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From the editor's desk: Dental assistants, in demand and pursuing great opportunities

Jan. 20, 2021
This is a fantastic time to be in dental assisting. Prime positions are available because many have chosen to drop out of the profession due to the pandemic. Tija Hunter shares several tips to help you land that perfect position.

What an amazing time to be a dental assistant!

Did you know that before the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics rated dental assisting as one of the fastest growing careers? But what about now? I’m happy to report that our profession is crazy in demand and the ball is in our court!

As many in the dental assisting workforce have left to stay home with elderly parents or young children, those of us who are left can do more to advance our profession that you may think.

If you’re looking to get into the job market and are going to interviews at dental offices, remember this: although those in the practice are interviewing you, you are interviewing those in the practice as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you go on interviews.

  • Anticipate a list of questions they may have for you and be ready with answers so that you don’t stumble over your answers. This will show that you’re prepared.
  • Research the practice to see if it’s a place you truly want to work. Is it close to home? Do you like the hours? Will the hours be enough to support you? What services do they offer? Is there room for you to grow and learn? Find out, and then impress them that you have done your research about the practice.
  • Do they offer benefits? So many people focus on the hourly wage, and to me, benefits are every bit as important. Things such as provided uniforms or a uniform allowance, a retirement plan, health insurance, paid vacations, holidays, or sick pay, free or discounted dentistry for employees. It’s not always about the hourly wage. If you don’t need some of the benefits that are offered, then think about negotiating your wage.
  • Know what wage will work for you. This is very important. Don’t be unsure of yourself when discussing this. Know your worth and be confident! What benefits are important to you? Is it worth taking less pay and having these benefits? If you’re offered a lower wage, negotiate! I offer to take the position at the wage offered with the caveat that in 60 or 90 days that wage will be revisited. Then I don’t let them forget the 60 or 90 days.
  • Do they pay for continuing education? Do they attend seminars as a team? How can they help you grow professionally?
  • Do they offer a bonus?
  • Is it a positive environment?
  • What are the employees in the office like? Are they friendly? Do they laugh and smile? The practice culture says a lot about what type of place it is.
  • If you’re asked to do a working interview, know what you’re getting into before you “clock in” for the day. Are they paying you? Offices are legally obligated to pay for working interviews, so don’t be afraid to ask what you will be paid. Don’t wait until the end of the day to ask because it may not end the way you want it to.

Interview questions

1. What software do they use? Are you familiar with it?
2. Do they follow the latest in CDC guidelines? This will tell you a lot about them. Ask to tour the office and look at the sterilization room.
3. Do they have an OSHA or HIPAA compliance officer?
4. What are their hours? These may be different than what is on the website.
5. How long have their team members been with the office? This says a lot about the practice.

What are they looking for?

1. Someone confident that will help their practice grow.
2. Someone who will show up on time, be flexible, and help around the office even during down time.
3. Someone who knows their strengths and weaknesses and is confident on the computer.
4. Someone who has their state’s required certifications, permits, or licenses.
5. Someone who has goals. I used to think this wasn’t necessary, but employers want to know that you’re looking toward the future. How do you want to grow?

It’s an amazing time to be a dental assistant! Be the best that you can be, get out of your comfort zone, and go get the job of your dreams!

About the Author

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA

Tija Hunter, CDA, CDIA, CDIPC, CDSH, CDSO, EFDA, MADAA, is a member and former vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and the author of seven continuing education study courses. She is an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. She can be reached at [email protected].

Updated January 12, 2024