What are dental assistants thankful for?

woman with hands pressed together in a wishful or praying manner

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s a time to stop and give appreciation. While the dental assisting profession has experienced some struggles in recent years, there are still many things to be grateful for in this rewarding career. In fact, those challenges can make you feel a little extra gratitude for the many positive aspects of being a dental assistant.

Here are some of the top things you might feel thankful for as a dental assistant.

Appreciative doctors

Everyone wants to feel appreciated by their employers for their hard work. Dental assistants prepare exam rooms, sterilize instruments, take x-rays, help the dentist with procedures, and answer patient questions — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Meanwhile, you’re dedicated to learning and staying up to date through continuing education and earning certifications.

Unfortunately, dental assistants don’t always feel valued for the work they put into their careers. But when doctors acknowledge the vital contributions of dental assistants, it can mean a lot — especially when they do so regularly.

“I think it is important to make assistants aware that you appreciate them,” says Angel. “Most doctors do a good job at this, but it’s nice to draw attention to it and really let them know just how much they mean to you and your practice.”

Even small gestures can make a big impact, shares Tracey.

“Just a ‘thank you for your hard work’ goes a long way,” she explains.

Making a positive impact on patients

For many dental assistants, the opportunity to help people is the primary reason they enjoy their jobs and why they initially chose their career paths. You get to be a part of smile transformations, give patients their confidence back, and make them feel comfortable during appointments. Getting to directly impact patients’ lives isn’t something that is lost on dental assistants.

“Patients look to us for care, comfort, and support,” shares Laura. “To me, there is no better feeling than knowing that I have helped them.”

Over time, you can build bonds with patients. Many will request a specific dental assistant for their visits. In some cases, patients will even confide in dental assistants, asking questions or telling them about issues they don’t always feel comfortable sharing with the dentist.

“The one-on-one relationships we make with our patients are very special,” says Denise. “They share things with us they would never tell the doctor!”

Career development opportunities

Dental assisting is not just a job — it’s a career for many in the profession. In the latest Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey, over three in four dental assistants agreed with this sentiment. Dental assisting provides many opportunities for growth and development. Assistants can pursue continuing education and certifications to further their clinical knowledge, boost their confidence, provide better patient care, and earn more pay. There are also advancement opportunities, such as becoming a lead dental assistant, expanded functions dental assistant, or infection control coordinator. Some dental assistants may even become office managers, educators, or hygienists!

“I firmly believe that dental assisting is a career, and not just a job,” says Megan. “I encourage every dental assistant to elevate themselves to the next level, and don’t do it for anyone but yourself!”

Working with terrific teammates

Going to work every day can be so much more fulfilling when you have a great team around you. From the front to the back office, the whole dental staff works together closely. Thus, having a group that communicates well and gets along is imperative. Naturally, many teammates become close friends over time — and many dental assistants can’t wait to get to the office each day to see their “work besties.”

“I love going to work because I get to work with the best team I’ve ever known,” says Audrey.

Read more: 5 qualities of great dental teams