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Chin Up

Ask a dental assistant: How to stop dentist from treating DAs so badly?

Dec. 17, 2020
This dental assistant has had it with being disrespected in the office, even in front of patients! She wonders why the dentist and office manager treat the assistants so poorly, and what they can do about it.
This column, "Ask a dental assistant," is open to any assistants who have concerns. They can reach out to a fellow assistant for advice with their dilemma. How many of you can identify with this assistant's question? Send your questions to [email protected], and it will be forwarded to an assistant to answer.

QUESTION: I've been working in an office for a few months now, and I’ve realized how badly the doctor treats the assistants. She is the only doctor and the owner of the practice. Her office manager treats us even worse. I’ve witnessed the doctor smack the suction away or grab the suction and then proceed to put down an assistant in front of patients. We are treated like everything we do is wrong, and we’re made to feel ignorant all the time. I was recently scolded for talking about Christmas shopping because the hygienist complained to the office manager about it, more than a week after the conversation! My question is, what can we do so we aren’t treated so badly?  

ANSWER FROM TIJA HUNTER, CDA, Editor of Dental Assisting Digest:
I'm sorry to hear you're having so much trouble feeling respected. Nobody should be treated that way. During my years as an assistant, and in my life in general, I have found that the best way to stop this type of nonsense is to not put up with it.

People will walk on you as long as you allow them to, so please do not allow them to. You need to stand up for yourself, but at the same time be respectful of the doctor. Even though you are treated poorly, you should not operate that way because you don't want to lower yourself to their standards. But let your coworkers know that you will not tolerate being treated like this anymore. 

Try saying, "Please don't speak to me that way." Say this in front of patients if that's where the poor treatment occurs. Turn and face the dentist straight on and stand your ground. She will become upset you if you allow her to. So, stay calm and strong. People like that will generally back down. They like being a bully but they can't take it when someone dishes it back to them. 

If all else fails, don't allow the stress of the situation to control your life. Dental assistants are in demand and you, my dear, have a lot to give an office! Pick yourself up and find a doctor who will appreciate you and all of your talents. You deserve better!

To read past columns, visit dentistryiq.com and search for "Ask a dental assistant." We welcome any question or concern. The important thing to remember is that you're not alone. Send it to [email protected]