Here at UEI College, one of our favorite analogies about the role of dental assistants is that they’re the air traffic controllers of the dental clinic. It’s a great analogy because dental assistants are often tasked with duties that contribute toward ensuring patient coordination and safety, helping dentistry offices run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
The only problem with this analogy, however, is that it slightly undercuts the face-to-face, hands-on nature of a dental assisting career. To fully apply this aviation comparison would require us to add a couple more titles to dental assistants’ repertoire – roles such as copilot, flight attendant, booking agent, and so on.
In other words, the typical dental assistant wears so many hats when working within a clinic that most one-to-one comparisons are going to fall short of the essential roles they play within the dentistry field. The essential nature of these roles is why the demand for dental assistants is continually growing in the U.S.
It’s also why, according to a study by the Dental Advancement through Learning and Education (DALE) Foundation, the majority of dentists and dental office managers agreed that dental assistants contribute to the productivity of a dental practice.
Let’s take a look at some specific reasons why dental assistants are so important in the world of dentistry, but before we do, if you’re interested in becoming a dental assistant, consider enrolling in UEI’s Dental Assistant Program. The program can be completed, and you can earn your Dental Assistant Diploma in as few as 10 months, placing you on the fast track to becoming a dental assistant.
Now, let’s dive into why dental assistants are important. The main purpose of this blog post is to explore the importance of dental assistance in dental offices and clinics.
Why Are Dental Assistants Important?
Dental assistants are important because they are essential to the proper functioning of a dental clinic. They are tasked with ensuring that patients receive the best dental care possible by assisting patients and doctors with tasks such as checking patients into the clinic, preparing patients for procedures, and assisting dentists with common procedures such as filling, extractions, root canals, cleaning, etc.
Let’s dive into more detail as to why dental assistants are important. Here are 7 main reasons they are essential to the efficient and proper functioning of dental clinics and offices.
7 Reasons Why Dental Assistants are Important
It seems the critical role dental assistants play within a typical dentist’s office cannot be overstated. As this is a bold statement, let’s go into some details about general tasks (and, when we can, the results of said tasks) dental assistants do on a day-to-day basis to help keep a clinic running smoothly, efficiently and safely.
1. Improve Clinic Productivity
By generally offering support throughout the entire clinic – from administrative and patient support to assisting dentists through exams and as they provide treatments – dental assistants help keep operations moving both effectively and efficiently. According to the DALE Foundation, in fact, the majority of dentistry professionals polled agree that dental assistants – the most effective ones, anyway – allow dentists to move to their next patients more quickly. On a much broader level, the majority also said dental assistants help prevent dentists from getting burned out.
2. Increase Patient Satisfaction & Retention
Dental assistants spend a lot of time with patients, from scheduling appointments to welcoming patients to the office and preparing them for their checkup and treatments. The good ones also strive to develop a rapport with patients, helping them remain calm and assured as they wait for their exams and treatments to begin. Needless to say, such interactions play a significant role in patients’ experiences and levels of satisfaction. How significant? Nearly all of respondents of DALE Foundation’s study reported that dental assistants contribute to patient retention, while 91% stated they make it more likely that patients will accept dentist-recommended treatment plans.
3. Educate Patients
As dental assistants spend a great deal of time with patients, it often falls on them to educate people about upcoming check-up, treatments and courses of care, proper post-procedure care following certain procedures, and basics related to general oral hygiene. Dental assistants are also tasked to keep patient records up to date.
4. Contribute to Patient/Provider Safety
Exam rooms and equipment within a dentist’s office must be continually cleaned and sterilized for the safety of patients as well as the providers. These critical tasks often fall on the dental assistants, who essentially manage clinics’ infection control procedures. According to the DALE Foundation, nearly all of the dentists and dental office managers surveyed said sterilization and disinfection duties are delegated to their clinics’ dental assistants.
5. Help with Clinics’ Inventory and Purchasing
Tracking a clinic’s inventory of products, tools, materials, equipment and other consumables also often falls to dental assistants, as well the ordering of such products when needed. This, according to the DALE Foundation, gives dental assistants a more significant level of purchasing power within the dental industry than may be expected. This appears to be backed but their survey, which found that many dental assistants place orders for tools and materials for their clinics.
6. Manage Administrative Tasks
Dental assistants spend time working both in the exam room as well as in the front office, where they often perform a variety of administrative tasks like answering phones, scheduling appointments, updating patient records, assisting with billing/insurance claims, and providing various other practice and patient services. Maintaining inventory and managing the clinic’s purchasing needs also fall within this category.
7. Contribute to Clinical Team Synergy
As a member of the clinical team who works side-by-side with nearly everyone in the office, sometimes even taking on a clinic coordinator role, dental assistants can make or break the team dynamic. By coordinating and supporting coworkers both at the front office as well as in the back, dental assistants contribute to team synergy and make all team members more effective, say 98% of respondents in the DALE Foundation survey.
What Are the Important Traits of a Successful Dental Assistant?
Based just on the broad assortment of duties described above, dental assistants must have a number of significant personal and professional traits in order to be effective at their jobs. While many of the qualities seem as if they should be natural within a person based on personality and upbringing, most all traits can be developed and/or refined over time, especially as you gain more confident through thorough education, career training and experience.
Qualities and traits commonly mentioned as important for dental assistants to be most effective within their careers include:
- Good interpersonal skills, important for both patient communication and relations as well as effectively working with clinic and office staff.
- Ability to work as a team, which helps when both chairside assisting as well as general office communication and coordination.
- Being a self-starter, meaning you’re self-driven, motivated to work on your own, and do not need an office manager or dentist to always tell you what to do next. In other words, you take ownership of your time, your tasks and what needs to be done.
- A willingness to keep learning. As a health, science and technology-based field, dentistry is always changing and evolving. It’s important you’re always willing to learn and keep up with the industry.
- Great attention to details both in the front- and back-office. From scheduling appointments and updating patient records to ensuring all tools and equipment is sterilized, no detail is considered too small or unimportant.
Should You Become a Dental Assistant?
This is completely up to you and your own personal career preferences and goals. That said, dental assisting is a solid choice for those who wish to pursue an entry level career within a healthcare-related field focused on helping individuals live happier, healthier and more confident lives.
Dental assistants can work pretty much anywhere (keep in mind regulations and requirements for working as a dental assistant may differ by state), and a great number of dentists rely on dental assistants, along with hygienists and administrative staff, to ensure their clinics remain fully operational. Plus, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of private practice dental clinics are seeking dental assistants, according to a poll from the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute.
According to the ADA’s May 2021 poll:
- Owner dentists (i.e., private practice owners) were recruiting dental assistants.
- The same group of dentists were looking to hire administrative staff.
- Most of these owner dentists – the ones who were currently hiring – were finding the recruitment of dental assistants to be extremely challenging.
So, should you become a dental assistant? Objectively, that’s up to you and your own aspirations. But, if you feel dental assisting may be the right career choice for you, not only can we at UEI College provide you with hands-on training, education and experience, but it appears that now is a great time to enter the field.
How to Become a Dental Assistant?
Depending on where you live, it’s possible your state does not require a set level of education, training, experience, or even licensing in order to practice dental assisting. Each state is different, though, so to know for certain what it requires in order for one to work as a dental assistant, visit the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. website, which outlines most of what you’ll need to know.
Of course, being specifically trained to become a dental assistant from an accredited school can help you stand out in a competitive market. Students who enroll in the UEI College Dental Assistant program, for example, are provided with education, skills training, and real-world experience that can help them earn a diploma and begin an entry-level dental assisting careers in as few as 10 months. Graduates emerge from the program career-ready and prepared to seek further certifications, such as Registered Dental Assistant (RDA), that can further improve employment potential.
Enroll in UEI’s Dental Assistant Training Program
We at UEI College offer our Dental Assistant program at all 19 of our campuses, which are spread across five different states: California, Arizona, Washington, Nevada and Georgia. To learn more about the UEI Dental Assistant Program, which is offered through a hybrid format that mixes online learning with in-person, hands-on training, contact our admissions team. Or, simply just stop by one of our campus locations during regular business hours. We’ll be happy to tell you about our schools, answer your questions about the program, and even provide you a tour of the campus!