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Helping Hand

Myth busters for dental assistants: Work is slow, and we can’t do anything about it

Nov. 19, 2020
Dental assistants should not use a slow office as an excuse to waste time. While it may be slower than normal lately, there is something DAs can do—help out your peers and do some of that work you've never had time for.

Things are slow at work right now because of COVID and there’s not a thing I can do about it. Right? Wrong!

While it’s true dentistry has slowed down due to COVID, there is something that can be done about it. Six months ago, our offices were closed, and not having full hygiene schedules took a toll on our production. Some offices have shortened their hours or taken days or even weeks off. Some patients prefer not to come in right now, and things look scary!

Even during this trying time, there are plenty of ways you can create value in yourself as a dental assistant. What you can do? The main thing you can do is support your team! Here are a few ideas.

• Hygiene may be slow right now, but there are still patients who need to get to the dentist. There’s nothing like jumping on that phone and making those calls to find those patients. Your front desk team doesn’t always have the time to do that, so help them out! With dental benefits ending next month, it’s the perfect time to remind patients to use those benefits. Sending reminders or calling people is a great way to connect with them. They’ll appreciate you going the extra mile; that’s just great customer service.

• Educate your patients. Dental assistants spend more time with patients than any other team member, so take a few minutes and educate them about the treatment they need. If there’s time on the schedule, you can ask if they want stay and get their treatment that day. You never know until you ask. They often appreciate the fact they won’t have to come back.

• If the hygiene team needs a hand, you can support them by helping clean the rooms, bringing a patient back for x-rays while they finish on another patient, or even perio chart for them when needed.

• Save your practice money. With the cost of personal protective equipment on the rise, there are some ways to save the practice money. Look for ways to cut costs without cutting quality of care. Help to locate PPE at the best possible price, and then try not to waste it! Bond is expensive, so pay attention to how much you use. That may seem silly since it’s such a little amount, but trust me, it adds up fast. Another way to save is to not wear a surgical mask in hallways or the breakroom and use a cloth mask in nonpatient areas. Then change into a surgical mask when necessary. Masks are hard to get, so don’t use them when it isn’t necessary.

• It’s the perfect time to clean and organize. Never say there is nothing to do because there is always something to do. Clean, reorganize, and restock your cabinets. Clean out expired supplies, cluttered drawers, or cabinets. I’m a stickler about light switches because it seems they’re always dirty, so wipe those things down. Go in the waiting area before patients arrive or after they leave and look and see if there is anything that can be done to make the room better.

• What have you been putting off? Now’s the time to do it! Rework your notes to make them better. Lift up those dental chairs in the ops and really clean the bottoms of them. Take that nitrous cart and clean it well. Reorganize the endo or implant stuff. Low on consent forms or post-op instructions? Make more copies! Do maintenance on your autoclave. Test and shock your dental unit waterlines. Run the suction lines. There are so many things you never have time for, so now is the time to do them!

By working hard and supporting your team, your office, and your boss, you will create value in yourself. I’d rather be busy than sitting and waiting for the day to end. If you’re not busy, is there really a need to keep you there? Together we will get through this. We all need to help each other right now. Be the support your team needs!

To catch up on past Myth Busters, visit DentistryIQ and search for "Myth Busters."

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, CDSO, CDSH, MADAA, is a member and current vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. Hunter is the editor of Dental Assisting Digest and contributes to Dental Economics magazine. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states.