Dear patients: 3 things dental assistants want you to know

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Dear Patients,

As dental assistants, providing patient care is our main focus. We strive to help you, our patients, feel welcome in the dental office from the moment you arrive until you leave after your appointment is finished.

But even though we are with you every step of the way, there are things you still might not realize about dental assistants. Below are three things we hope all our patients know and understand!

1. Your care and comfort are our top priority.

As dental assistants, we love helping and working alongside patients, and we pay special attention to those who are nervous about being in the dental office. We’ve been told that our positive outlook, empathy, and compassionate nature go a long way toward putting patients’ minds at ease. We hear and address patients’ concerns in the dental office, and we offer reassurance and assistance to everyone. It’s not uncommon for patients to feel extremely grateful for their dental assistants’ efforts.

“As dental assistants, we build relationships, smiles and self-esteem, and help others overcome their fear,” agrees Ronda.

In fact, patients often say they’re motivated to come back for future dental care in large part because of their dental assistant’s dedication to them. We forge lifelong relationships with our patients.

Mary, CDA, agrees providing patient care is the most rewarding aspect of being a dental assistant. “The best part of being a dental assistant is helping patients through appointments and hearing, ‘I’m so glad you’re here; I couldn’t do this without you,’” Mary elaborates. “The most challenging part is when you reach retirement and lose the relationships you’ve made with patients through the years. They become family!”

2. We use our knowledge to bring you the best care.

Not only do dental assistants bring the right traits, attitude and outlook to the role, but many are also committed to expanding their education at every opportunity. As a result, we’re able to help patients understand, access and accept dentist-recommended treatment.

To provide the best patient care, many of us pursue continuing education (CE) opportunities, such as those available online through the DALE Foundation, DANB’s official affiliate. Through completing CE, dental assistants can evolve in their knowledge and skills and even perform expanded duties in states where it’s allowed.

Additionally, many dental assistants — over 37,000 and counting — have taken the step to demonstrate dental assisting knowledge-based competence through earning and maintaining DANB certification.

Plus, most dental assistants perform critical infection prevention and control duties to help keep patients and colleagues safe in the dental office. Some dental assistants have gone the extra mile to complete the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program™. Earning this certificate requires completing online educational modules and then passing an assessment — so this achievement is something to be extremely proud of.

Janet, CDA, agrees a dental assistant’s contributions and value to their dental teams and patients are vast. This is especially true of those who seek out CE and credentialing opportunities, she believes.

“I've been in the profession for over 30 years and have seen multiple changes during that time,” Janet elaborates. “Now, the dental assistant is more respected in the dental office. We have been given more responsibilities — including in infection control. There are so many different opportunities for the professional dental assistant.”

3. We’re team players.

As dental assistants, we’re committed not only to our patients, but also to our teams. Patients may see dental assistants performing many duties throughout the dental office, not just chairside. This is because we’re often cross-trained to be able to leverage all our experience, knowledge and skills to pitch in where needed.

Whether working at the front desk as we assist the office management team, or working alongside the dentist and dental hygienists to help provide patient care, it often seems like dental assistants are wearing many hats all at once. And we do so expertly.

“I’m in my 40th year as a dental assistant,” says Susan. “I often feel like an air-traffic controller at times, directing the team, and a therapist, helping others in the office.”

It’s true: Dental assistants go above and beyond so that everyone has what they need for an efficient and successful dental appointment. Supportive, collaborative, positive and proud to help others: these are the traits of an outstanding dental assistant.

“The best part about dental assisting is the social aspect of the job. Dental assistants love to continuously be around people,” believes Timothy.