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Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA, is an expanded functions dental assistant/office manager in O'Fallon, Mo. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, member of the American Dental Assistants Association, where she holds a Master, an independent consultant specializing in team building, assistant training, and office organization. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the age of 19, when I began my career in dentistry, I thought that when I became “old” (like 40), I would have to quit assisting. I thought to myself that since I’ve never heard of an “old” assistant, I would have to move to the front desk. Boy was I wrong! There are so many things I wish I could go back and tell my 19-year-old self about what to expect in the future and how to make my career that much better. If given the chance, here are a few things I would tell myselfâ¦
I had no idea back then just how important a “good” pair of shoes is. Not just for my feet, but my back and knees too! As dental assistants, we are on our feet all day. Just because shoes cost a lot doesn’t mean they have the support you need to protect your joints from the effects of getting old. Do your research. Invest in good shoes!
So many times throughout the years, I would hear, “Oh you don’t need continuing education â¦ you’re a dental assistant.” I was stupid enough to listen to them! Dental assistants are truly valuable team members and we need to be educated. It doesn’t matter if you were trained on the job or attended a 3-month or 9-month dental assisting program, this career is about lifelong learning! There are so many different avenues you can take in dentistry, but you can’t get anywhere without learning all you can first. Invest in your education!
Moisturizer, Moisturizer, MOISTURIZER!
Those wrinkles creep up on you. This career is demanding on your skin with the constant washing of the hands. I wish I would have known just how important a good facial cleanser and hand lotion would be years down the road â¦ and how putting a little effort into my skin then would mean a lot to me now! Invest in a good moisturizer!
I heard Aretha sing it for years but never gave a thought that she may be singing to me! I remember one job I worked at and, many times, I thought the doctor would talk down to me, but I noticed he didn’t do that with the front desk girl. It took me awhile to realize that’s because she wouldn’t put up with it! Nobody will respect you until you make them respect you. Stand up for yourself because nobody else will. The sooner this lesson is learned, the better off you are. Invest in my confidence!
Put me first
This is probably the hardest one to learn. As a young assistant, I had a little boy to care for and I was a single mom. Taking time for me didn’t seem like something I could do. I always gave to my son and my job, so there wasn’t much left for me. I also thought that this meant spending money that I obviously didn’t have. Taking time for me now means spending time with my thoughts, thinking clearly, and giving some thought on where I’d like to be and what I’d like to accomplish, then setting up a game plan on how I intend to get there. The luxury of a pedicure doesn’t cost a lot and the hour that I get to spend all to myself always makes me feel good about me. Invest in my mental health!
These 33 years since I was my 19-year-old self have flown by. There isn’t much I would change about how I have arrived at my life now, but these few little tweaks would have meant some big changes in the way I saw myself and my future. Lesson learned â¦ Invest in YOURSELF!