Top 5 challenges dental assistants face

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Dental assistants love what they do. But, like many jobs, dental assisting comes with its share of pesky and thorny issues in the workplace. Here are some of the challenges dental assistants tackle with tenacity and professionalism.


Effective communication is vital for dental assistants. Dental assistants are the backbone of an efficient, well-run dental office. They interact with various people, including the front office staff, clinical dental staff, and patients. When open, honest communication is in play, dental assistants build trust, facilitate teamwork, improve morale and enhance productivity for the entire office.

“Some of the most common office issues I run into include having the office team understand their duties and also understand the duties of other employees in the practice. I find that if hygiene understood front office procedures and chairside understood hygiene, for example, then we could all work better as a team.” — Guinevere J.


Proper scheduling of patient appointments can make the difference between an efficient, productive day or a chaotic, stressful day at the office. Whether it’s overbooking appointments or underestimating the time needed for procedures, scheduling problems can often divide the front office staff and the clinical staff.

“Oftentimes patients are scheduled in the wrong spot or they are scheduled out of sequence to what the doctor recommended. We try to resolve these issues by printing the schedule a week in advance along with reviewing each patient’s chart notes to catch any hiccups that could occur.” — Jennifer W.

Patient anxiety

Dental anxiety is all too common among patients. Thankfully, most dental assistants have that unique skill set of compassion, interpersonal skills and clinical knowledge to ease patients’ fear of the dentist.

“Connect with patients one on one. Try to put issues to rest. Explain everything to them. Usually it's the mystery of the unknown that causes some of the anxiety.” — Linda W.

Late patients and last-minute cancellations

Nothing throws off your day like patients who are late or cancel the day of their appointments. Some dental assistants take a preventive approach. They call their patients to remind them about their appointments about a week prior to their scheduled times. Others do their best to accommodate their patients that day. Electronic reminders and requests for patient appointment confirmation sent a week or a few days before the appointment may also minimize patient cancellations or no-shows.

“We take it case by case. We have patients request an appointment time they will less likely break. After a pattern of failed appointments, we write a dismissal letter.” — Carol W.

Respect for the profession

Dental assistants play an essential role in delivering quality dental care. It’s important for colleagues and patients to give them the respect they deserve as valued members of the dental profession.

“I remind the patients and dentists that I have had formal education, passed exams and attend extensive continuing education courses. However, since most states do not require any formal education or licensure requirements, it is hard for some people to take our career seriously.” — Erica H.