Why attitude is everything in dental assisting

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We have all heard the expression “attitude is everything,” but in dental assisting, that can be especially true. Although clinical skills and knowledge are key for dental assistants, having the right outlook is just as critical. In fact, many dentists say that they would prefer to hire an inexperienced dental assistant with a great attitude and caring disposition over an experienced dental assistant with a bad attitude.

Dana H. agrees. “Having a positive attitude makes for a great experience in the workplace and also for your patients,” she says. “Give each patient and co-worker a reason to smile every day, and you will see the difference it makes.”

Below are three key reasons why attitude is everything in dental assisting.

Patient care starts with a smile

First and foremost, it’s important that dental assistants demonstrate a positive attitude for the patients’ benefit, since you spend so much time with them. In fact, dental assistants play a critical role in providing patient care and encouraging patients to return to the dental office in the future. To do this, a dental assistant must earn the trust and confidence of patients. This usually starts with sharing a smile and exhibiting a bright demeanor. Jill H., CDA, agrees that the dental team should strive to set a positive tone for patients from the get-go to make a lasting impression.

“I always say, ‘Good morning’ or ‘Good afternoon’ and ‘Glad to see you today!’” Jill elaborates. “To new patients, I always say, ‘Welcome to our practice!’ And after the appointment, I say, ‘It was great to meet you today — I am looking forward to seeing you in the future!’”

Alice T. also strives to start each appointment by putting her best foot forward. “As one dentist once told me, as soon as you open the staff door, put on a happy face,” she says.

Your employer values positivity

Another reason to be mindful of your attitude is because your employer is likely taking notice. There are certain qualities dentists value most in dental assistants, including being a team player, showing a willingness to learn and having the ability to take ownership of their work. Dental assistants who embody these qualities in job interviews are more likely to land the role, and outstanding employees are more likely to earn more respect, responsibilities and raises.

Laura R., CDA, CPFDA, CRFDA, has learned that soft skills can be just as important as clinical skills. “Technique was the last thing my doctors taught me on the job, because they said you can fix technique — but you need to have the right attitude first,” she shares.

Christina B., CDA, agrees attitude is important — and she recommends making sure you always stay motivated to succeed. “Always challenge yourself to be the best you can be. Keep a smile on your face, push forward and [do what] you love. And keep at it. I keep a positive attitude and keep pushing forward.”

Negativity can weigh down the team

Lastly, dental assistants always should strive to be positive and productive members of the dental team. This is extremely important. When the team seems to be at odds — complaining, gossiping or not pitching in to help one another — the dental office can become a stressful place. To avoid such a scenario, everyone must do their part to foster a comfortable, inclusive workplace.

“I think your mood and personality affect the team,” observes Marylee D. “When there are issues with the team, I always look at my behavior and what I can do to improve the energy.”

Beth H. agrees that strengthening team dynamics often starts with one’s own attitude and actions. “Some team members don’t have a team attitude and say, ‘that is not in my job description’ when they’re asked to help out. My solution is to focus on the positive and lead by example — to show them no job is too menial, and it is our duty to give our patients the best experience possible.”