Dental assisting can sometimes be a family affair. Many dental assistants work for their spouses or parents who are dentists. Some work with fellow dental assistants or office managers who happen to be their relatives. These opportunities allow dental assistants to work with people they care about and trust. But those family ties can also get complicated in a work setting. Here are some strategies dental assistants offered for creating successful working relationships in the family business.


Get Experience First

Dental assistants who work with their relatives recommend that assistants first gain work experience at other practices before joining their families’ practices. Doing so helps avoid the perception of nepotism.

“Because I came in with business and marketing experience in my previous career, I had earned some respect from the dental assistants as the office manager and dental assistant. You might not find the same thing if you had a young person fresh out of dental assisting school joining the practice with their father or mother.” — Barbara C., CDA


No Special Treatment

Dental assistants also stress the importance of clearly defining every team member’s role in the office. Just like any other employee, family members on the dental team should be held accountable for their performance and professionalism. Setting those clear expectations prevents family members from taking advantage of their special relationships. It also helps morale remain high among the employees.

“It’s really inevitable that other employees are aware of the unique relationship of family members within a practice. But I always found at the end of the day, they either see you as an asset or they see you as a deficit. If you bring value to the work team, then your co-workers respond accordingly.” — Barbara C., CDA


Keep It Separate

When working with family members, dental assistants say it’s essential to establish boundaries between work and home. Resolve work problems at the office. Don’t let them spill over at home. It’s also important to keep personal family matters at home.

“Keep work issues at work and home issues at home and lock the door.” — Cathy R., CDA-Emeritus, COA-Emeritus, CDPMA-Emeritus, CPFDA-Emeritus


Carve Out Your Own Identity

In addition, many dental assistants who work well with family members cultivate their professional development outside the dental practice. Therefore, they join professional associations and pursue continuing education. Those opportunities allow them to network with their peers and grow professionally — helping them to create satisfying, fulfilling careers.

“It was very important for me to be involved with professional organizations and continue professional development. It gives you a sense of identity that’s separate from your family member or spouse. You’re not just the spouse of the dentist. You have your own identity.” — Cathy R., CDA-Emeritus, COA-Emeritus, CDPMA-Emeritus, CPFDA-Emeritus


What tips do you have for dental assistants who work with their family members at the office? Share them in the comments below.