A product that can replace a dental assistant? Sorry, but no such thing exists.

March 1, 2016

You can’t replace a dental assistant. It’s that simple. Modern Dental Assistant editorial director Kevin Henry doesn’t care if this is the greatest new product to come along in years, it will never replace dental assistants.

It was one of those moments that made you stop in your tracks and replay what was just said in your head. It was one of those, “Surely he didn’t just say that” moments. As I sat there for a few seconds, though, I realized he had said it and I had to find out more about why he would say such a thing.

You usually don’t hear the latest dental industry gossip from an Uber driver, but that’s exactly what happened to me during my late February trip to the Chicago Midwinter Meeting.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning and the Uber driver picked me up in his Toyota Camry and we started the usual small talk, including asking where I was from and what I was doing in the Windy City. When I told him I was in town for the Chicago Midwinter Meeting, he told me he had just dropped off someone attending the meeting. This is where the conversation got very interesting.

“So the guy I just dropped off was telling me about a new product that is going to eliminate the need for a dental assistant,” the Uber driver told me as we started navigating our way onto Michigan Avenue.

Suddenly the small talk stopped. I stopped for a moment and replayed what he said in my head. It didn’t make sense. I had to ask more.

Me: “What product was it?”

Uber driver: “I don’t remember.”

Me: “What did it do?”

Uber driver: “I don’t remember.”

Me: “But he said you wouldn’t need a dental assistant any more?”

Uber driver: “Yeah, he said that a couple of times.”

I was just shocked. The Uber driver changed the subject onto how many kids I had and when I was heading home, but my mind was still on this mythical product and someone who was saying he could eliminate the need for any assistant. My guess is that this same person also sold snake oil at traveling circuses in a previous life.

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Sir, you can’t replace a dental assistant. It’s that simple. I don’t care if this is the greatest new product to come along in years, it will never replace dental assistants. I have spoken with countless dental assistants around the country and I have seen the passion they have for patient care in their eyes and heard it in their voices. The patients know this as well, and no invention can replace that.

Dental assistants are the hardest working men and women in the dental practice, period. They do so much behind-the-scenes work to make sure the dental practice operates smoothly, including setting up operatories and making sure sterilization techniques are followed precisely. They are there to comfort the nervous patient and reinforce to the doubting patient the need for that crown that the doctor just recommended. They are the tireless advocates for the dental patient and they can never be replaced by one invention or product.

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As my Uber driver pulled into the hotel driveway where my meeting was being held, I left him with a parting thought.

“If you pick up that inventor later today, give him my card. I’d love to talk to him and let him know that dental assistants should be appreciated, not replaced,” I told him as I handed him my business card.

I doubt he’ll ever call me. However, if you’re that inventor and you’re reading this, drop me a line at khenry@advanstar.com. I’d love to tell you how amazing these hard-working men and women are and how a dental practice simply wouldn’t survive without them.