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Dental assistants, it's OK to be unhappy, but not every day

March 23, 2018
The editor of Dental Assisting Digest talk to hundreds of dental assistants. He tells them it's OK to be unhappy occasionally, but if it's all the time, something has to change, and change should begin with you.
Kevin Henry, Cofounder,

This article originally appeared in Dental Assisting Digest e-newsletter. Subscribe to this informative monthly ENL designed specifically for the dental assistant here.

Do you you love what you do? It’s a question I’ve asked thousands of dental assistants across the country during my lectures from Seattle to Boston. There are times when the answer is a resounding yes, times when there’s a pause followed by an answer, and times when the answer is no with an explanation following.

Hey, we’ve all been there in our professions, no matter what you do. There are days when I need a little extra motivation to get out of bed and get the day going. There are days when I sit at my computer and stare at it and ask, “Is what I do really making a difference for assistants?” There are days when I get on an airplane to travel somewhere when I would rather just stay home, sit on my patio, and look at the Rocky mountains.

The truth is, it’s OK to feel this way. It really is. Not every day is a Hallmark movie and not every day is the best day ever, or even the most OK day ever. That’s life. We’ve all been there. It’s when you have day after day after day of this that you start to feel like, “Why am I doing this?” or “I wish I was doing something else somewhere else.” This is when a warning light should go off.

Some of you are in that spot right now. Some of you showed up for work yesterday or today and your heart wasn’t it. You would have rather be doing anything, anywhere that working in that practice. For those assistants out there who feel this way, it’s time to turn things around.

My guess is that you’re not enjoying your work environment or someone you’re working with or some of the things you’re having to do that you’re not comfortable doing. Trust me, you’re not alone. I have heard this from many assistants. Invariably while we’re chatting, they will say, “If I could just change . . .”

Here’s the cool thing—you can change your dynamic. You can take steps to change your environment, but it’s going to take some courage and some work on your part.

If there’s something going on in your practice that’s keeping you from enjoying what you do, talk to the responsible person about what is going on. If you feel like you’re not being used to the best of your ability, talk to the dentist about how things can change. It’s going to take you standing up for what you believe in and for what you believe would be best for your career to make things different.

If you dread work most days, it’s time for that to stop. Life is too short. Make a change today. Have the talk you need to have. Figure out what dynamic could be changed so that it can benefit you and the practice, and then make it happen. Remember, you are the dental assistant, the backbone and heartbeat of the practice. You make a difference and you deserve to enjoy what you do every day.

One of my favorite movies of all time is “A Knight’s Tale” starring the late Heath Ledger. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it. Without giving away too much of the plot, there is a part when Ledger’s character asks his father if life can really be different than it is for him now. Yeah, he’s not enjoying his life at that moment. I love this line:

William: “Can a man change the stars?"
Father: "Yes, William. If he believes enough, a man can do anything!”

I believe you, the dental assistant, can change your stars in your practice. You can change your environment and your career by having a plan and envisioning what would make your days better. Believe it can be different and map out your plan.

There is no better day than today to change your stars. If you need help or advice, drop me a line at [email protected]. Join IgniteDA for free and listen to one of our more than 30 on-demand webinars. We believe in you and we want you to have an amazing career. Yes, it can happen. I believe that with all of my heart.

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About the Author

Kevin Henry | Cofounder,

With more than 20 years in the dental publishing industry, Kevin Henry is the former group editorial director for Dental Products Report and managing editor for Dental Economics. Currently, he is the editor-in-chief for He has spoken to dental assistants throughout the world, in person and through the Dental Assistant Nation podcast series, reminding them of the important role they play every day in their practice. He is also certified as a DiSC trainer, helping dental practices learn how to understand each other better through personality assessments and training.