Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 07 Fist Pump 1

Dental assistants: Rise up and take charge of your circumstances!

July 19, 2018
If you as a dental assistant are not appreciated in your dental practice, it might be time to find one that does want you to excel. But how do you get started?
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.

“I love your energy. I love your passion for dental assistants. I love that someone actually cares about us. I love all of that, but nothing is ever going to change in my practice.”

This is part of an email that I received from a dental assistant in Oregon. I was honored by her words. She said she had seen me when I had spoken to assistants at the Oregon Dental Association meeting, had followed IgniteDA and my articles in Dental Assisting Digest, and listened to the Dental Assistant Nation podcast. She told me she was doing all of these things to invigorate her career, but there was one thing that she could not seem to get past—the people in her practice did not believe that she was more than a spit-sucker (her words), and they reminded her of that often.

The dentist, hygienist, and even the front office person told her she should know her place in the practice and stick with it. Any good ideas from her were met with excuses: “We tried that once,” “Don’t rock the boat,” “Don’t change the norms,” “Don’t do anything other than what we think a dental assistant is supposed to do.” Period.

At first, she listened to their opinions but kept throwing out her ideas. Eventually though, she grew tired of the fight. She grew tired of trying to make something different happen in her practice. She fell into the rut of complacency, and it was eating her alive on the inside.

You see, when you know you’re destined for more than what you’re doing at the moment, it starts to gnaw at you. It taps you on the shoulder and tells you that you can be more than you are right now. It keeps you from getting too comfortable, until you start listening to others who say you should just be happy doing what you’re doing. It’s easier to just do things the same old way, right? Don’t rock the boat. Don’t suggest anything new. Change means work, and who wants that?

This same assistant who told me “nothing was ever going to change in her practice” also told me that nothing ever did change in that practice, except her. She decided she was tired of being looked at as “just an assistant,” and wanted to work somewhere where she was viewed as a valued member of the team. She found that place (about a mile from where she used to work) and has never looked back.

Her email reminded me that often the only people who can change our circumstances are us. We don’t have to stay in bad relationships, personally or professionally. There are options out there if we believe in ourselves and have the skills that it takes to learn, adapt, and grow.

July 1 marked the start of the second half of 2018. How was the first half of your 2018? Was it amazing, or are there things you wish had been different? Are there things you wish you could change? What would it take to make the next six months better than the first six months? You control your career and your future. What will you do to make the rest of 2018 better? I admire those of you who take a chance and are rewarded for your bold steps.

Various people have been quoted, “A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.” I don’t think your career was meant to just sit by and float with the waves. I don’t think you were designed to just be “good enough.” I think you were meant for greatness in your career. How about you? What are you doing to reach your destination?

At IgniteDA, we say “Together we rise.” This means that we believe as a profession that dental assistants have amazing power and potential. But for all dental assistants to rise, every dental assistant must rise individually and lock arms with his or her brothers and sisters. Rise up to the level you can be in your career. Rise up to meet the challenges of your job. Rise up to meet the needs of your patients. Rise up to be the best you can be. Rise up.

If you don’t know where to start, drop me a line at [email protected]. I will do what I can to help you see what could lie ahead. I have a feeling what lies ahead are great things.

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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.