New year, new dental assisting job?

monthly calendar with "start new job" written on one date

The end of the year is a time for self-reflection and for setting (and hopefully sticking to) both short- and long-term goals.

For some dental assistants, this may mean identifying changes you could make in your professional life. Sometimes, switching dental offices can lead to better job satisfaction, a chance to learn and try new things, a higher income, a better work-life balance, or maybe all the above. According to DANB’s 2022 Salary and Satisfaction Survey, nearly one in five dental assistants moved to a new office in the last year.

How can you tell if it’s time to start searching for the next dental assisting opportunity? Often, there are some clear signs. Here, we outline a few to help you determine if it’s time to make a job change.

You feel unsatisfied

It can be normal to feel like you’re caught up in the daily grind every now and again. However, if you’re always dreading the workweek or continually watching the clock for your shift to end, it may be time to consider whether you’re working for the wrong dental office. After all, everyone deserves to feel job satisfaction.

Salary, work-life balance, and feeling like part of a team were the factors dental assistants rated as most important to their satisfaction, according to DANB’s survey. For some, job satisfaction can all come down to feeling challenged and not bored. Amelia sought to shake things up in her dental assistant role, and her employers were happy to help her grow professionally. Sometimes, requesting mentorship or more tasks to take on can make all the difference.

“Now, I look forward to working — every day is challenging,” Amelia says. “I love it.”

You’re yearning for career growth

It’s true that growing in your career is extremely important, but not all dental assistants feel as if they have the opportunity to do so.

Some say their employers connect them to dental continuing education (CE) opportunities. This can play a big role in keeping employees engaged at work and excited about their professional future with the practice. Dentists and dental office managers agree that CE is important for dental assistants to thrive. If you feel as if you’re not learning in your role or getting a chance to take on new responsibilities, this may be a sign it’s time to search for a new position.

“Expanding my dental knowledge is key for me to have a successful career in dentistry,” says Megan.

You feel underpaid

While some in the profession feel well paid for the work they do, others have lamented that their dental assistant salary seems to be low.

DANB’s salary survey showed that dental assistants with less than two years of experience typically earn $18-$20 per hour, while assistants with 16 years of experience or more earn $24-$25 per hour or more. Additionally, the median pay for DANB-certified assistants is $24 per hour — over $4 per hour more than non-certified assistants.

If you feel you’re not climbing the career ladder as you’d like, consider searching for a role in which you can take on more duties. For example, you could look into becoming an expanded functions dental assistant in your state. You can look up the dental assisting career ladder in your state by visiting DANB’s search-by-state map. You could also consider earning national DANB certification, which offers a variety of personal and professional benefits.

“There are good doctors out there who are willing to pay more to keep the ‘good’ employees,” reassures Kal.

You experience team conflict

Whether or not you “click” with your dentist or dental teammates often can make or break your work experience. Some dental assistants have reported feeling underappreciated at work. Others have said they sometimes feel like “just” a dental assistant in their office.

Do you ever feel this way, or as if teamwork is lacking in your office? These can be signs that you haven’t yet found the right employment fit for you.

“I’ve worked with dentists who are amazing,” shares Amy. “Don’t stay somewhere where you are not appreciated. I did it for far too long, and I wish I hadn’t.”

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