Are you thinking about becoming a dental assistant?

You may be wondering if it's hard, if it's stressful, or if you need to be good at math.

Some assistants have told us a few of the things they wish they had know going into the job. So here are eight things you might wish to know before becoming a dental assistant…

1. What motivates you to be a dental assistant?

Dental assistants are often motivated by the opportunity to help people maintain their oral health.

Cindy shares “I enjoy the hands-on nature of the job and the satisfaction that comes from seeing immediate results in our patients' care.”

Another assistant shared: “Interacting with diverse individuals daily and being part of a team is incredibly rewarding for me.”

What motivates you to be a dental assistant?

2. Is dental assisting hard?

Dental assisting can be challenging, but it's also a rewarding profession. 

Dental assisting can be physically demanding, since assistants often need to be on their feet for long periods and work in small, precise areas. 

“Every day I’m on my feet” - Ava, DA

The role requires a good understanding of dental procedures, strong communication skills, and the ability to work closely with both dentists and patients. 

“I have to be constantly alert and ready to respond to my patients and the doctor.” Janet, DA

3. How stressful is being a dental assistant?

Being a dental assistant can be stressful at times, largely due to the fast-paced nature of the work and the need to manage multiple responsibilities simultaneously. These can include preparing dental instruments, managing patient records, assisting during procedures, and ensuring a sterile environment. 

Additionally, dental assistants often work with patients who are anxious or fearful about dental procedures, which can add an emotional dimension to the stress.

However, the level of stress can vary depending on the workplace environment, the efficiency of the dental office, and the support from other team members. Effective communication and good teamwork can significantly reduce stress levels. 

“I’m always juggling multiple tasks.This can be high pressure because there’s no room for making a mistake.” Miguel, DA

4. What’s the most difficult part of being a dental assistant?

"The toughest part of my job is definitely managing patients' anxiety. It's about making them feel comfortable and secure, even when they're sitting in the chair dreading the procedure. You need a lot of empathy and patience." — Jessica, DA

Managing patient care under a tight schedule may be one of the most difficult parts of the job. Other aspects of the job that can be challenging include:

  • Handling Patient Anxiety
  • Physical Demands
  • Maintaining Sterilization and Safety Standards
  • Balancing Multiple Responsibilities

"One of the most challenging aspects is the physical toll it takes. Being on your feet all day, bending and twisting to get the right angle to assist the dentist—it's more physically demanding than people realize." —Mark, DA

"Ensuring everything is perfectly sterilized and that we meet all health standards can be very stressful. It's a meticulous part of the job that requires constant vigilance to keep our patients safe from infections." —Linda, DA

"Juggling multiple tasks is definitely challenging. Sometimes I feel like an octopus with everything needing attention at once." —Sarah, DA

5. What’s the best part about being a dental assistant?

"The best part of being a dental assistant is when a patient looks in the mirror and smiles. That's incredibly rewarding." —Carlos, DA

"I love building relationships with patients. Seeing the same people come in over the years is really fulfilling." —Emma, DA

"It feels good to be part of a team that's all focused on the same goal." —Alisha, DA

"There’s always something new to learn. That really keeps the job exciting and challenging." —Raj, DA

"The most satisfying part for me is helping to relieve someone's fear. Knowing I can make a dental visit a little easier for someone makes my day." —Sophie, DA

6. Do you need to be good at math to be a dental assistant?

Being a dental assistant doesn't require advanced math skills, but having a basic understanding of math can be helpful. The math skills needed are generally fundamental and applied in practical, everyday scenarios within the dental office. 

Dental assistants need to be comfortable with basic arithmetic to handle tasks such as measuring medication dosages, calculating appointment times, and managing inventory. 

Understanding proportions and ratios can be useful when mixing materials for dental procedures.

7. What entices you to stay in a position as an assistant?

Being a part of a team effort seems to be one of the most important aspects of dental assistants staying on in a position. Many dental assistants even look at their work team as a family. 

8. Why do dental assistants quit?

There are a lot of reasons why people quit their jobs. Physical strain, stress, low pay, and a limit on advancement opportunities are some of the most common reasons dental assistants quit.

What else do you wish you knew before becoming a dental assistant? Let us know in a comment on social media.

Chris Lewandowski

Published May 06, 2024

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