5 common dental assistant interview questions — and how to answer them

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You’ve found a dental practice you want to work for, and the interest is mutual: You’ve been asked to come in for an interview! Now, it’s time to start preparing.

In addition to learning about the practice, you’ll also want to get ready for potential questions you’ll be asked during the interview. While you may not be able to anticipate every question the interviewer will ask, it’s helpful to think about how you’ll answer some of the more common ones.

Why do you enjoy being a dental assistant?

If this is your first dental assisting job, you may be asked why you want to enter the profession.

Practices need dental assistants to thrive, so the dentist will want to see that you’re not only knowledgeable, but also passionate and enthusiastic about the job. They’ll want to know you have an interest in dentistry and a strong desire to help others, including patients and fellow members of the dental staff. You could also talk about how a positive experience as a patient inspired you to pursue dental assisting.

Example answer: When I was growing up, I had a dental assistant who made me feel so comfortable going to the dentist and calmed my anxiety. This inspired me to pursue dental assisting as a career. I find it very gratifying to help others and play a part in giving them confidence in their smiles. I also enjoy working in a collaborative environment and working alongside a close-knit team, which makes dental assisting the perfect fit.”

Why do you want to work at this practice?

A dentist will want to know you’re interested in working for their specific practice — not just any office. Do your research about the practice before the interview by browsing their website, social media profiles, and online reviews. Make a note about any unique aspects of the practice that stand out to you, such as the dentist’s reputation, positive patient reviews, or the modern technology they use. You could also talk about your past experience as a patient or a desire to give back to the local community. It’s OK to mention factors such as salary or a short commute from your house, but don’t make them the focus of your answer.

Example answer: “Your practice stood out to me because of its strong reputation in the community. It’s clear from your Google reviews that patients continually have positive experiences at your office, and I would love to be part of your team to help create those experiences. Additionally, I love your focus on team culture. Your social media posts show that you really value dental assistants, and I want to work for a practice that appreciates what I bring to the table.”

How do you work with patients who are anxious?

The interviewer will also want to test your skills as a dental assistant and determine how well you work with patients. While they’ll want to hear about your dentistry and infection control knowledge, they may also wish to hear how you handle challenging situations. It’s common for patients to feel nervous about procedures; some, especially children, may not want to cooperate at all. Draw on your past experiences and talk about what you’ve done before to calm patients down and make them feel comfortable in the dental chair. If you’re new to the field, you can discuss experiences from an internship or previous jobs.

Example answer: “As a dental assistant, it’s my responsibility to help patients feel as safe and relaxed as possible during their appointments. If I can tell they’re feeling nervous or anxious, I work to understand why, address any questions or concerns they have, and reassure them by showing empathy and explaining the protocols we have to keep them comfortable during the procedure.”

How would you describe your relationship with previous dentists and other staff members you’ve worked with?

Dental assistants work closely with everyone in the practice. They aid the dentist and hygienist during procedures and cleanings and may even help the practice manager with scheduling appointments and checking in patients. The interviewer will want to know how you manage professional relationships and work effectively as part of a team. They may also ask about how you’ve dealt with challenging situations or disagreements with co-workers; in these cases, make sure to keep your answer positive and avoid any disparaging comments about previous co-workers.

Example answer: “It’s very important to have a strong working relationship with everyone on the dental team. I believe knowing how to listen and communicate is key to building those relationships, whether it’s discussing how a dentist prefers to approach procedures or how to handle scheduling conflicts. As a new assistant, I like to take time to get to know everyone on the team and figure out how they prefer to work and communicate. This takes time, but keeping an open line of communication allows me to anticipate the needs of others and helps everyone work together as effectively as possible. I also make it a point to ask for regular feedback to ensure I’m the best team member I can be.”

How do you ensure you don’t forget important tasks during a busy day at the office?

A dental assistant manages many tasks around the office, from helping the dentist with procedures to cleaning and preparing exam rooms. The interviewer will want to see how you balance the responsibilities and stay organized to help keep the office running smoothly and safely.

Example answer: “At the beginning of each day, I like to review the calendar and make a to-do list so I can prepare for the day’s appointments and have a clear view of my priorities. It’s also crucial to establish a routine, both for individual tasks and the day as a whole. This helps me know when to do certain tasks, such as sterilizing instruments and preparing exam rooms, and allows me to do them efficiently and correctly every time. Of course, staying flexible is important as well, because you never know when the schedule can change.”

Read more: 6 interview questions dental assistants should ask