A dental assistant’s day is always the same, with little variety and few surprises that pop up only occasionally, right?
In reality, there’s no typical day in the life of a dental assistant. From managing a variety of duties to encountering a variety of people, even the most prepared and organized dental assistants often have to think on their feet.
With this in mind, we asked dental assistants: What are the best and most challenging parts of your workday? Below, we capture your responses.
To summarize, the overall truth about dental assisting seems to be: You just never know what a workday in the dental office will bring!
Working with patients can be both rewarding and challenging.
Most dental assistants consider themselves to be a “people person” and say working with patients is the very best part of their role.
But it probably also goes without saying that not every patient brings their best self to their dental appointment. And this is understandable. Some dental patients who come to the office have been there before, know the dental team, and know what to expect of the overall dental office experience. Working with these patients is often a smooth experience for dental assistants.
However, other patients may be first-time visitors and not yet acclimated to the office and team. They might be rushing through their own personal routine and eager to leave the dental office quickly. Or they might simply be nervous about seeing the dentist, or in pain, or both.
But no matter how a patient is feeling, a dental assistant’s main task is to keep a bright attitude and make sure each patient has a positive experience. This can be easy or difficult, depending on the person in the chair.
“The best part of being a dental assistant is talking with patients and giving them beautiful restorations,” says Janel, who goes on to admit: “The most challenging part is working with those patients who are rude and overly sensitive.”
Your dental teammates might uplift you or bring you down.
Many dental assistants say they look forward to going to the office each day and working as part of a cohesive dental team. In fact, many have said they’ve forged their best friendships with teammates in the dental office. Agrees Saundra, CDA: “This is absolutely correct! Many of my closest friends started as co-workers in various dental offices/clinics.”
Adds Kimberly, “I’ve enjoyed 10-plus years of shared dental life and have had so many fun times with my team.”
But in some dental teams, not everyone “plays well with others,” as Cindy puts it.
We’ve heard that some dental colleagues can bring negative energy to the team, preventing team harmony and productivity.
When this happens in your workplace, it can feel a bit stifling. People working in a negative environment can find it difficult to grow in their role and fully appreciate their time spent at the office. “Overall, I enjoy networking with my colleagues at work, but some co-workers are more challenging than others,” says Gladys, who acknowledges this can be stressful.
The dentist you work with has a huge impact on your job satisfaction.
Many dental assistants regularly tell us they work with the best dentists; these are the dental assistants who report the highest job satisfaction, plus good salaries and professional benefits such as health insurance, paid time off and retirement plans.
Additionally, dental assistants who say they feel valued by their employer are encouraged to grow professionally, with support to complete continuing education, earn and maintain DANB certification, and get involved in organizations such as the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) and the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM). Through building their network and knowledge base, dental assistants say they’re able to do more in the dental office, including cross-train in other areas, and even perform expanded duties in states where it’s allowed.
Guinevere, CDA, CPFDA, CRFDA, feels fortunate that her employer rewards her willingness to grow in dental assisting. “I hold multiple DANB certifications, have earned my Fellowship with the ADAA, and my dentist is an incredible employer who has treated me very well for over 20 years. I will be forever grateful!” she notes.
On the flip side, some dental assistants feel their hard work and achievement are not acknowledged by their employers. We’ve heard some dental assistants say they feel like “just” an assistant. Some report being overworked, underappreciated and underpaid. And some wish for benefits and a clear path for professional advancement for all dental assistants — especially because so many are so passionate about their careers, teams and patients.
“We work so hard and are the glue that keeps the office in order,” says Rachel, CDA. “We take care of all the behind-the-scenes work to keep things running smoothly for the dentists, dental team and patients. Everybody needs to be recognized when they do a good job.”
What would you add? Contact us.