By: Jamie Finch
Dentists may get most of the credit for helping people achieve a perfect smile, but the contribution of their assistants shouldn’t be underestimated. Dental assistants perform numerous important roles that help a dental practice run smoothly, including assisting dentists in surgery.
A dental assistant’s career can be exciting, and having the right people in those roles can have a significant positive impact on the dental industry.
However, being a dental assistant can be demanding, and if you’re interested in that career, having certain qualities can help position you for success.
6 Valuable Skills Every Dental Assistant Needs
Here are some of the most essential skills you’ll need to be a good dental assistant:
1. Hand Dexterity
Dentists and their assistants work with tools that can cause nerve damage, tooth damage, or lead to infection if an accident occurs with a patient. Procedures must be precise, and the slightest error could lead to disastrous consequences for practices as well as their patients.
Dental malpractice statistics show that dentists are likely to be charged with three to five legal cases over the course of their careers. So to mitigate the high risk of a mishap, as a dental assistant you will need strong motor skills.
They must be able to use tools precisely and with a steady hand to ensure procedures go without a hitch. This level of skill can take a lot of practice to acquire.
2. Organizational Skills
A dentist’s office is busy, and things can soon turn into disarray if the practice isn’t organized. As a dental assistant, you’ll need excellent organizational skills so you can keep up with the pace.
Whenever a dental assistant is called upon to do something, they must be prepared and ready to take the task head-on.
For example, you will need to ensure the dentist has all their equipment at hand when needed, and keep patient records organized so everything is easily retrievable when needed.
3. People Skills
Few people like trips to the dentist, and some feel quite nervous during their appointment. However, everyone needs to go to the dentist, so as a dental assistant you’ll need the right people skills to help reassure nervous or reluctant patients and keep them calm. Otherwise, it can be difficult for the dentist to do their job well.
Strong communication skills are also important, not only when you’re with patients but also with the dentist and other staff. For example, a dental assistant needs to be able to take instructions as well as pass on helpful feedback and information.
4. Attention to Detail
Any error in a dentist’s office could lead to negative outcomes for all involved, so as a dental assistant, you’ll need to have strong attention to detail.
Dental assistants must pay close attention when the dentist is performing a procedure and meticulously keep track of patient dental records and other details. Any slip in attention, such as infection control breaches, has the potential to cause serious problems.
Attention to detail also ties into your people skills. It will help you recognize when patients are feeling nervous or in pain so you can help them relax as much as possible.
If a dental assistant arrives late or doesn’t show up for work, the dentist’s job can become much more challenging. This also puts much more pressure on other assistants and, in some cases, it can inconvenience patients when it causes appointments to be postponed.
Dental assistants also need to be reliable in their focus on the job. If their mind is prone to wander or if their work ethic is lacking, it’s important to strive for improvement so the rest of the team isn’t let down.
One lapse could have a severe negative impact on a dental practice, so it’s essential that all dental assistants are reliable.
6. Ability to Multitask
With the fast pace of a dentist’s office, dental assistants need to be good at multitasking. Sometimes, it’s necessary to do more than one thing at a time, and these tasks will need to be completed accurately and quickly.
For example, you will need to ensure the dentist has the right details for their patient and the right tools. Some people become easily flustered when asked to do multiple things at once, but a dental assistant needs to perform the tasks calmly and competently.
Do You Have What it Takes to be a Good Dental Assistant?
Above is just a small selection of the qualities required to be a successful dental assistant. You will also need to be intelligent, versatile, compassionate, resilient, and have a desire to help other people.
In some states, you will be required to have training, and many dental offices will expect you to be trained regardless of state regulations.
If you have what it takes and the will to succeed, being a dental assistant can be an exciting career.
Learn More about Dental Assistant Requirements in Your State:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington D.C.