Some of the most important lessons a young professional will learn will come from veterans in your field. In dental assisting that is no different. Learning office procedures, adapting your work style to fit the dentist’s needs, and adjusting to the needs of the individual patient are often something young dental assistants struggle with.
Melissa Ibarra has been a dental assistant for eight years, and says young and aspiring dental assistants often struggle with how to best make those adjustments and for finding the maximum level of success right out of the gate.
Here are her top pieces of advice:
- Don’t get frustrated if you struggle in the beginning: In any job there is a learning curve, and in dental assisting, where things move as a breakneck pace, it can be frustrating if you start struggling. “Dental assisting can be rough in the beginning – there are so many different instruments and procedures and concepts so foreign to someone just starting off in the field,” she said. “Give it a few months and everything becomes to second nature. Most procedures are repetitive, so you eventually start to get the hang of things.”
- Be versatile: The dental assistant’s main job is to function in service of the dentist. As such, be sure you customize your routine and tasks to meet the demands of the dentist. “Every dentist you assist is different. They all have their own particular way of doing things,” she said. Your job as the dental assistant is to learn that system and make it easier for the dentist to do his or her job.
- Don’t just know the how, know the why: Don’t think merely in terms of completing your task; know the function behind what you are doing, and where it fits into the larger context of helping patients maintain good oral health. “Understanding how each procedure works helps in remembering how to assist the dentist.”
- Don’t get TOO comfortable with your job: “Keep in mind that although the patient is often not able to talk, they can still hear everything you and the dentist are talking about. Always keep that in mind when having conversations – you never want to make your patient feel uncomfortable.”
- Regulations are everything: “Always abide by HIPAA,” “she said. Always be up to date on the latest updates to the laws. Neglecting HIPAA regulations can bring a great deal of trouble not only to you, but to the dentist’s office as well.
- Work on speed and quality, and keep up with the demand: “Dental assisting can be a very fast-paced environment. Sometimes when patients are double booked, or if an emergency patient walks in, you must do everything you can to work efficiently and quickly.”