Many dental assistants tell us that they have the best bosses. Some assistants and dentists have flawless rapport, with the dental assistant consistently bringing his or her A-game and seemingly able to accurately anticipate the dentist’s needs and meet the requirements — and the goals — of the office. In turn, the dentist praises the assistant’s skills, preparedness, organization, work ethic and more. This builds confidence and trust, creating an optimal working partnership. Who doesn’t love coming to work each day when this is the scenario that’s waiting for you?

While it’s possible for dental assistants to feel like they’re on top of the world at work one day, the next, everything could change. A dentist could sell the practice to new owner, retire or bring a new partner into the mix — and leave dental assistants thinking, “Now what?”

Or maybe you’ve just started a new job and are trying to understand your new dentist’s preferences.

For some dental assistants, these types of transitions can be seamless. For others, a new dentist may bring a different set of expectations and a period of adjustment. How do you deal? Here, dental assistants share their advice.


Focus on Flexibility

No two dentists are exactly alike. Dental assistants have told us that they have found, from experience, that different dentists may have different preferences and ways of doing things. It may be possible that no way is truly the right way, so to speak, and that a different approach is just that — different.

While a different approach may be unfamiliar to you, there might be something new you can learn from trying out a new way. Dental assistants must always be flexible, observant and open-minded while working with a new dentist. They also must think rapidly on their feet to keep up with potential changes.

“I work at four different offices, and as an assistant, my job is to learn preferences FAST and to accommodate each dentist. Flexibility is key.” — Fatima E.

“I work for three different doctors, and they all disagree. Often, there isn’t any wrong or right way to do something. It’s often just about figuring out what your dentist wants.” — Elizabeth M.


Be on the Same Page

When dental assistants are working with a new dentist in the practice, communication and honesty from both parties can be beneficial. Dental assistants have shared with us that they appreciate an honest assessment of their work from new dentists, even if it’s constructive criticism, so that they can adjust if needed and build rapport under new circumstances. It may be that in order to receive feedback, dental assistants must be honest with the new dentist about wanting to hear it. If you’d like to know how you’re doing, and whether you’re on the same page with a new leader, we recommend that you don’t hesitate to ask!

“I worked for a dentist for 16 years, and I always felt I did it right each and every time. Under the new owner, it seems that nothing is ever right or perfect enough for him. And here I was thinking I had it right for years and years and years. Now I’m questioning whether that was the case and whether I’m doing a good job.” — Mona L.

“I definitely think being confident takes a combination of having experience and working for a doctor who believes in you. If you work for one who makes you question everything you’ve ever learned, then your confidence can be shattered. But if the doctor you work with is behind you, lets you assist and believes that you can do it, this can be a confidence booster, and you can only get better.” — Kimberly R.


Maintain Your Professionalism

Even though it’s important to be honest with a dentist who is getting to know you, beware of sharing too much information. There’s such a thing as going overboard with your true feelings, particularly when it comes to airing frustration.

Especially during times of transition, which can be frustrating, it’s important for dental assistants to remain professional and not show their frustration if they’re experiencing any. It’s about looking at the big picture — there may be a learning curve today, but these growing pains likely will ultimately be worth it down the road.

“Being a dental assistant taught me a lot about professionalism and work ethic. I worked in a really hard, demanding office and learned a lot. In hindsight, I think I would have said maybe a little less about my true feelings and kept a bigger smile on my face.” — Adriana D.

“Ask as many questions as you need to. Then, before you know it, it will be smooth sailing from there. You can’t take anything personally, [including feedback]. I learned that very important advice the hard way.” — Renee C.


Demonstrate Your Knowledge

When working with a new dentist, being confident in your knowledge can help you present your best self. Earning DANB certification, holding state credentials, and keeping up with continuing dental education are all ways to stand out professionally and ensure you are bringing value to the dental practice. Demonstrating early on that you’re willing to take these steps and go the extra mile will certainly make a great, lasting impression on a new leader!

“As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If the dentist notices you go above and beyond, you will be valued and rewarded.” — Shytana C.

“Being DANB certified has given me both confidence and respect. My employer always credits me for my accomplishments not only to myself, but to our patients. That gives me a true feeling of worth within my workplace.” — Guinevere J., CDA

What’s your advice for working with a new dentist?