Help! My Dental Assistant Won’t Learn New Things!

Don’t be the dental assistant who won’t learn new things.
Find comfort in the new thing – even if the new things are scary at first.

By: Ronda Holman

Hi dear reader, my name is Ronda Holman and I have been sitting across from a dentist for a living for the last 25 years.

I thought it might be time to make some written confessions as to what I have been guilty of over the years and how my dentist was able to effectively mold me into their dream dental assistant. 

I Got Comfortable, Being Comfortable

Once upon a time, I got comfortable with being comfortable. There is a certain security that comes from knowing that you know exactly what to do.

Less room for error and you get to turn on what I like to call autopilot. This afforded me the ability to stop thinking so much and just do my job.

The first few years after assisting school were a whirlwind and I thought I would not go back there again, it was way too stressful.

This mentality put me in a rut as I’m sure it does for many dentists too. The thing is when you decide to stop learning you decide to stop growing.

Turns out, growth is on the other side of the comfort zone. Meaning when I decided to stop growing I also conveyed to my dentist that I didn’t want to learn new things. 

This looked like my dentist, asking me to learn a new technique and me being resistant to it verbally and visually. I would say things like “I’m too old to learn new tricks” or “can’t so-and-so learn how to do that for you”.

Of course, this frustrated my dentist, as they were evolving and I was not. They had to figure out a way to get me to want to learn so that we could be a more effective team. 

How My Dentist Helped Change My Course

My dentist decided to change things up.

This included taking me with them to their next continued education course. Sometimes they were in-state, sometimes out-of-state, but we started learning together.

Before this decision was made, my dentist would always come back and try to show me what they learned over the weekend. Unfortunately, it was always bits and pieces of what they learned so the frustration was enough to make me say no thank you.

Dental Teams that Learn Together, Grow Together

Have you ever heard the saying “couples who play together, stay together”? Well, a dental team version of that is “teams that learn together, grow together.” 

The bonds that can be created between the dental assistant and dentist start with trust. My dentist trusted that I was worth the educational investment.

They are trusting that I wouldn’t learn on their dime and run to use my newly acquired skills with another dentist. The loyalty I have for my dentist who invested in me has made me a long-term employee who feels valued and irreplaceable. 

The best part of learning together is filling in the gaps when one of you can’t recall a specific piece of education from the instructor.

In Conclusion

Now, I will end this by repeating something that every industry has benefited from as a collective mindset.

Hire for attitude and train for skills.

Keep Reading: Help! My Dental Assistant Talks Too Much!

Ronda Holman

Ronda Holman

Ronda Holman found her passion for dental assisting while in the Air Force. She assisted in oral surgery, general dentistry, and ended her four-year service as a prophy tech, the military’s version of a dental hygienist. She married and spent 13 years traveling the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Each time Ronda relocated she got the opportunity to work in a new dental office, where she picked up pearls that have helped her become an expert in educating dental assistants. Her interests are immediate denture/partial fabrication, CEREC technology, patient education, and striving for optimal chairside skills. Ronda believes that every dental assistant has the potential to be a rock star assistant if given the right tools and guidance.