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The top 5 things dental assistants do wrong ... and how to change that


Working in a dental office is one of the greatest joys in my life. I sincerely love everything about it. Through the years, I have found some common mistakes dental assistants make, including myself. I have found that changing the way dental assistants do things (even just a little) will help you have low stress and a more enjoyable work environment.

Finding a job

I can say this until I’m blue in the face and maybe one day someone will listen. What’s the best way to find a job? Create a professional resume that is different. For example, don’t make it over two pages (one for cover letter and one for resume), then put it on heavier paper (something with a nice border) and secure it neatly in a see-through binder with a cover letter. Remember, resumes give the potential employer the facts. Cover letters show your personality. Make them positive and upbeat. Never complain in your cover letter about how you can’t find a job! Get out of that computer chair, get on your scrubs (clean and unwrinkled), pull your hair back, and get ready for your day. Go to every office with a huge smile, be sincere, look the team in that office in the eye, shake hands if you are able to, and ask if you can drop off your resume.

We get hundreds of resumes by fax and e-mail, but they don’t have a face with them. Give potential employers a positive image to remember when they are hiring. Not only does this work, I’ve known several assistants who have been asked to stay for an interview and/or working interview. Since you don’t know who is hiring, go to every office. If you project a positive image, word will get around and you will get a job!

Speaking professionally

This not only applies to what you say to patients, but your team as well, especially if you are a new hire. One of the best ways to get to know patients and help them relax is to get them to talk about themselves (it’s a trick I learned years ago). They are the subject that they know best, so get them chatting about themselves and they relax more. However, when they ask how you are, keep it positive! Don’t tell them about your bad day, what your ex is up to, or how you don’t get paid enough! If you don’t have anything positive to say, then don’t say it. Most people perceive dental offices as torture dungeons and they are frightened to be there. The last thing they want to hear from the person they want total confidence in is how your day is falling apart or that you don’t want to be there at all.

In the employee lounge, telling your dark secrets will only make you a target for the gossip group, so don’t go there! We all have stresses and struggles in our life, but keep that side of your life to yourself. Use your work as your sanctuary to forget about the problems at home and focus on the vision for the office and your career. You are getting paid to be there and not have your thoughts occupied by your home life.

Establishing office routine ... from an old office

“At Dr. Parker’s office, we did it like this.” “That’s not how we did it at Dr. Smith’s office.” Oh boy! Bottom line, nobody cares how you used to do it. You’re in a new office and each office has its own mojo going on and does things its own way. Now I’m all open to ideas and trying new ways to make our office flow better, but to just come in and constantly tell everyone Dr. Smith did it like this is only going to make everyone give you the evil eye when you open your mouth.

You’re in a new place, so do things the way they do them. Then, once you’ve learned their system, you can make suggestions. Some of the things that work in one office just won’t in another, so be flexible and positive.

Getting up in the middle of a procedure

Doctors find this the #1 most annoying problem working chairside. This always aggravated me as well! I think I’m all ready and BAM! I forgot something. Most of the time it was because I was distracted mentally or someone came in and asked me a question.

What I found was that looking over my schedule each morning and getting ready for the day that I needed was a huge help. Then before I bring back my patient, I do a quick walkthrough (in my head) to make sure. When the doctor is focused, keep it going by not having to get up during a procedure because you forgot something. Dentists like nice smooth procedures and your day will be better too!

Time management

Successful dental assistants are the epitome of multitaskers! We can juggle an air/water syringe and HVE while opening up a bottle of bond, keeping an eye on the time, reminding the doctor he or she has a hygiene check in room 2, remembering to write bond on the order list, and not letting patients drown in toxic saliva they can’t swallow all with a smile on our face.

Keep yourself, your ops, and the sterilization area all organized. Run through your day in the morning huddle and get yourself ready. I work great making a list of things that need to be done. Crossing things off that list makes me feel accomplished and serves as motivation to rock out my day. If you manage your time well, your day will flow with little stress.

Make your day less stressful and your career will be on track and you will be happier about what you’ve accomplished. Your employer will notice, your team will be motivated, and you’ll help to create a happy workplace.

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