Ken has never been overly concerned about stereotypes. He has not lived his life trying to conform, so as to blend in with society’s expectations.
Ken was not from a background where such things were pushed on him either. Ken was raised believing that he could be whatever he wanted to be when he grew up. Ken is now a dental assistant. He will tell you why.
How did you decide on dental assisting as your career?
KEN: Actually, for most of high school I believed that I was going to be a nurse. Working with people like that, and being part of alleviating suffering, or just helping somebody feel good, has always appealed to me. When I was a kid, and went to the doctor, there was a male nurse who I got to see once in awhile. I always thought that was really cool, and I started wanting to do that.
How was it, then, that your attention was turned to dental assisting?
KEN: Actually, I came across an article in the dentist’s waiting room about a male assistant. For some time I had entertained being a dentist too, just because it seemed like a really complex field, and so I thought it would always be interesting. The article made me see that being a dentist assistant could fulfill a lot of the same career desires for me.
How did you decide to be a dentist’s assistant instead of a dentist?
KEN: Being young, I was sort of intimidated by the commitment of the educational requirements to be a dentist, but I definitely felt that I had what it took to be a dental assistant, even though I chose it at a young age. It also seemed like an awesome way of finding out how much I liked being in dentistry. It was a win-win for me. I can always become a dentist, when I feel more ready to commit to the education.
How do you feel your experience differs from the female assistants?
KEN: For one thing, I’m in an office with mostly females. I feel that my male presence is often appreciated because I often get asked to do things that the female assistants can’t easily get done. And even if sometimes it’s as simple as lifting or reaching something, I do feel valued, which is one of the best parts of any job.
Also, I get the feeling that I may contribute to a fun office environment. The coworkers seem to like joking around with me, and since the dentist is male, he often joins in as if he and I were a team. It helps make it fun to go to work.
Do the patients treat you differently?
KEN: I may get treated a little bit differently, but definitely not in any negative way. I can sometimes see a slight reaction initially, but it has never felt bad. I’m always received well. Kids are the least likely to show any reaction. I suppose because they don’t have preconceived notions about gender roles. Sometimes I feel the most popular with the kids, though I’m not really sure why.
It sounds like your experience with being a male in this profession is very positive!
KEN: Absolutely! Choosing a college that worked around my life was much easier than I could have expected. I didn’t have to stop living just because I was in school. I was able to fit in everything that was important to me while building my career.
What was it like finding employment?
KEN: I had no problem finding a job, and I was happy with the first one I got. I have been at the same office for nine years, and just recently started thinking about furthering my career. I’d like to get more specialized in a particular area. Either that, or I will go ahead and become a dentist. I just very happy about the choices I have opened up for myself in becoming a dentist assistant.
Thank you, Ken, for sharing your experience and perspective as a male dental assistant, and congratulations on finding a career that is meeting your needs and expectations!