Top 3 factors that influence dental assistant satisfaction

work-life balance concept; scale with "work" on one side and "life" on the other

Job satisfaction has been a hot topic for dental assistants in recent years. DANB’s Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey has shown that while most dental assistants are still happy with their jobs, satisfaction is steadily declining.

To start reversing this trend, it’s important for the dental industry to understand what contributes to job satisfaction for dental assistants. DANB’s 2022 Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey helps shed some light on the answers. Here are the top factors that affect dental assistants’ job satisfaction.


Dental assistants are highly educated, well-trained, and knowledgeable. They take on a variety of responsibilities to ensure safe and successful patient visits, including infection control, instrument processing, and sterilization. Understandably, they want to be compensated appropriately for their skills and the effort they put into making dental offices operate smoothly.

Among DANB certificants who took the survey, 78% said salary is “very important” to them, making it the most crucial factor for dental assistant satisfaction.

“I contribute a lot to my dental office and would like to be recognized as a contributor,” says one survey participant.

Another respondent adds: “We have to ensure that our employer sees and respects us in every way possible so we can continue to make the dental environment safe and happy for everyone.”

Read more: Dental assistant salary insights from DANB’s latest survey

Work-life balance

Dental assistants do important and fulfilling work for patients every day. But just like any employee, they want time to enjoy their lives and fulfill their responsibilities outside the office.

In the U.S., work-life balance is gaining more importance. A 2021 survey by KeyBank showed that Americans even valued work-life balance over salary. While it remains second behind salary for dental assistants, work-life balance is still considered very important by three out of four DANB certificants.

“It is a rewarding career for raising a family,” says Brenda. “I decided early on that no nights, weekends, and holidays were more important to me than hospital work.”

Feeling part of a team

For many people, a big draw of dental assisting is getting to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Dental assistants work in tandem with fellow assistants, hygienists, and doctors to ensure patients get the best care and offices run as efficiently and safely as possible.

“We make the entire office flow as a team,” says Carolyn. “Without the dental assistant working alongside the doctor, there would be a breakdown in communication.”

Some dental staff members become so close-knit that they’re like family members to each other, which can help dental assistants get through challenges and look forward to coming to work.

“Some of the best experiences at work have been the times when the team comes together to get through a really tough day,” says Nicole.

“I will always remember those at my first dental office,” recalls Heather. “They took me — a fresh, inexperienced dental assistant right out of a program — and showed me how to be the best I can be. I will always appreciate their relationships, knowledge, and support.”

Read more: 3 things great dental teams do (and 3 to avoid!)