Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2019 01 Fail 1

Why did this dentist hate her so much? A dental assistant fail story

Jan. 22, 2019
This dental assistant did not know what she was doing wrong, and she went home and cried most nights after a day at work. She was berated, and never felt she was one of the dentist's "favorites."
Kevin Henry, Cofounder,

Click here to share your #DAFails story.

When we asked dental assistants to come forward with their stories of how they had failed in the past and what they learned from it, we crossed our fingers that they would be raw and honest about their previous shortcomings. This was in the hopes that they’d help their colleagues avoid the problems that had tripped them up earlier in their careers.

This story from a dental assistant is a great example of someone looking back at his or her career and realizing how he or she grew through some hard times.

As a note, this story was submitted anonymously. We don’t know who this assistant is or in what state the person works. That’s the beauty of this project. You don’t have to put your name on your submission. You can share your story and remain anonymous if you like.

I encourage you to share your story of failure or hard times and what you learned from it by clicking here. Also, you can share or follow along on social media by using the hashtag #DAFails. We will be publishing these articles monthly in Dental Assisting Digest and would love your feedback and what you’ve learned from them.

Here is this dental assistant’s story and lesson to pass along to you . . .

In the beginning, right out of school when I thought I knew everything and I had confidence in all I had learned, I went into private practice. I spent 13 years with the same cosmetic dentist, who was very high-tech. If it was new, we had to have it.

I was put in my place as an assistant many times and made to do things over and over. I did not understand this. I felt picked on and would go home every night and cry for hours over my failures and not being smart enough, like the rest of the team who were so nice to me. The doctor always seemed to have his favorites and I did not feel like I was one of them.

The day computers arrived in the office was the worst. It was just more thing for me to deal with. I had learned typing in school so that was not a problem. But why did he do this when paper charts had been fine? I struggled through one more new thing after another.

Here I am, after 33 years in dentistry, and I’m the lead dental assistant and everyone looks to me for advice. The younger dentist asked, “How do you know all this stuff?” I have fun teaching the younger staff members about things that are not easy to find on social media. I had to learn old processors, dip tanks, hand mixing composite, alginates, and full arch crown and bridge for a reason.

My advice? Systems change. Be open to learning new things. Yes, there will be struggles, but understand the concept of why you are doing what you’re doing and it will all come together.

By the way, the “mean” dentist and I are the best of friends to this day. He told me he didn’t want to brag me up all the time or I would not have tried so hard. He appreciated me in ways I did not know, and he often came to me for advice later.

I have always enjoyed my career. I struggled and moved forward. It's not always about the money.

Here are some questions for you to ponder after reading this dental assistant’s honest story:

1. What is your motivation for moving forward in your career? Money? Appreciation? Respect? A combination of these?
2. Are you receiving that motivation? If not, why and what is stopping it from happening in your practice?
3. Are you open to learning new systems, materials, and procedures? If not, what is stopping you?
4. What is the main clinical frustration you have in your practice? What are you doing to overcome it?

Click here to tell us your #DAFails story.

An advocate of today’s dental assistant, Kevin Henryspeaks to dental audiences across the nation on topics that empower dental assistants, helping them recognize the leadership role they hold in the dental practice. He is the cofounder of, a community designed to enlighten, empower, and educate dental assistants.

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