compares to a loyal assistant with years of experience, who strives to continue learning every day,” says Taylor. “Half the things assistants learn come after you finish school, and that knowledge is invaluable. It can’t be taught in a classroom.”

Read more: 4 ways dental assistants are committed to the profession