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Myth busters for dental assistants: Should you leave the profession?

June 19, 2020
It's a crazy time, and many dental assistants have expressed dissatisfaction with the profession and want to walk away. Tija Hunter discourages that move.

 I’m getting out of the dental assisting profession. Things have changed so much and it’s just not worth it anymore! Right?

Wrong, and I believe nothing could be further from the truth!

I think of the images I’ve seen of the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, where churches and theaters were closed, where people were arrested for being out after curfew, and everyone wore a mask. Sound familiar? Those times didn’t last, and these crazy times won’t either. As COVID-19 continues, we will learn more about it, a vaccine will be developed, and our bodies will learn how to fight it.  

Yes, we have gone through a very tough time, and many of you are still experiencing tough times. And yes, we are wearing some strange personal protective equipment (PPE) when we go to work these days, and yes, things are very different. But please don’t give up!

I remember when HIV was an unknown and very scary disease in the ‘80s, and dentistry was at the forefront of it. It was an intimidating time to be in dentistry, but we held on, and we became better for it. I believe that this too shall pass, and our world will be “normal” again, just like things passed for our ancestors who lived through the Spanish flu era.

Our patients and practices need us. Our patients need to come in and feel confident about being in our offices and having their dental treatment done. They need the skills that you bring to the practice, and they need to feel the heart you have for them.

The dental assisting profession is needed today more than ever. We’ve seen the demand for our skills increase, and the US Department of Labor recently classified dental assisting as one of the fastest growing professions. This pandemic is only going to fuel the fire for that need, and our profession will suffer if we leave it due to our fears. Do not be afraid!

I believe we are actually in a position to negotiate—negotiate proper PPE, and negotiate breaks throughout the day to remove the many layers and take much-needed breathers. Maybe this is also a time when we can negotiate better pay and more respect. This is our time to shine and it’s the best time to be a dental assistant! You can make a difference.

What’s the next step?

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s more about infection control. There have not been any cases of coronavirus traced back to any dental practices. There have been no clusters of dentists, hygienists, or dental assistants contracting the disease. Why is that? I believe it’s because what we were already doing regarding infection control with our PPE and disinfectants was working. But we’ve also learned that we can be even better.

Through all of this, the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) has recognized a deficit in our profession and has started speaking about the need for national infection control standards. They have taken the first steps toward seeing that this happens by working on legislation to make it possible.

Are you a member of your professional organization?

This is a time when we can make change, we can work to better our circumstances, and then we can watch as dental assistants emerge as the true professionals we are. We can’t do this if we don’t stand up and support ourselves and support our association, the ADAA.

If you’re not a member of the ADAA, I urge you to visit adaausa.org and join today! I ask you to become a part of something big and amazing, something that will help each of us grow and become the best we can be. This is our time! So please, do not walk away from what I believe is a wonderful profession!

To read Tija Hunter's previous and very engaging Myth Busters, visit dentistryiq.com/dental-assisting and search "Myth Busters for Dental Assistants."