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New Career

Ask a dental assistant: Is it too late to start a career in assisting?

Jan. 20, 2021
Will this woman's age be a roadblock to her starting a career in dental assisting? Tija Hunter believes "seasoned" dental assistants are in demand, and here's why. She encourages this woman to go for it.
This column, "Ask a dental assistant," is open to any assistants who have concerns. They can reach out to a fellow assistant for advice with their dilemma. How many of you can identify with this assistant's question? Send your questions to [email protected], and it will be forwarded to an assistant to answer.

QUESTION: After 20-plus years as an early childhood educator, I’ve stepped away and am looking forward to a new adventure. For the last four years I’ve been interested in dental assisting, and I spent time talking with my dentist about the possibility. She thinks I’d be great and has encouraged me to try it!

As a woman who is 54 years young, I’m wondering if my age will work against me. My dentist and hygienist both said it’s not anything they factor into their thoughts, that it’s more the person’s ability to perform the job. Do you think it’s crazy for me to consider dental assisting as a career, and do you believe dentists are open to hiring mature candidates?

If so, do you feel safe in a dental office? Do you worry about the aerosols and catching any viruses? Are dental assistants well protected? Thank you for your honest feedback and tips.

Kudos to you for having the courage to change careers. I’ve been a dental assistant for 39 years, and I can't imagine doing anything else!

I operate a dental assisting program in St. Louis, and my students range in age from 18 to 60. I find that yes, mature dental assistants are in demand, and dental practices love our work ethic. You have experience, maybe not in dentistry, but you have people skills, and that’s what's needed to be a great dental assistant.

Make no mistake, there is much to learn, but people skills are something that can’t be taught, and having that experience is so valuable. I don't think you'll have any trouble finding a job, nor do I believe you'll have trouble learning to be an assistant. There is a lot to learn, so don't get discouraged if you're not a pro by the end of the week! You got this!

As for safety, several studies show that COVID-19 has not affected dentistry. Across the US, no clusters of COVID have been found in the dental setting. Yes, team members have caught COVID, but it's been through contact with family and friends.

I will personally attest that the dental office is a safe place to be because of our powerful disinfectants and our use of personal protective equipment (PPE), all of which you will learn about. Don't be afraid. After you learn about infection control, you'll understand how dentistry is doing so well. 

Best of luck and stay in touch with us about your journey.

We welcome any question or concern. The important thing to remember is that you're not alone. Send it to [email protected]. To read past columns, visit dentistryiq.com and search for "Ask a dental assistant."