Working as a dental assistant can be extremely fulfilling, but it can also lead to some of its own challenges. We review some of the most common challenges dental assistants face, and how to manage them.
Communication Between Positions
This tends to be one of the most common complaints among dental assistants and in dental offices. When team members don’t understand the roles and responsibilities that the rest of their teams have, it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.
We also completely understand that dental offices are typically very busy, and fast-moving. So it is important to keep the following suggestion in mind throughout your workday to see where it can be implemented. That suggestion is to learn the roles and responsibilities of the other positions, also create an open line of communication to see where your position overlaps with theirs.
A patient’s visit at a dental practice will typically go through the same processes every time. They will also typically interact with the same staff members' positions every time they come. Whether that is the front desk team member, the dental assistant, then the dental hygienist, and then ultimately the dentist, or a completely different order.
As you are learning the other roles of your team, you will also learn at what stage the patient is handed off to a different team member. The most important hand-off for you is to you as the dental assistant, and then you handing off the patient to another team member.
It is pretty widely known that a significant portion of people have some form of anxiety when going to a dental office.
Going to the dentist's office exposes a patient to a lot of stimuli at one time, especially when that patient isn’t used to it. This can be from the loud noises of drills happening in other cleaning rooms, people talking, a lot of equipment around that they don’t understand, as well as the fear of pain from teeth cleaning.
There are a couple of things you can do to help assist these worries in the very beginning.
It is important that as soon as you come into an interaction with a patient present a very calm and collected attitude and manner.
You are the expert in this dynamic, so it is important for you to maintain control over the situation that is happening. It also helps significantly if you are able to alert the patient ahead of time of any uncomfortable feelings they may experience.
For example, if you know that they are going to be undergoing a dental procedure that will require numbing, then let them know in advance so that way they’re able to understand what is going to happen, and they are not surprised or walking into something without knowing.
A large proponent of anxiety is the unknown. Whether or not they will be experiencing pain, or if they are understanding what the procedure actually entails. No matter what through all of this, transparency is key.
Patients Not Showing Up
Odds are you have probably already dealt with this on a multitude of occasions. How most dental offices are set up is that once a patient finishes their current appointment, they then schedule their next appointment about six or so months in advance.
If that patient does not mark this down in any way, such as using the calendar in their phone, then more than likely they will not remember that they have that appointment scheduled.
As you probably have experienced as well, having patients not show up for their dental appointments can completely throw off your workday, and the patient load that you are anticipating for that day. In that instance, they have taken up a spot that another patient could have used, and they did not utilize their spot respectively.
This causes aggravation amongst the team, as well as the dental practice losing money based on that patient not showing up and not having enough time to fill that spot.
How do we solve this? If you are able to, or if the responsibility falls on the front desk team member, be sure to follow up with the patient a couple of days before their appointment. Whether this is two or three days beforehand, or up to a week beforehand, it is important to remind the patient of the upcoming appointment. Giving yourself this time buffer will allow you to have that opening available for any other patients that would like to be seen sooner.
Patients That Are Patronizing From The Title “Assistant”
If you have ever had to explicitly tell a patient your job title, you may have been met with a patronizing attitude. This may have stemmed from a patient hearing the word “Assistant” in your position, and assuming that you don’t hold the amount of education that you know you do.
In cases like this, it’s recommended that you respectfully remind both patients and your dentists of your education and training. Most of the time you will never have to do this due to people being generally respectful of other people and their careers. However, in the instances where your value is being downplayed either internally or externally by patients, it’s important to remind them of the value in which you hold for the operations of their dental practice.
The Stress Of The Job
You can typically work very long hours that are mainly on your feet the entire time. You are also constantly dealing and working with people. Well, most of these are going to be positive interactions, of course, there will be some negative interactions.
All of this combined can lead to a significant amount of stress on the dental assistant if they don’t know how to manage everything. It’s important to be very upfront and honest with your supervisors. This includes your work availability. Being a dental assistant you will be asked to stay late on multiple occasions. Of course, your dental practice will appreciate it if you are able to, but if you are not able to and you have already made it very clear what your availability is to your supervisors, then it is completely acceptable to decline.
It’s also important to take 30 seconds to a minute between patients if you need to just breathe. We offer examples of some good breathing exercises
that you can do and take a look at.
Understanding and managing your stress is important to prevent burnout. So never disregard the actions taken to reduce your stress levels to something more manageable.