Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 03 Dentist Staff 1

Dental assistants have the caring and passion to help

March 23, 2016
Pete Cargill has dealt with a lot of dental practices through the years, and he says that dental assistants have qualities that make integral parts of a successful dental team. What makes them so special?

In honor of Dental Assistants Recognition Week, which was celebrated earlier this month, I’d like to take a look at what it takes to fill this key role in a dental practice, and the type of individual who takes on this important job. Having worked with thousands of dental assistants since 2002 when I started in dentistry, I have a true respect for the commitment they have to compassion, personal attention to every patient, and most importantly, a smile!

Dental assistants are to dentists what nurses are to doctors. Dental assistants help a practice in numerous ways, keeping patients calm and informed and making the dentist’s job easier. I always say, behind every dentist is a great dental assistant!

Dental assistants need to have knowledge and skill, which is acquired through special training or on-the-job training. Successful dental assistants tend to have a number of characteristics in common. Some of these characteristics may come naturally, and others may need to be developed over time. Many of these special team members have the passion to brighten any patient’s day and ease people’s tension at the dentist.

Dental assistants love working with others
Friendly conversation with patients can help put them at ease as the assistant prepares the patient, tools, and room for the arrival of the dentist. The cheerfulness of the dental assistant makes a huge difference to the patient and dentist in the delivery of the dental procedure.

This love of working with others carries over to the rest of the staff. The friendliness of the assistant can help keep the office environment a pleasure to work in. Some people love helping others and even consider it a calling. Dental assistants are among this select class of individuals.

Dental assistants are compassionate
The ability to “put yourself in another’s shoes” comes naturally to many dental assistants. This ability shows itself as patience and compassion. Patients visiting a dental office are frequently anxious, and they easily respond to the assistant’s friendliness and compassion.

“Dental assistants love their profession,” said Virginia “Ginny” Cairrao, CDA, FADAA, and president of the American Dental Assistants Association. “Dental assistants are passionate about supporting the team they work with and when comforting patients. A dental assistant’s mission is to make a dental visit a positive experience for each patient, and they love to make people smile!” Ginny adds, “As dental assistants, our mission is to serve, our passion is to care.”

Dental assistants have excellent communication skills
Dental assistants are is expected to juggle many tasks at the same time while maintaining great communication with the dentist and patient. He or she must keep the patient calm and informed, know what help the dentist needs almost before the dentist does, and respond to orders from the dentist quickly.

Dental assistants also need good communication skills when they explain procedures and instructions about dental care to their patients.

“For dental assistants, communication is essential, even if nonverbal," said Mary LaChappelle, CDA, RYT, president of the Connecticut Dental Assistants Association, and board member of the Connecticut Oral Health Initiative. "Being able to identify and know the dentist's next step in a procedure ensures your patients' comfort and overall care. Dental assistants are the lifeline between the dentist and the patient.”

The technical skills and knowledge of dental assistants
As the right-hand person of the dentist, dental assistants must have thorough knowledge of the instruments used and the steps of each dental procedure. The ability to smoothly multi-task is always called into play during treatments, as is good manual dexterity.

Broad knowledge of dental procedures and oral hygiene and care, which they acquire through training and experience, gives dental assistants the ability to answer patients’ questions and help the dentist perform procedures well.

We at DentReps know how valuable dental assistants are to any dental practice. “If the dental office were a wheel, the dentist is the hub, and dental assistants are the spokes,” said Ed Lowe, BSc., DMD, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, and a cosmetic dentist and lecturer. “Great dental assistants make an office run effectively and efficiently!”

A career in dental assisting is a great choice for caring, friendly people who like to help others. Dental assistants should be proud of their passion and of what they do every day to make the lives of patients and dentists easier.

DentReps, a corporate partner of the American Dental Assistants Association, recognizes that each of the 315,000 dental assistants across the nation each bring a unique personality to their professsion. Dental assistants are one of the most important pillars in dentistry!

Pete Cargill is an entrepreneurial executive leader and founder of—The Dental Jobs Site, and DR Recruiting—Dentisty’s Recruiting Solution. Pete has spent the past decade primarily in the dental industry, both domestically and internationally. Pete has a MBA from Boston College and Loyola University Chicago and BA in Business from Stonehill College, as a well as an Executive Certificate from the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza School of Business.

DentReps and DR Recruiting work nationally with private practices, a large number of Group DSOs, and dental sales organizations for all of their hiring needs. In 2015, DentReps became the corporate strategic partner and job board of the American Dental Assistants Association. With over 55,000 dental jobs posted, 650,000 hiring connections, and more than than 25,000 resumes and CVs, DentReps is a proven leader in the industry for all dental hiring needs! Visit,, email [email protected], or call (781) 987-1365.

This article first appeared in Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest. To receive enlightening and helpful articles for assistants and office managers in this monthly e-newsletter, visit