Most dental assistants can point to all the positives surrounding their career paths. Many are grateful to have joined the profession and, through this journey, have met so many like-minded colleagues and appreciative patients.
However, on the flip side, dental assistants also can agree on some changes they’d like to see in the profession. If these changes were to be implemented, they believe, this could take their career satisfaction to new heights, plus improve overall dental assistant retention in the field. Here are a few changes dental assistants hope to see for the profession in the future.
Increased Salaries and Benefits
Many dental assistants say they work for an employer who strives to provide a good salary and benefits, such as paid vacation time and holidays, a retirement plan, health insurance and paid sick leave. Plus, those employers dental assistants most appreciate provide access to and support for continuing education (whether by allocating time, financial assistance or both), so dental assistants can grow their education, career and salary — with new roles in the office, for example, or through taking on more duties as their state allows.
But while some dental assistants say they are satisfied with their salary and benefits, others have commented there could be room for improvement.
“I’d like to see higher pay for dental assistants — because it’s a demanding job if you are good at it,” says Holly, CDA.
Trisha, CDA, agrees, especially since she — like many dental assistants — has had more duties in the dental office lately: “We should receive higher pay to compensate for all the different things that we as assistants do in an office.”
More Respect and Acknowledgment
Dental assistants are extremely valuable dental team members, who make so many positive contributions to the dental office. And yet, we consistently hear dental assistants say they don’t always feel seen and recognized by their employers, co-workers and patients. This may be because not everyone fully understands all that dental assistants do to support everyone at work.
“My hope is that that dental assistants will be treated as equal dental team members,” says Cheryl, CDA. “Each member of the dental team may have a different title and role, but we are all oral healthcare providers. And dental assistants are an intricate part of the dental team. Let’s hope this will become more so the norm of thinking in the future.”
Linda, CDA, agrees: “I’d like to see more appreciation of how important we are to the office.”
Carolyn, COA, echoes this: “We should be recognized more for all the hard work we do. There are many roles we play as an assistant that people never realize.”
Support for Continuing Education
Beyond the many tasks dental assistants complete day-to-day in the dental office — often including chairside and at the front desk, as well as behind the scenes with infection control duties — many dental assistants go above and beyond to pursue continuing education (CE). For dental assistants, staying knowledgeable about new information, procedures and technology in dentistry is a must, since the profession is ever-evolving.
In fact, we’ve heard from a plethora of dental assistants who have seen many technological advancements over the course of their career, and who say learning about new equipment and keeping up with the latest trends is exciting. “I love getting up to speed on the advanced technology,” says Pam. “Anything we can use to improve patient care is great!”
Dental assistants also acknowledge that completing CE is a time commitment, which warrants recognition and support. Surveys have shown that although dental employers overwhelmingly report that CE is important for dental assistants and benefits the dental practice, less than 30% of employers pay for CE for their dental assistants.
Longtime dental assistant Judy, CDA, believes wholeheartedly in the power of education. “Education for dental office staff is essential, since materials, techniques and technology are ever-changing,” she says. “There are many opportunities available for dental assistants to learn and advance if they have the desire to, or the encouragement. Through exploring new skillsets, a dental assistant can offer more to the practice and the patients and can achieve professional advancement — and many seek continuing education knowing this. Unfortunately, dental assistant salaries and support for CE are still unbelievably and unacceptably low, in my opinion.”
Additional Opportunities to Grow
Many dental assistants are grateful for their employer’s encouragement to continue to evolve professionally and perform all the duties as their states allow. But others wish they had even more opportunities for accruing knowledge and climbing the career ladder.
“I’d like to be allowed to learn more and do more to benefit my patients,” shares Colleen, CDA.
“I’d like to be able to perform more expanded functions in the future,” agrees Jessica, CDA.
With more opportunities for advancement, plus more recognition and rewards, dental assistants believe the dental assisting profession could be even better for those who call it their career. Plus, when dental assisting is widely viewed as not just a job, but rather a satisfying, forward-moving career, more people may be motivated to enter and then stay in the profession.
“Many young people move on from our profession because of many factors that include low pay, limited duties, not feeling valued, and no pathway for growth,” observes Joyce, a dental assistant in Minnesota. “Perhaps more focus on these important areas would assist with the shortage of dental assistants in the country.”
What changes do you wish to see in the profession? Contact us.