5 New Year’s resolutions for dental assistants

person writing their 2024 goals in a notebook

A new year often marks a time when people set personal goals for themselves, whether it’s eating healthier or spending more time with loved ones. It’s also an excellent time to set professional aspirations for the year. As a dental assistant, your goals may depend on your current role, skill set, or career stage. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few common New Year’s resolutions dental assistants make.

Expand your knowledge

In the world of dentistry, there’s never a shortage of new information to learn. Dental assistants can always build on their knowledge to further their clinical skills, take better care of patients, contribute more to their practices, and advance in their careers. Of course, there’s plenty to be learned through everyday experience, too. You may want to make a New Year’s resolution to shadow one of your co-workers or find a mentor in the new year. You could also attend a dental conference or take continuing education courses, which can help you stay on top of new developments in technology, infection control, and other areas of dentistry. Or, you could learn more about certain aspects of patient care, such as managing pediatric patients.

Get certified

Earning a certification is a milestone achievement for a dental assistant. DANB certification demonstrates your professional commitment and knowledge, allowing your boss, teammates, and patients to have the utmost confidence in your dental assisting abilities. Becoming certified is not an overnight process, however, making it a great New Year’s resolution for dental assistants. For instance, becoming a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) involves studying for and passing three component exams: Radiation Health and Safety (RHS), Infection Control (ICE), and General Chairside (GC). Additionally, the GC exam requires meeting one of three eligibility pathways. After all that hard work, it is extra gratifying when you finally earn that certification!

If you already hold a certification, there are also benefits to earning another. DANB’s Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey found that dental assistants who hold multiple certifications have more earning potential, higher job satisfaction, and receive more leadership opportunities.

Take on a leadership role

If you have several years of experience as a dental assistant under your belt, you might aspire to become more of a leader in your practice. There are several paths you could take, depending on your interests, experience, and goals. Some step into a lead dental assistant position in which they supervise and train other assistants, provide feedback, and manage the staff schedule, among other responsibilities. You might also consider becoming an infection control coordinator, a role where you develop, implement, and manage office safety protocols to prevent the spread of infection to patients and staff.

Pursue expanded functions

Becoming an expanded functions dental assistant (EFDA) is another fulfilling career path, allowing you to perform more duties in your office as allowed by your state. Examples of expanded duties include taking impressions, applying sealants, and performing coronal polishing. Taking on more responsibilities in your office can increase your job satisfaction, as many EFDAs enjoy having more variety in their workdays. It can also lead to a salary increase, depending on your location and experience, as you’ll become even more valuable to your practice when you’re trained to perform additional duties.

Learn more about becoming an expanded functions dental assistant.

Explore cross-training opportunities

As a dental assistant, cross-training can be highly valuable and help you take steps toward becoming a leader in your practice. Having a wider range of responsibilities can help you grow your skills and advance your career. As you become more skilled and proficient in different areas of the practice, you may be considered for higher-level roles or additional responsibilities. For example, many dental assistants are crossed-trained in administrative duties, allowing them to help out in the front office or even become a dental office manager. This can lead to increased pay and more job security, as cross-trained dental assistants are considered invaluable members of the team.

Read more: How dental assisting can springboard your dental career