Interested in becoming a dental assistant? These professionals play an important role in the delivery of dental healthcare, working alongside dentists and dental hygienists to keep patients comfortable and safe during procedures. They also handle many administrative tasks in dental offices.
Rising demand for dental care means dental assistants job prospects look strong for the near future. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for dental assistants should grow by 11% nationally over the 2018-2028 period, adding 38,700 new jobs.[i] If you’re interested in pursuing opportunities in this fast-growing career field, there are a few personal traits you’ll need for success.
Dental offices exist to serve patients, and patients are people. As a dental assistant, you will often be the first and last person patients encounter during their visit, so it’s important you have the kind of people skills that make attending a dental appointment as pleasant as possible. These can include:
- Being a good listener
- Showing empathy and compassion
- Having patience when people are anxious or upset
Patients who are anxious or afraid are more common than you might expect. In fact, estimates suggest as many as 10% of people have an extreme fear of visiting the dentist’s office.[ii] A dental assistant’s people skills can play a role in helping resistant patients become more comfortable seeking dental care.
Dental assistants need to be capable of clear communication with patients, practitioners and other professionals, such as insurance company employees. If you want to become a dental assistant, it’s essential to ensure you can communicate well in person, on the phone, and via e-mail or other written communications.
If you have a knack for explaining complex issues (such as insurance claims or a root canal) in a simple-to-understand way, you will probably be able to connect with patients in a dental office setting. In addition, good communication skills are especially essential for dental assistants when they’re working alongside the dentist during a procedure.
Dental assistants wear many hats in a dental practice. On any given day, they will perform a mix of clinical and administrative duties. Clinical duties can include tasks such as sterilizing instruments, helping a dentist perform a filling, or taking x-rays. Administrative duties may include calling to make patient referrals, entering insurance data, and placing orders for supplies. If you can shift between tasks without difficulty, you should be able to handle the varied role of a dental assistant.
Fine Motor Skills
Having good hand dexterity is very important for a dental assistant. Dental procedures focus on a very small part of the body which contains many delicate tissues and structures. The tools dentists and dental assistants use are often very sharp or otherwise capable of inflicting damage if a slip-up occurs. The most effective dental assistants have the dexterity to handle tools safely.
Attention to Detail
Does the dentist have the right set of tools for this extraction? Were those instruments disinfected or not? Is Mrs. Jones being referred to the right periodontist? These are just a few examples of the many details dental assistants will need to pay attention to throughout the course of a given day.
Noticing small details could mean the difference between a successful dental procedure and one that needs to be re-done, or between an accepted insurance claim and one that is denied. Your ability to notice details can save your practice and your patients money and time.
Reliability is important for all occupations, but especially for a patient-facing role like that of the dental assistant. Your ability to show up on time, communicate professionally and complete all your tasks will help keep the dental practice running smoothly.
The Right Training
Finally, dental assistants should have training that offers a blend of clinical knowledge, chairside skills, and office administration concepts. At Altierus Career College, our hands-on dental assistant diploma program takes students through every aspect of the dental assistant role, from taking x-rays and dental impressions to the anatomy of the head and neck. Find out more about this 9-month diploma program. Contact Altierus Career College today!