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South African and American dental assistants have a lot in common (video)

Oct. 18, 2018
DAD editor Kevin Henry took the trip of a lifetime to visit dental assistants attending the South Africa Dental Association meeting. He learned that assistants around the world have many similarities.
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.

Hello from South Africa! As I write this, I’m sitting in Pretoria, the administrative capital of the country, just after completing a full day of speaking to some awe-inspiring dental assistants during the South African Dental Association (SADA) Annual Congress.

This was an exciting time for me on a number of levels. First, this was the inaugural dental assisting track for the SADA Congress, and I hope it will be the first of many in years to come. The assistants who attended this meeting packed the room (we had an overflow crowd) and many came up to me afterwards to thank me for offering education designed specifically for assistants. I told them to not just tell me that, but tell SADA as well! These associations need to know how important it is for assistants to have access to classes designed specifically for them.

IgniteDA was honored to play a big role in this first-ever assisting track, and I was honored to see it come together from just an idea to a reality that surpassed expectations.

This was my first trip to South Africa. It’s a beautiful country with hard-working men and women. It’s also a country that is dealing with a lot of economic and political issues. In many ways, at the very core, there are many similarities between the United States and South Africa at the moment, including ongoing discussions on how to close the gap between races.

There are also many similarities between what assistants in South Africa are dealing with and what their American counterparts are dealing with—a lack of respect for what they do; getting along better with their colleagues in the practice; trying to figure out how to understand what their doctors are thinking and anticipate things more; how to avoid emotional outbursts that can ruin the day; and how to increase their pay. Do any of these sound familiar?

What I’ve learned on this trip (that took 17 hours in the air to complete) is that there are a lot of miles separating the assistants of South Africa and the United States . . . but there are so many similarities despite those miles between them.

Check out my video and you’ll see some of your colleagues across the globe and feel their excitement for the day. That’s why I love speaking to so many of you around the world and empowering you to enjoy your days and careers more.

IgniteDA is bringing our message of empowerment and strength for dental assistants to Greater New York, Yankee Dental, Hinman, and many state and local meetings. We hope to see you at one of these because we want 2019 to be the best year of your career. We believe in you and the power you have within you and within the dental practice.

South Africa assistants, thank you for your enthusiasm and energy. You’ve been amazing. I can’t wait to come back and see you at SADA Congress again soon!


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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.