We wanted to have an interview with a dental assistant, and Jeanne was happy to speak with us. Jeanne spent years in this role and eventually moved into an administrative position. Let’s take a look at some thoughts from someone who spent over 20 years in the business.
What was the most rewarding part of your being a dental assistant?
Jeanne: Working with people. Teaching them things about their teeth, their care and easing their fears (many people fear dentistry), and at times even helping them to understand their insurance and how they could afford the dental care that they needed.
What were the most interesting parts of that position?
Jeanne: Working with people, the different people you encounter, people from all walks of life and people of all ages. The variety of people coming through the office certainly kept things interesting and each day was a new experience.
Were there patients that you got to know well because they were there a lot? And, if so, what was the circumstance that made them a frequent visitor?
Jeanne: I’ll answer this in parts:
The most frequent patients were those with orthodontics, in other words braces and removable appliances, because adjustments and checks had to be made frequently. Also, it was necessary to monitor that the progress we were reaching for was moving along as nicely as had hoped.
Frequent visitors were also ones who had problems with their bite (like recurring jaw pain associated with overbites and under bites, etc.). These people were often wearing appliances that needed adjustment until they were just right for their optimum level of comfort.
Another type of frequent or regular patient was the ones with periodontal (gum) problems. They were usually much more often than the once a year or every six months patients. Some patients needed to be seen every three or four months in order to keep up proper care.
Do you remember how it was that you transitioned into the administration side of the business?
Jeanne: In the office where I was employed, it was required to work in both areas when I first started. We would work as a chair side assistant with each doctor in a rotation schedule and then a rotation in the office. The plan helped one to know all aspects of patient care and enabled us to keep a well-balanced understanding of the big picture.
Doing that made us more informed, and ready to be more thorough in answering questions and concerns of all the individual patients.
Will you comment, in your words, as to how your experience as a chair side assistant made you qualify in easily moving into your next position?
Jeanne: Knowing the clinical side, the common problems and treatments, made it easier to explain a patients treatment plan and how and why their work is being done in a specific order (perhaps one side at a time or three or four settings). Also, you already know the “language” of dentistry, so you learned to break down the information they wanted and needed to know, and the most effective way of addressing their concerns.
Sitting in the dental chair (with your mouth open) while hearing what is being said, doesn’t always sink in at that moment and questions arise later. We assistants, both chair side and ones at a desk, were generally the ones following up with the information and education that the patient needed.
All of those experiences caused us to be well equipped to cover administrative duties with a much better understanding than if we had never been chair side. I was very thankful for having the experience of both. I went into the administrative end with well above average strength and knowledge of the business than somebody hired of the street would have had.
Can you make any comments on the way dentist assistants made experiences better when you took your own kids to the dentist? Did you have a favorite, or one that stood out in that period of time?
Jeanne: My children started getting to know dental assistants as toddlers since I worked in the business. First it was just about “counting the teeth” and getting to know the assistants and the dental chair without any trauma. Then, in time, they knew them and had no problem relaxing with them, and feeling safe with them as other needs arose.
Yes, there were favorites and they still work there, over 20 years later, so there are favorites for many reasons and in many different ways. In fact, the one who I see regularly has been there about 40 years.
Do you feel that dental assisting brought you the fulfillment and respect that you would hope for in a career? And how did you feel about the dentists you worded for and their attitude toward their dental assistants?
Jeanne: Dental assisting was a career that always made me feel good. The patients were normally very kind and thankful. We were treated well as employees, too, so it was a pleasant office environment. Many people leave a dentist office feeling happy about having a problem or situation resolved and you get to experience that with them.
Dentists really value the help that their assistants give them and it shows in their attitude. Most of the time the dentists treated us like we were equal members of a team. I always felt respected and appreciated.
We are thankful to Jeanne for giving us a glimpse into the career of dental assisting.
Dental assisting career choices are still expanding, leaving many positions to be filled in the near future. Colleges are eager to bring you on board and work with you in finding the schedule that is perfect for you. Your new future is a decision away.
You can make that decision today by determining which college has the specifications that you desire to build the dental assisting career you desire. You can do that right now.
Before you know it you will be sitting chair side in a dental office remembering this day; the day you felt a little nervous about taking that first, exciting step. The first step is what you can easily get done today, and then you are on your way to your new career as a dentist’s assistant!