Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 03 Myth Buster 1

Myth busters for dental assistants: Assistants have no say in the practice's purchases

Nov. 19, 2018
Dental assistants have more buying power in practices than they're given credit for. DA Tija Hunter has plenty of examples in her own practice.

This month’s myth: Dental assistants have no value when it comes to product purchases.


Dental assistants play a huge part in the purchasing of dental products and services in their practices.

Here’s one of my many experiences. My boss came into my office the other day and asked who was taking part in the lunch and learn that afternoon. You see, I’m the queen of lunch and learns, and a firm believer that you won’t know whether a product will work for you unless you learn about it, play with it, and use it. Besides that, who doesn’t love a free lunch?

On this day, our Kerr rep was visiting, and he wanted to highlight the brand new SonicFill composite system. My boss told me to just cancel the lunch. “I’m not buying that, and I don’t like when the reps bring us lunch and we don’t end up buying anything.”

Well, it was after 10 a.m. and lunch was just around the corner. I didn’t want to cancel it. “He’s already ordered it,” I informed the dentist. With an eye roll, he walked away.

Fast forward to lunch, and not only did my boss love the Sonicfill, he actually stole the rep’s demo unit and kept it until our order came in. Sometimes a little push is all it takes.

That story reminds me of another time I had to give my boss a little push. Several years ago, we heard about this thing called a CEREC, where we could actually design, mill, and stain our crowns in-office. No way! Our Patterson Dental rep kept trying to tell us about CEREC, but the dentist always shot her down.

Then, a great opportunity came our way. Patterson offered to send us to Scottsdale, Arizona, to see the units for ourselves and learn all about them. I was super excited because they included me, the dental assistant! A free trip to Arizona? I talked him into it!

We were scheduled to leave on a Thursday in November. I had blocked off the day and patients were rescheduled. We were going to go have fun! The night before we were scheduled to leave, my boss announced, “Yeah, I can’t really go, but you all go ahead without me.” What? He called our rep and explained it wasn’t the right time, blah, blah, blah. He said he wasn’t planning to buy it and didn’t want to make the trip.

My first day in Scottsdale at the Spear Center, I was in awe! This machine was very cool, and my boss needed to be here to see it. I heard testimony after testimony about how it changed people’s lives, changed the way they did dentistry, and made them better clinicians. In the middle of all of the lectures, my boss texted me and wanted me to tell him about it. “You should be here,” I told him. I did my best to convey all I had heard and seen.

February came around, and there we were, talking about going to see CEREC again. This time I threatened my boss with bodily harm if he dared to back out. He didn’t, and off we went to Scottsdale to check out this CEREC. Now I must say, in 37 years I’ve never worked for anyone who is as good of a businessman as my boss. He’s a numbers guy, and is on top of his practice numbers daily. At the meeting he kept shaking his head saying, “It just doesn’t make sense. It’s not possible to save what they say you can save.”

The first day of lectures, I sat next to him as he listened and wrote down numbers on a pad. Then he listened some more, and grabbed the pencil and wrote some more figures. I sat there and smiled to myself because I knew what was happening.

Sure enough, at lunch he told our Patterson Dental rep that he was ready to buy. Six years later and you can’t pry that CEREC away from my boss! Everything we were told was right. The savings, the accuracy, the control, the convenience to patients . . . everything was true, and we still love our CEREC today. My boss even preaches its benefits to other dentists who are on the fence when it comes to purchasing a CEREC.

As I walk through the showroom floors at dental conventions, I watch as vendors look at the color of my badge and turn their heads. I’m not wearing a “dentist” color, so I’m not valuable. PPPPFFFFFTTTTT! When it comes to choosing products and services for our practice, I have more buying power than any of them give me credit for. I know my boss and how he works. I know what he likes and doesn’t like.

I’m not the only assistant out there who’s like this. So many of us work very closely with our bosses and we know our practices. If vendors would give us a chance, they’d see how valuable we really are to our practices.

My Patterson Dental rep saw that in me, and to this day we value her as part of our team. Good manufacturers and dealers appreciate the input that dental assistants can bring. We are the backbone of the practice. If you think I don’t have a say in the products and services my offices uses, then hold my beer!

Nitrous oxide
Cold sterile–glutaraldehyde
Waterline contamination in dental offices

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA, is the office manager and chairside assistant to Dr. Eric Hurtte of O’Fallon, Missouri. She is a member of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master and sits on three national counsels. She is also the Illinois Dental Assistants Association vice president. She is founder of the Dental Assistants Study Club of St. Louis and St. Louis Dental Office Managers Study Club. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, with five locations in the US. Tija is also the author of six CE study courses. She is a national speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. She can be reached at [email protected].

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