Celebrating dental assistants this week and all year

thank you letters

This article is contributed by DANB Board Chair Janée Tamayo, CDA, CPFDA, B.S., MSgt, USAF.

As a dental assistant for more than 10 years, I know firsthand the impact we have on patients and our dental teams. Our passion and professionalism shine as we support dentists, hygienists, and office managers to keep the practice running smoothly. Our empathy and expertise are evident as we guide and comfort patients through their procedures.

Dental Assistants Recognition Week (DARW), held this year March 3-9, is a time to celebrate these invaluable contributions. And while this week is significant, it shouldn’t stop there — dental assistants deserve recognition year-round!

DANB and the DALE Foundation have centered our strategic plan on recognizing, elevating, and celebrating the role of dental assistants. Since announcing the plan last March, we’ve made great strides emphasizing the importance of dental assistants and the critical role they play in delivering patient care, while enhancing the ways DANB and the DALE Foundation can support and prepare dental assistants for career entry and progression.

Here are four exciting initiatives that are already underway.

Forming a coalition to champion dental assistants

One pillar of our strategic plan is championing the role of dental assistants. To further that goal, we’ve formed a coalition of leading dental professionals and organizations that will highlight the integral role of dental assistants and amplify opportunities to recognize the value they bring. The coalition held its inaugural meeting last year, and just last month members gathered in person for a full-day meeting to explore these topics more deeply. Over the next year, the coalition will continue to focus on enhancing the perception of dental assistants, highlighting their importance within the dental team, and addressing workplace culture issues so dental assisting is viewed as a worthy and viable professional career.

Defining the value of dental assistants

To further champion dental assistants, we’re conducting research to better quantify the value they bring to the dental team. We know dental assistants are critical to the success of dental offices, and this research will provide measurable data to help us further elevate the profession. We look forward to publishing the results in the next few months.

Leading a workgroup to develop a model for the profession

One of the challenges dentistry and dental assistants face is the lack of uniformity across states in dental assisting requirements and scope of practice. To address this, DANB is working with the dental community to develop a model for the dental assisting profession. The new Dental Assisting Professional Model Workgroup held its first meeting in February, and they will continue to explore current dental assisting laws, regulations, and scope of practice while developing a proposed framework to help address the dental assisting shortage and support more uniform state regulations for the dental assisting profession. These efforts will contribute to improved career mobility, retention, and growth for dental assistants nationwide.

Increasing access to exams

DANB is committed to expanding access to exams. Earlier this year, we began offering the Radiation Health and Safety (RHS) exam in Spanish, a move aimed at breaking down language barriers and promoting inclusivity in the dental community. The RHS exam is DANB’s most popular exam, with more than 12,000 exams administered each year, and it is the first credentialing exam in oral healthcare to be offered in Spanish. We’re also working to make our full catalog of exams and certifications more accessible by conducting in-depth reviews, prioritizing an enhanced user experience, and reviewing our policies to support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Celebrating dental assistants today and always

As we celebrate DARW, I hope you take a moment to honor your accomplishments as a dental assistant. This is a special time to lift each other up, and all of us on the DANB Board of Directors and the DALE Foundation Board of Trustees are proud to celebrate dental assistants year-round. Our organizations are here to champion you and the profession to build a brighter future for all dental assistants.

Janee Tamayo

About the Author

Janée Tamayo, CDA, CPFDA, B.S., MSgt, USAF, is the Chair of DANB’s Board of Directors. She is the Dental Flight Chief at the U.S. Air Force 43rd Medical Squadron.