4 ways dental leaders can support dental assistants and help them thrive

A sequence of plant growth stages, from sprouting leaves to a fully bloomed yellow flower

If a dental practice is to grow and flourish, its leaders can’t do it alone. Every office needs a strong team to succeed and provide a high-quality experience to every patient. Building a superstar staff doesn’t happen overnight or come without effort, though. To assemble a dental team that can thrive, dentists, office managers, and other practice leaders must invest in their employees. Not only does this create a strong patient experience, improve productivity, and boost the bottom line, but it also improves staff satisfaction and retention.

Dental assistants are some of the key members of the team and are crucial to a successful practice. Here are a few ways dental leaders can help their assistants thrive.

Offering competitive pay and benefits

Like any professionals, dental assistants want to receive compensation that reflects their valuable contributions, helps them take care of their families, and shows they’re appreciated by their employers. However, low pay is the top reason dental assistants leave their practices — and sometimes the profession altogether. This has been a contributing factor in the nationwide shortage of dental assistants over the past several years.

Offering higher wages, bonuses, and stronger benefits can be an effective strategy for attracting and retaining qualified dental assistants. According to the Financial Impact of Dental Assistants on the Dental Practice report, it can also save practices money in recruiting, hiring, and training expenses as well as prevent costs from lost productivity. The latest Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey also showed that dental assistants who reported being “very satisfied” with their positions earned $2 more per hour than those who were “very dissatisfied.”

Respecting them as qualified dental professionals

Dental assistants are highly capable, qualified, and knowledgeable professionals. With a long list of responsibilities, they have a hand in nearly every aspect of a dental practice’s daily operations and work with everyone on the team. For their hard work, they want to be recognized and respected by their employers and teammates rather than being made to feel that they’re “just” dental assistants.

Just over half (54%) of dental assistants in DANB’s most recent Salary and Satisfaction Survey said they feel valued by their employer. Feeling underappreciated was one of the most common reasons dental assistants leave their jobs. When dental assistants do feel appreciated, it fosters a positive office environment, improves their morale, motivates them to continue their hard work, and makes them want to stay at the practice long-term — all of which can help your practice thrive.

Providing feedback

Offering consistent, constructive feedback can cultivate a high-performing dental team. This is especially important for dental assistants. The profession comes with a learning curve, particularly for those being trained on the job. Dental assistants juggle many responsibilities, and regular feedback ensures they can manage everything while delivering excellent patient care. For example, since they’re working directly with dentists during procedures, dental assistants need to know how their doctor prefers to work.

Open communication and feedback — as long as it’s respectful rather than demeaning — is the best way for the dentist and assistant to develop their working relationship and complete procedures smoothly. Feedback is also helpful for dental assistants when it comes to communicating with patients and developing proficiency in infection control, time management, and organizational skills.

When dental assistants receive regular feedback, it can boost their confidence, enhance their knowledge, and strengthen their communication skills. In other words, they can perform their best, which benefits the entire practice.

Encouraging professional growth

Many dental assistants aspire to take on a larger role in their practices or even take on a new job title. It can only benefit dental leaders and their practices to encourage assistants who want to pursue expanded functions, continuing education, certifications, and other professional development opportunities.

Highly trained and educated dental assistants can perform more duties, which elevates the entire office. The whole staff can work more efficiently, patients receive better care, and the office can potentially see more patients per day. Additionally, it shows dental assistants that their employer is invested in their success and career growth, building loyalty and making them more likely to stay at the practice.

Read more: 4 changes dental assistants wish to see in the profession