Why dental assistants need (and deserve) to be appreciated

thank-you note in purple cursive text with flowers and a present in the background

In a team environment such as a dental office, each member plays an indispensable part. If any of those parts were taken away, it would negatively affect patients, other team members, and the practice as a whole. That’s why everyone deserves to feel appreciated for their hard work, and not just in those moments when they go above and beyond their job description. People want to know their everyday contributions are noticed and valued, too. Dental Assistants Recognition Week is a time to show appreciation to valuable members of the dental team who can sometimes go overlooked.

But the recognition shouldn’t be given in one week exclusively. When dental assistants are consistently shown they’re valued, it elevates the entire practice.

It boosts their morale.

Appreciation and recognition are closely tied to employee motivation and morale. When dentists show dental assistants that they’re important — through everything from daily thank-yous to strong pay and benefits — it validates their good work and makes them want to keep it up. This empowers dental assistants to put their best foot forward each day, communicate effectively, and continue learning and developing their skills. It also makes them look forward to coming to work.

Tosha knows this firsthand, explaining that appreciative employers have motivated her to be the best dental assistant she can be.

“My first office manager was so encouraging because I had a strong work ethic,” she explains. “Then, at my second office, I found the doctor who really trained me to become the best assistant. He really believed in me, and it pushed me to be better than my best. Now, I strive for excellence!”

It makes them want to stay.

When dental assistants feel valued and respected, it increases job satisfaction. DANB’s Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction Survey showed that about one in five dental assistants left their job in the previous two years, and of that group, more than 60% did so because they felt unappreciated. However, when they are recognized and rewarded for their hard work and dedication, it builds a deeper connection and loyalty to the practice. It makes dental assistants want to stay for the long haul and help their office succeed. This is an important consideration as many dental practices continue struggling to hire qualified dental assistants.

“My dentist is very appreciative and encourages my learning,” says Becca. “I learn something new every day, and that’s the main reason I stay in the dental assisting profession.”

It leads to even better patient care.

The positive impacts of a content, motivated dental staff can extend to the patients. When the dental team feels happy to come to work every day, patients take notice. It creates a welcoming atmosphere where patients can rest assured that they’re getting the best care. Additionally, when a practice retains its employees, it provides continuity of care. Patients can get comfortable with the staff, even viewing them as friends or family, and look forward to seeing them at each visit. And the dental staff looks forward to seeing those patients, too.

“We all have patients that have become like family,” says Jessica. “We laugh and cry with them, celebrate milestones or achievements, and, in some cases, watch their children grow before our eyes.”

Read more: 3 reasons appreciating dental assistants is more important than ever