We all have bad habits or thought patterns that pop up now and then, but these can be harmful to our well-being and growth if we don’t keep them in check. And dental assistants are no exception! There are some things that dental assistants may tend to do or think — and it’s time to stop.
Below, we’ve identified five things dental assistants should stop doing, so that you can make sure nothing is holding you back in your career. Making these changes can improve your attitude, boost your confidence, and ultimately help you find greater success as a dental assistant. Read more below.
1. Thinking you’re “just” an assistant
Dental assistants may feel like they’re not as important as other members of the dental team — but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, one of the top myths surrounding dental assisting is that it’s an easy, nonessential role. On the contrary, dental assistants are extremely valuable and make significant contributions each day to the dental office.
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re just a dental assistant,” says Hillary R., CDA, COA, CPFDA, CDPMA. “We must never forget that we are among the most valuable employees in the office, that we shouldn’t sell ourselves short, and that we should strive to be the best dental assistant we can be.”
“Many dentists tell me that they could not do their jobs without a dental assistant,” adds Cindy Durley, M.Ed., MBA, DANB and DALE Foundation Executive Director. “I encourage them to let their dental assistants know how important they are to the practice!”
2. Not pursuing continuing education
Pursuing continuing education (CE) is extremely important for dental assistants and for the entire dental office to thrive. Earning CE is critical to maintaining your skills and knowledge — and it can even make you more likely to contribute to the profitability of the practice.
But not all dental assistants actively pursue CE. If this sounds like you, it may be time to start! You may want to begin by checking out the opportunities available through the DALE Foundation, the official affiliate of the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Or, you might consider talking with your employer about whether they can connect you to any other CE and professional development opportunities. Also, you might want to find out whether your employer offers funding for educational endeavors. For example, some dentists might help with the cost of DANB exams and certifications, or may increase earnings as an incentive to become DANB certified and then to maintain DANB certification.
Janice T., CDA, COA, CPFDA, CDPMA, has experienced the rewards that continued learning can bring. “You can take your career as far as you want to go, but you have to be willing and have passion about it,” she says. “If you work hard, the hard work will pay off. There are a lot of things you can learn and do.”
3. Hesitating to ask for a raise
Salary is always a hot topic for dental assistants. While some dental assistants say they feel well-compensated in their role, others may feel underpaid. Yet those who think it may be time for a raise might be hesitant to broach this topic with their employer. Does this sound like you?
If so, it might be a good idea to bring up the topic. There are some tips about how to ask for a raise that you might want to follow. Being prepared for this conversation is important. If you’ve done your research and feel confident, it’s more likely that your employer will respond positively and consider giving you the raise you requested.
And remember: “Higher pay comes with experience and credentials, but you must sell yourself,” says Michelle J., CDA. “If you’re not confident, they can tell.”
4. Staying in a role or office that’s not quite right
Dental assistants often say job satisfaction is linked to strong team dynamics and whether their workplace is a positive environment where they want to spend their time. Does this sound like your work life, or does your dental office have drama? Do you usually feel motivated and excited for what the day brings, or are you feeling like getting through the day is a struggle and the role isn’t quite the right fit? If you regularly feel dread about going into work, it may be time to consider pursuing a new dental assistant role or employer.
“Don’t stay somewhere where you are not appreciated,” urges Amy A.
5. Not getting involved in the profession
While getting involved in the dental profession isn’t mandatory, it certainly can elevate dental assistants’ careers. Many dental assistants agree they have benefited professionally and socially from becoming involved in dental organizations such as the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) and American Association of Dental Office Management. Others have found that pursuing DANB certification has helped to connect them with other motivated certificants. Additionally, attending local dental meetings can be a great way to network, as can exploring in-person continuing dental education options.
“Dental assisting is an amazing career,” says Denise R., CDA, COA. “You can branch out and meet dental assistants in every other state. I’ve made friendships of a lifetime through DANB and the ADAA. It’s been phenomenal.”