Wondering how to be a good dental assistant? It may be easier than you think.
It takes a variety of dental professionals to ensure a practice is running smoothly: receptionists, dental hygienists, office managers, lab technicians, and of course, dentists. However, the dental assistant — you — has the added responsibility to act as the glue that holds the entire office together. As you know, dental assistants have a presence in nearly every part of the business and can truly play an integral part in making or breaking a dental practice.
If you are a dental assistant, you know exactly what we’re talking about. But do you know how to be a good dental assistant?
Of course, it’s one thing to understand the role you play in an office, and another to step up to the plate and do it well. You may be questioning how to be a good dental assistant when you are overworked and feel you are spreading yourself too thin. Like anything else in life, it takes focus, commitment, and drive to make your work life more rewarding.
4 tips on how to be a good dental assistant
Whether you used to be a good dental assistant, but lost that spark somewhere along the way, or you are freshly certified and anxious to start out on the right foot, these tips should apply to you.
1. Stay organized
Dental assistants are a lot of things to a lot of different people. If you are a dental assistant, there’s a chance you have any of the following responsibilities over the course of one day:
- Sterilize dental instruments
- Ensure patients are comfortable during their entire visit,
- Prepare them to meet with the dentist and provide post-care instructions
- Teach patients about how to maintain oral health
- Assist dentists during procedures
- Take and process dental x-rays
- Schedule appointments
- Answer some billing questions from patients
- Check inventory and order supplies for the office
- Keep flawless records for each patient and file appropriately
This list can go on, and on, and on how large your practice is, and how many hats you wear. While it’s great to feel important in your office, you need to stay organized if you’re going to keep things running smoothly. Different methods of organization work for different people, but a solid place to start is creating a “to do” list that prioritizes your tasks. When you can see everything you need to do that day — and decide what actually matters the most — it takes the pressure off your mind to remember every little detail.
2. Be present in the moment
For some people, the concept of “being present” sounds a little hokey — we get it. But you wouldn’t hear about it so often if there wasn’t something to it. It’s easy to get lost in thought and stress out about everything you need to get done, but one of the best ways to succeed as a dental assistant is to learn how to rein it in and be present in every situation.
One of the most important times to truly be present is when you are interacting with patients. How many times have you been preparing a patient for a procedure while simultaneously thinking about the dental supplies you need to order, the co-worker who’s giving you the cold shoulder, and what you’re going to cook for dinner that night?
Shut off that part of your brain, look at the person in front of you, and concentrate on them. They will notice that you care, and you will make a huge difference in their experience at your office.
Try it during your next shift. Making other people feel good will make you feel good, and that sense of purpose will roll over to other parts of your job — and life.
3. Keep learning and setting goals
You worked hard to become a dental assistant, but that shouldn’t mark the end of your education. There’s always more to learn!
- Take continuing education courses – This will ensure you stay up-to-date on new technologies and advancements in the dental field.
- Broaden your horizons – Because your job description can be so varied, don’t be afraid to branch out and learn more beyond the clinical side of things. Read up on marketing techniques for small businesses, learn about advertising, or attend a weekend seminar about customer service.
- Think about the future – There’s nothing worse than feeling “stuck.” Consider the next five-to-ten years and think about where you want to be in your career. Your goals could be big, such as eventually becoming a dentist or opening your own practice. They could also be more manageable, like learning new processes or eventually being promoted.
When understand where we’re going, it’s a lot easier to be content with where we are (and try harder).
4. Be positive
When you’re feeling overworked and tired, it can be hard to put on a happy face. However, you’ll find that working to maintain a positive attitude can do wonders for the atmosphere of your entire office. Positive energy is contagious, and since you’re the person involved in nearly every part of the practice, you have the power to spread that positivity.
No one wants to work with a Negative Nancy. Just by smiling and trying to maintain a positive attitude, your co-workers will view you as a leader, a solid worker, and a good dental assistant.
Take control of your career as a dental assistant
You went to school, you’re good at what you do, and you put in the hours — you already know the basics of how to be a good dental assistant. However, to bring your career to the next level, it requires relying less on ability and focusing on your mindset. By getting organized, being present, continuously learning, setting goals, and staying positive, you’ll undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in the dental community.
Do you have any advice for dental assistants? Did we miss any key tips for how to be a good dental assistant? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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