Why the whole team should appreciate dental assistants

dental office staff giving thumbs up

Running a dental office is a team effort, with contributions needed from everyone to build a successful practice and deliver high-quality patient care. Dental assistants are crucial pieces to the puzzle, commonly described as the “heart” of their offices. They work with every member of the staff in some capacity, while also playing a pivotal role in patient care, making them indispensable assets in the dental office.

Here’s why dental assistants deserve recognition from the whole team.

They keep the office on track.

In any dental practice, efficiency is the name of the game. To maintain a full appointment schedule, many moving parts must come together seamlessly. Dental assistants are instrumental to this effort.

Wherever they’re needed, dental assistants are always ready to give a helping hand to keep the whole team moving and the schedule on track. The list of responsibilities dental assistants handle is practically endless: offering chairside assistance to the dentist, preparing exam rooms and instruments, taking x-rays, performing infection control, answering patient questions, scheduling appointments, and maintaining patient records.

All of these tasks help maximize patient flow, reduce downtime, and free up dentists and hygienists to treat as many patients as possible. And if the schedule gets disrupted by a cancellation or an appointment that runs long, dental assistants know how to adapt to keep the office running smoothly.

“Dental assistants are the pulse of the office,” says Heather, a dental hygienist. “They keep the doctor on track, manage lab cases, and keep our instruments prepared.”

They maintain safety protocols.

Dental assistants know the ins and outs of infection control and are typically responsible for sterilizing instruments, clearing water lines, and sanitizing various items in examination rooms. Many assistants pursue infection control certification to ensure they have the most up-to-date knowledge and can implement the strictest safety measures.

These efforts make it possible for patients to have safe visits and for dentists, hygienists, and fellow dental assistants to do their jobs in a sanitary environment.

“Dental assistants allow the dentist to provide safe, swift, and friendly dentistry,” says Frances, a dental assisting instructor.

They improve patient retention.

In many cases, dental assistants are with patients from the time they check in for their appointments until they leave. Assistants are the liaisons between patients and the dental team, communicating key information about procedures, answering questions, and providing aftercare instructions. They also help calm the nerves of patients who are anxious about their visit.

Building these relationships helps make patients comfortable in the dental practice and more likely to return for future visits, which is crucial for any practice.

“The patients are comfortable with us and build a relationship with us that makes them want to keep coming back,” explains Legend.

They make everyone’s jobs easier.

Ultimately, dental assistants help everyone in the practice. They help office managers maintain the schedule. They order, restock, and clean equipment so doctors and hygienists always have what they need. They sit chairside during appointments, anticipating the dentist’s or hygienist’s needs, ensuring they always have the proper tools in hand, and expediting procedures.

“A good dental assistant can come up with at least two solutions to a problem before it even arises,” says Elisabeth, a dental assistant.

Eileen, CDA, agrees: “Dental assistants are constantly multitasking and take on a lot to be supportive in their role. Many are selfless and go above and beyond to serve and give their all to accommodate others.”

Without dental assistants, practices would not run as smoothly — and dentists, hygienists, and office managers would have to take on more tasks and responsibilities, preventing them from seeing as many patients.

“They make us better and they can make or break a practice,” says Shari Kohn, D.D.S. “It is very important to recognize dental assistants.”

Read more: How dental teams can show their appreciation to dental assistants