November brings with it the opportunity to reflect on the many reasons to appreciate dental assistants, as well as all of the ways they contribute to the dental office. In fact, dental assistants’ colleagues agree that assistants positively impact the practice, according to research commissioned by the DALE Foundation, the affiliate of the Dental Assisting National Board.
The DALE Foundation’s “Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice” research, which drew insights from nearly 3,000 dentists, dental hygienists, dental office managers, and dental assistants, makes it clear that dental assistants are critical team members and there are many reasons to appreciate the important work they do.
Dental assistants contribute to practice productivity
Overall, 99% of dentists and dental office managers agreed that dental assistants contribute to the productivity of the dental practice. For example, dental assistants allow the dentist to move to the next patient more quickly; contribute to team synergy, making all team members more effective; and help prevent the dentist from becoming burned out.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Dental assistants don’t produce.’ I believe this is untrue. On the contrary, we are among the ‘doers’ of the dental office. Many duties we are responsible for contribute to production, both directly and indirectly,” says dental assistant Marcia A.
Dental assistants demonstrate patient care skills
Compassion is one of dental assistants’ top traits, especially since dental assistants are with patients during their appointment every step of the way, providing comfort and clarity. This doesn’t go unnoticed by dentists and dental office managers, who said good patient care skills are among the five most important for dental assistants to have.
“Dental assistants always help to make patients comfortable, whether they’d like us to provide a pillow, a hand to hold, or just a calm voice,” says dental assistant Elizabeth M. “We understand that we can alleviate fear about the dental office.”
Dental assistants impact patient retention
Additionally, dental assistants contribute to the practice’s success in many ways, according to dentists and dental office managers. Specifically, 97% reported that dental assistants contribute to patient retention, and 91% said dental assistants make it more likely that the patient will accept dentist-recommended treatment.
“I believe a patient always comes back to an office that offers a caring environment, and who helps to provide that caring environment? The assistant, of course,” says dental assistant Marcia A. “I feel rewarded when a patient sincerely says, ‘Thank you, you were great, I’ll see you soon.’”
Dental assistants play a key role in infection control
Last but not least, dental assistants are on the front lines of keeping patients and providers safe. In fact, according to 99% of dentists and dental assistants, sterilization and disinfection duties are delegated to dental assistants in the practice. Dental assistants may even serve as the dental practice’s infection control coordinator.
“Dental infection control is critical,” agrees Tania S., CDA. “As dental assistants, we are making a commitment to patients to do everything we can to protect and take care of them.”
About the research The Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice survey was conducted in November 2016 by Association Laboratory, an independent research firm, on behalf of the DALE Foundation. To further explore the survey results, visit dalefoundation.org/research.