The value of mentorship in dental assisting

Three healthcare professionals, one in a white coat and two in blue scrubs, engaged in a discussion in a bright office setting.

Dental assisting is a rewarding career, but it doesn’t come without speed bumps along the way. Everyone needs some guidance from time to time. Having a support system can help you navigate challenges and become a better dental assistant. A mentor can be invaluable to a dental assistant, especially one who’s just starting out in their career. It could be a fellow dental assistant in your office or maybe an office manager who’s seen it all over the years. Dentists and former teachers can also make great mentors.

With their experience and knowledge, mentors can provide support, insights, and guidance that help you become the best dental assistant you can be. Here are a few ways a mentor could benefit you.

Skill and knowledge development

Dental assisting requires an array of skills and knowledge. You need to master all the clinical aspects of the job, from infection control and taking x-rays to assisting during procedures, as well as continue learning about the latest developments in dental techniques and technology. On top of that, you also need to have effective communication, multitasking, organization, problem-solving, and administrative skills. It can take many years for dental assistants to master all these aspects — and some might say they never truly master everything because dentistry is always evolving!

But a mentor can pass along what they know and offer constructive feedback to make you a better dental assistant. They can provide hands-on training to help you hone your clinical and technical skills, teaching you tricks of the trade they’ve picked up over the years. They can also help you develop “soft” skills such as communicating with patients, anticipating the doctor’s needs during procedures, managing multiple tasks efficiently, and more.

Career growth

As you become a seasoned dental assistant, you may start looking for growth and advancement opportunities. Mentors can be valuable resources to help you fulfill your aspirations. They can help you outline a plan, set attainable goals and timelines, and keep you accountable along the way. More specifically, a mentor might provide guidance on conferences to attend, continuing education to take, or certifications to pursue that can help you expand your expertise, develop your leadership skills, and reach your goals. They may even have some helpful tips to help you pass DANB exams or apply your training in a clinical setting. Additionally, a mentor can connect you with their professional network, giving you access to new references, other organizations, and potential career opportunities.

Emotional support and advice

Dental assisting can undoubtedly get stressful at times. You may have to deal with difficult patients, long days, or a conflict with a coworker. Some dental assistants can feel underappreciated or unhappy with their pay. These stressors  can add up and lead to burnout if they go unaddressed. This is why it’s helpful to have a mentor to support and guide you through challenges. It’s likely they’ve experienced the same issues at some point in their careers; they’ll understand what you’re going through and can advise you on how they navigated a similar situation or what they would do differently now.

Read more: 4 ways dental assistant can develop leadership skills