4 challenging situations dental assistants can encounter

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Dental assisting is fulfilling professionally and personally, but it isn’t without its difficulties. Sometimes, dental assistants encounter challenges that can make their jobs tougher or that are just unpleasant to manage. Fortunately, they’re well equipped to deal with obstacles — expected and unexpected — that come their way.

Here are some of the challenging situations dental assistants can face.

Falling behind schedule

At a dental office, the calendar is often jam-packed with appointments on any given day. Dental assistants play a key role in keeping the office running smoothly to ensure patients are seen in a punctual manner and the staff can go home on time. But sometimes, things out of your control can throw off the schedule, whether it’s a patient showing up late, a last-minute emergency appointment, or equipment breaking down.

Although these delays are not ideal, dental assistants can take unexpected issues in stride.

“We have to be the most fluid in the office, and we have the biggest smile while we do it,” says Kristi.

Dental assistants are used to working at a fast pace and balancing multiple tasks throughout the day, which can help them adapt to scheduling conflicts.

“Dental assistants are crucial to the dental office because they are multitasking geniuses,” explains Christa. “They might be sitting chairside juggling instruments while also keeping track of the next procedure and what needs to be ordered, cleaned, and put away.”

Staff shortages

Dental offices can get quite busy, and every team member is crucial to keeping things on track and delivering excellent patient care. When a practice is missing even one staff member, it can add more to your plate and potentially throw a wrench into daily operations. Dental assistants know firsthand how tough it can be to keep the office on track without one of their own.

“Every dental office functions as a team, and every player has a job,” explains Cheryl. “The dental assistant has many jobs. If the assistant is missing, there are no playoffs!”

But this is more than an occasional problem for some dental offices. The industry continues to face staffing shortages, which has increased the workload on dental assistants.

“I hope for better pay and more recognition for these professionals who work so hard,” says Angela.

Lack of appreciation

When you work hard and are committed to your profession, you want to feel valued in return. Some in the dental assisting profession have shared that they don’t always feel appreciated for their hard work. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons dental assistants change offices or jobs, according to DANB’s Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction survey.

“Find an office that values the assistant team,” says Amy. “They’re out there, and you deserve to be a part of it.”

“If you are unhappy at your office, look for another one because you will find a dental home that appreciates all you do,” adds Peggy.

Challenging patients

For many dental assistants, helping patients every day is the most rewarding aspect of their job. But inevitably, some patients are more challenging to work with than others. Patients may experience fear or anxiety about visiting the dental office or undergoing a procedure. Others may disagree with the treatment plan. Sometimes, patients are just having a bad day.

While these situations can be difficult to manage, dental assistants are well conditioned to do so. They’re experienced in calming patients and making them feel comfortable in the dental chair, as well as explaining procedures and answering questions.

“Even when they have to face difficult patients, dental assistants always stay poised, calm, and enthusiastic for every single patient,” says Carla.

These skills can even benefit dental assistants outside the office.

“Dental assisting has made me more patient and understanding of people inside and outside of work,” says Amy.

Read more: How dental assistants keep patients coming back