Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2019 04 Group Hug 1

What do dental assistants really want?

April 16, 2019
It's hard to summarize what dental assistants want, but Kevin Henry gives it a try and does a very good job.

This is the question that was posed to me on the phone recently. The gentleman on the other end of the line was doing some research for a group dental practice that was having a great deal of turnover among its team members. He emailed me and we set up a time to talk. After explaining who he was and why he wanted to talk, this is the question that he asked: What do dental assistants want?

Wow. It’s a heck of a question, isn’t it? I mean, each of us as human beings want different things and are driven and motivated differently. Is it possible to lump everyone into one bucket and say, “Here. Here is what every one of the more than 300,000 dental assistants in the United States want every day when they walk into their place of employment”?

Honestly, I don’t know that someone can give a blanket answer to that question . . . but I tried.

I told him dental assistants want to be treated as part of the team. They want to be viewed as the key pieces of the practice’s success that they are.

I told him dental assistants want to work in a practice where they are empowered to become whatever they want to be in their careers and know they have the backing to do just that from their employer.

I told him dental assistants wanted to work in a practice that is free of insults, bickering, cliques, and back-stabbing. I told him they want to work somewhere where their coworkers say the same things to people’s faces that they do behind their backs.

I told him dental assistants want to work in a place where phrases such as “thank you” and “you did a great job today” and “I believe in you” are the rule and not the exception.

I told him dental assistants want to connect with their patients and help them achieve optimal oral health. I told him that their patients want the same exact thing from those dental team members they count on every time they enter the practice.

I told him that money isn’t always the answer. Many dental assistants would rather work somewhere they are appreciated and empowered rather than being given a bump in salary and treated like the bottom of the practice’s food chain.

I told him that assistants want to be viewed as people who drive production, and they should know the numbers about how they impact the bottom line. I told him assistants want responsibility and they want their employer to trust them with that responsibility.

I told him assistants want to be appreciated 52 weeks out of the year, not just one week.

He took notes as we talked, and he thanked me for my time. In those minutes since our conversation, however, I’ve thought a lot about that group practice and how, hopefully, its way of doing business might change in order to keep more of its team members for longer periods of time.

What do dental assistants want? They want to be heard, respected, and appreciated. To me, that doesn’t seem so hard, does it?

If you need to know how to start this culture in your practice, drop me a line at [email protected]. Let’s see what we can do together.


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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 practice. He is the cofounder of, a community designed to enlighten, empower, and educate dental assistants.

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