10 Expert Dental Assistant Tips to Consider Before Entering the Field

Portrait of smiling dental assistant using digital tablet in dental clinic

The dental field offers both opportunities and challenges. For those who want to make the most of these opportunities and overcome challenges that come their way, expert assistance is available.

At Howard Healthcare Academy, we want our students to enjoy unprecedented learning experiences.

As part of our commitment to anyone considering dental field positions, we’ve put together this list of 10 dental assistant tips you’ll want to keep in mind:

Immerse yourself in the dental field.

Before you enroll in dental school, find an internship or part-time job at a dental practice. Or, if possible, volunteer at a dental practice.

These hands-on dental opportunities will help you learn and provide you with real-world insights into the day-to-day operations of a career in dentistry.

According to Dr. Laura Adelman and Dr. Rachel Rosen of Ohio pediatric dental practice Great Beginnings, your dental practice experiences may ultimately reinforce your decision to go to dental school.

Network with dental professionals.

Dr. Jennifer Silver of Canadian dental practice Macleod Trail Dental recommends networking with dental professionals while you are still in dental school. The dental field is filled with experts who are happy to share their industry knowledge and insights with you.

If you foster relationships, you may learn things from practicing dentists that you won’t necessarily learn in a classroom. Some dental professionals can even offer recommendations and dental assistant tips to help you kickstart your career after you graduate, Silver says.

Know where you want to work.

One lesser-known tip for dental professionals is to have an area in mind that you want to work in before you graduate. You can then pursue jobs at dental practices in your preferred cities and towns and find your dream job in your dream location.

Remember that hasty career decisions sometimes force dental professionals to move frequently, says Dr. Samuel B. Low, Chief Dental Officer at dental lasers company BIOLASE. Dental practices are unlikely to hire dental professionals who often jump from location to location and job to job, too.

Once you know where you want to work, take your state board exam as soon as possible. Each state has different requirements, so the sooner you decide on your location, the sooner you can launch your career there.

Also, keep in mind that practice opportunities can vary based on location so make sure to consider the dental opportunities in the area you want to work.

Look beyond the bottom line.

Think about why you want to enter the dental field. If you are focused solely on earning as much as possible, you may want to consider a different career path. Dental field positions are incredibly rewarding but they certainly require a level of commitment.

The most rewarding part of a career in the dental field is putting the patient first, Dr. Adelman and Dr. Rosen say. Otherwise, a job at a dental practice is just like any other job. “Do right by the patient first,” they recommend. “Then, financial security will follow.”

Get your finances in order.

Review dental school financing options and select one that accounts for your short- and long-term career goals. Finances are stressful, especially for those who are figuring out how they will pay for dental school. Fortunately, financial assistance is available to dental students. Some dental schools offer scholarships to cover some or all tuition costs.

Additionally, dental schools may offer flexible student loan options. “If you have the opportunity to go to a state school or a school that offers a great student loan repayment plan, we strongly encourage you to choose one of those options!” Adelman and Rosen note. “The less financial burden you have, the more you will be able to make professional decisions based on your patients’ and your practice’s best interest, not the debt you have to repay!”

Accept your strengths and weaknesses.

Confidence is a great attribute, particularly for an individual who is entering the dental field. At the same time, an important dental assistant tip is to realize that you’ll be good at some things and not so good at others.

Once you do that, you’ll be ready to learn from dental experts who can teach you everything you need to know about the field. Also, you can become a constant learner who builds his or her dental skill set both now and in the future. “Be flexible and ready to learn … [and] always keep an open mind,” the Howard Healthcare Academy faculty say.

Prioritize the dental patient experience.

Provide each patient with exceptional care. People often experience fear and anxiety at the mere thought of going to a dentist. However, each positive experience at a dental practice helps a patient reduce his or her fear and anxiety.

It also helps a dental practice enhance its reputation – something that could lead to an increase in patient satisfaction and loyalty. “If the patient has a bad experience, you can be certain the patient will share it,” says Angela Byrnes, Director of Client Services at Roadside Dental Marketing. “Every patient and every procedure can make an impact on patient retention and the practice’s reputation.”

Compliment – then educate – dental patients.

Resist the temptation to lecture dental patients about the importance of proper oral care. Instead, focus on the positives, then offer tips and recommendations to help patients improve their oral health.

A positive attitude can go a long way in the dental field, and if you compliment – then educate – patients, you could help them prevent cavities, gingivitis, and other long-lasting oral health issues.

“The key is to give compliments [like], ‘Your teeth are so white,’ followed by a tactful statement to point out how they can improve their dental health,” Silver says. “Basically, offer the advice they need to hear without calling them out specifically.”

Foster a team-first culture in the dental practice.

Engage with colleagues and superiors at work every day. A dental practice is more than just a group of dental professionals who work in the same place at the same time. The best dental practices usually have amazing cultures; here, dental professionals work together to achieve common goals.

Get on board and do what you can to support all the dental field positions that work around you.

It takes a team effort to build and maintain an outstanding work culture, and you can do your part by doing your job to the best of your ability at all times.

You can also help colleagues and superiors whenever possible, as well as ensure that all patients receive the care and attention they deserve. “It is easy to let personal differences or small annoyances affect the overall culture of the practice,” Byrnes says. “Focus on your job and your patients.”

Put the patient front and center.

Make the patient your top priority every day. Dental professionals are tasked with a wide range of responsibilities – everything from handling administrative tasks to performing dental cleanings.

Yet dental professionals sometimes get caught up in their day-to-day routines and lose sight of what is most important: providing each patient with world-class care. “The day-to-day routine of providing dentistry is not ‘routine’ to your patients,” Byrnes notes. “Don’t get wrapped up in ‘your job’ and forget the patient may have anxiety over what seems very common in your routine.”

Lastly, have fun and enjoy working in the dental field, the Howard Healthcare Academy recommends. To help you do just that, we employ expert faculty members who are available to share their industry knowledge and insights with students.

We also offer a comprehensive dental assistant course curriculum to help our students quickly achieve their career goals. To find out more, please contact us today at 1 (619) ACADEMY.

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