A lot has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the world. But one thing that certainly hasn’t changed is the need for quality dental care provided by dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for dental assistants is expected to grow 11% between 2018 and 2028. That’s considerably faster than the average rate for career growth. Promising statistics like this are great for anyone working in the dental industry, as the value of a highly skilled dental assistant is one of the finest assets a dental practice can have.
Most dental assistants are attracted to dentistry for the same reason dentists and dental hygienists are attracted to it: for the opportunity to help people improve their health. Dental assistants are nurturing and caring individuals with a true interest in people. The education level of a dental assistant will vary from state to state and many are trained on the job; however, to be able to take radiographs have to be licensed by the state after completing formal training in radiation safety, image capture, and processing.
It is extremely important that the dentist understands the laws in regards to what a dental assistant can and cannot do to help patients in the practice. Most dental assistants work closely together with the dentist, but never on their own.
However, if the dental assistant pursues further education, certification and licensing to become an RDH, they may be allowed by law to work directly with patients and only be supervised during complicated tasks.
Skills a dental assistant needs
Dental assistants must be proficient at a basic level with the following skills:
- Settling the patient into the treatment room, including seating them and checking their blood pressure.
- Taking and processing radiographs (must be licensed or certified by the state to do so) and understanding the protocols for safe radiation exposure.
- Assisting the dentist at the dental chair with procedures and treatments as directed by the dentist.
- Preparing treatment rooms with tray set-ups and equipment in a sterile environment.
- Preparing and sterilizing instruments according to proper protocols.
- Breaking down the room, sterilizing and preparing it for the next patient per protocol.
While most of these tasks are so routine that they can become robotic in their execution, there is much more a dental assistant can do to make their role more challenging and interesting.
The following 7 traits increase the value of a dental assistant
1. Looks at dentistry as a career and not just a job
A dental assistant that’s in high demand with multiple dental practices proves their dedication by learning new skills while honing their existing skills. They focus on becoming a certified or registered dental assistant and don’t stop until they’ve achieved that status.
The involved dental assistant takes on an active role during practice staff meetings and inputs innovative ideas to improve dental practice’s systems and patient care. Many dental assistants don’t think they’re listened to when it comes to changing how things are done in the office. But that can all change if they make their voice heard and confidently portray their ideas.
2. Has a “buy-in” attitude toward making the patient safe and happy
The right dental assistant takes the initiative to answer patient concerns and make them feel comfortable. This is even more important for anxious patients and children.
An excellent dental assistant will check the patient’s health history and inform the dentist of any relevant information which will change the way the treatment is carried out. They always prioritize the patient over routine tasks, being concerned that they’re warm, comfortable, and relaxed. They’ll ensure the patient fully understands the treatment and its possible consequences before the procedure begins.
3. Has strong knowledge of the procedures and services offered by the practice
They must be able to inform the patient about their treatment and be able to answer questions intelligently and confidently. The best dental assistants anticipate the dentist's needs ahead of time and are ready with the correct instrument, supplies, or handpiece to make the dentist’s job easier. Having everything ready before it’s needed helps speed up the treatment and creates a positive experience for the patient and dentist.
Most dentists agree that being prepared with all necessary equipment and supplies is one of the top requirements of a dedicated dental assistant. Anyone who can do this quickly and easily will find it much easier to land a job over a dental assistant who can’t.
4. Supports the dentist and the dental hygienist in the diagnosis of treatment
The highest paying dental assistants communicate the pros and cons of treatment in an outstanding manner. When the dentist has left the room after diagnosing a course of treatment, patients will often ask the dental assistant questions they were too embarrassed to ask the dentist. The prepared and educated assistant will know just how to respond.
A dental assistant can be very valuable in establishing a chain of trust. If the dental assistant can reassure the patient and give them the information they need, the patient will feel more confident and empowered to make the right decision for their care.
5. Neat and organized with excellent time management skills
A great dental assistant is aware of what is happening in each treatment room and when the next patient is expected to arrive. The dentist and the hygienist look to the dental assistant to keep them on time and to direct the flow of patients in the clinical area of the practice.
6. The agreeable dental assistant is willing to be cross-trained to help in other parts of the business
Being a member of the dental team often means working outside your comfort zone. Many times during the day the front desk can be a daunting area with phones ringing constantly, and patients coming in and leaving while needing to pay or to hear about a treatment plan. The dental assistant that can jump in and help by making an appointment, taking payment, or discussing treatment is worth their weight in gold.
7. Promotes the practice and the career of dentistry
The highly sought after dental assistant becomes involved with community healthcare projects and is a member of the local dental assistant society or social media groups that promote dentistry and dental assisting.
When the dental assistant is not working in the office, they're with family or friends or pursuing other activities. If the subject of dentistry comes up, the proud dental assistant will help to bring new patients into the practice by educating and providing information about the dentist and the office.
Dentists want their assistant to be an integral part of the practice, culture, and vision. Finding the savvy, smart and dedicated dental assistant that fits this criteria is worth the extra effort and the rewards are many.
Whether you’re starting your career in dentistry or you’re a seasoned dental professional, Cloud Dentistry offers you the opportunity to take control of your career. Sign up for free today and start your new professional journey with you in the drivers seat.