A dental assistant’s guide to enduring the busy holiday season

close up of calendar with "dentist" appointment highlighted

There is seasonality to many industries, and dentistry is no exception. Along with the back-to-school rush in late summer, the holiday season can be a frantic time for a dental assistant.

As the end of the year approaches, many patients want to use up their dental benefits before their deductibles reset in the new year. You may see a lot of students around the holidays, too, as they set appointments during winter breaks. Other people simply want to have a clean, fresh smile to greet their loved ones during the season’s festivities.

All of this means many dental offices are extra busy as the schedule fills up with exams, emergency walk-ins, and restorative procedures. Add this to the usual hustle and bustle that comes with the holidays outside of work, and this can be a stressful time for dental assistants!

But don’t worry — you can get through it. Here are a few tips to help you out!

Practice self-care

When you’re busy taking care of patients and assisting the dentist all day, it can be taxing. Taking care of yourself inside and outside of the office can help you stay productive and keep a positive mindset through the holiday grind and beyond.

Eat healthy, stay hydrated, and aim to exercise every day — even if it’s just a 20-minute walk during your lunch break. These may seem like simple suggestions, but research has shown they make a big difference by boosting your mood and reducing anxiety. Deep breathing can also keep you calm when you’re feeling stressed in the office.

At home, try to carve out time for hobbies that bring you joy or help you unwind. Even watching a TV show or reading a book for 30 minutes can help you decompress after a long day of work. Additionally, getting plenty of sleep — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least seven hours every night for adults — can leave you feeling well-rested and ready to take on a new day of appointments.

Lean on your teammates

Getting through the end-of-year rush requires strong teamwork among the dental staff at your practice. From managing the schedule to performing procedures, everyone in the office plays a pivotal role.

However, everyone needs a helping hand from time to time. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to communicate with your team and ask for help if necessary. Conversely, offer to assist teammates when you have the opportunity. Helping a colleague prepare an exam room or assist with a procedure can keep the day running smoothly — and they’ll surely appreciate it!

“I take pride in being that one person in the office everyone can count on — in being knowledgeable, respectable, dependable, and a great team player,” Janaya says.

Connect with patients

Remembering what you love about your job can help you get through stressful times. For example, many dental assistants tell us that the most rewarding aspect of their job is building relationships with their patients. “I love my relationships with my patients,” says Misty. “They are my second family.”

The end of the year, while demanding for dental assistants, provides an ideal opportunity to reconnect with longtime patients — and perhaps meet new ones!

“After being a dental assistant for many years, many patients became some of my best friends,” says Anna.

Look forward to holiday festivities

Whether you’re anticipating time spent with loved ones or can’t wait for holiday activities such as shopping, light shows and ice skating, having something to look forward to makes busy workdays easier to get through. Even if you’re not filled with holiday spirit or don’t have any upcoming plans, you can still look forward to the time off to relax and recharge before heading into the new year.

Studies have shown that anticipating a positive event can boost your mood, decrease stress and motivate you. In other words, it can be just the pick-me-up you need to get through the December rush.