Dental assistants fill many essential roles in oral healthcare, many working primarily in the dental office. The essential nature of a dental assistant’s work has been even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the entire dental team working together to avoid interruptions in patient care. As a result, dental assistants are now busier than ever. Most are taking on additional duties, including in the critical area of dental infection prevention and control.

However, not everyone — members of the public, the patients, or even sometimes dental assistants’ colleagues and supervisors — may know just how important dental assistants truly are.

Brenda, CDA, agrees: “We are often seen as nonessential.”

But, as Ronda, CDA, points out, this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth: “Dental assistants are who makes a dental practice work; assistants are essential and should be recognized for their hard work.”

We agree. That’s why this Dental Assistants Recognition Week (DARW), held March 7-13, 2021, we are highlighting why dental assistants have always been, and continue to be, essential workers. Read three reasons why.


Dental assistants provide patient care.

Even though the pandemic persists nationwide, patients continue to seek care in the dental office. During this time, dental assistants have been instrumental in helping to ensure not only patient and provider safety but also patient comfort throughout their appointment.

It’s not uncommon for patients to feel a bit uneasy in the dental office. Patients often look to their dental assistant for reassurance, especially now, with updated social-distancing, screening and infection control protocols in place.

Dental assistants interact with patients before, during and after the appointment. They strive to answer their questions, hear and validate their concerns, and empathize with their experiences. Many dental assistants say their patients thank them for helping them through their appointment. This is one of the top rewards of the role, assistants agree.

“The best thing about being a dental assistant is putting a nervous patient’s mind at ease,” believes Carla, CDA.



Dental assistants implement infection control.

Of course, one of the core tasks for many dental assistants is keeping everyone — both patients and providers — safe in the dental office, including from COVID-19 exposure. During the pandemic, dental assistants have stepped up to help implement revised infection control protocols. They also seek additional education on this topic, to help dental teams stay on the cutting edge of knowledge when doing so matters most. Some dental assistants have even been motivated to pursue dental infection control education through the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program™.

“Infection control is so important, and the dental assistant’s role in infection control is vital,” agrees Robin, CDA.


Dental assistants support the dental team.

Being a team player is one of the top five qualities successful dental assistants have. And since spring 2020, we’ve heard from many dental assistants who have stepped up to support the dental team. From taking on more duties during staffing shortages, to cross-training to support non-clinical areas of the office, the most successful dental assistants are flexible and keep a positive attitude. And they deserve to be recognized during DARW for their willingness to put the team first.

Judy, CDA, agrees: “Through teamwork, dental assistants offer their best every day to their patients and practice.”

“To be a dental assistant is to be kind and understanding,” adds Darci, CDA. “The dental assistant is truly uplifted when they’re uplifting others with their talents. It is a special treat to be recognized during DARW for the essential work dental assistants do.”


Why do you believe dental assistants are essential?
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