March 1, 2007
Walking the halls of the Greater New York Dental Meeting last November, I quietly celebrated my 38th birthday.

Walking the halls of the Greater New York Dental Meeting last November, I quietly celebrated my 38th birthday. I’ve become accustomed to celebrating my birthday in the Big Apple since it coincides with the Greater New York Dental Meeting. Hey ... it’s better than the turkey birthday cake I had growing up (nothing better than the family singing to you while a candle protrudes from a drumstick).

Anyway, I’m in that age range where I grew up watching “Schoolhouse Rock” as part of my Saturday morning cartoon routine. One of my favorites was the one where the lonely little bill sat on the steps in Washington, D.C., crooning, “I’m just a bill. Yes, I’m only a bill.” His dream was to become a law. Of course, “Schoolhouse Rock” gave me a quick education on the process of a bill becoming a law as he sings. (I actually learned something from watching cartoons. Amazing. I can still recall the majority of the words to “Interplanet Janet” and “No More King,” two other “Schoolhouse Rock” favorites. I don’t know that I’m necessarily proud of that, but I thought I should share since I’m guessing some of you reading this can do the same.)

But the thing about the bill is that he kept saying he was just a bill. It was like a bill was a bad thing. But hey, when he became a law ... watch out! The world will be at his command. That’s the same feeling I’ve had after talking to some dental assistants around the country. I’ve been told on numerous occasions, “I’m just a dental assistant.” Huh? Just a dental assistant? I’m also been told by some that they’re assistants now, but they’re training to be hygienists. When I get that scaler in my hand ... watch out! When I have that RDH tag after my name, then I’ll be somebody!

Mary Govoni said it best at last year’s Professional Dental Assisting Conference, “You aren’t just a dental assistant. You are a pivotal player in the dental office. You are a professional who should be treated with respect. You are a professional who should take great pride in your work.” Mary was exactly right. Dental assistants - front-office and chairside - play a huge role in the success of the dental office.

I was looking through a recent survey by the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA). Did you know that 87 percent of the respondents said the dental assistant selected the supplier for the practice? Did you know that 64 percent of the respondents are in charge of purchasing for the practice? Of the 402 ADAA members who said they purchased supplies and selected the supplier, 260 completed more information about what they buy.

  • 100 percent of the respondents said they purchased all practice dental supplies (gloves, cements, X-ray supplies, etc.)
  • 87 percent said they purchased disposables
  • 87 percent said they purchased lab products
  • 73 percent said they purchased oral hygiene products

Those are some big numbers ... and that means dental assistants have a lot of power in the office. I hope manufacturers will begin to understand the power of the assistant soon and treat assistants with the respect they deserve at trade shows.

You’re not just a dental assistant, any more than your co-workers are just a dentist or just a hygienist. You’re special. You’re powerful. You hold a lot of the cards in your office. Take pride in what you do and take the steps to become even better at your job, like attending PDA 2007, set for May 10-12 in Indianapolis. You can find more information on the show at www.professionaldentalassisting.com.

I look forward to seeing you in Indianapolis in May ... and I look forward to watching the influence of dental assistants continue to grow in the industry.

Read on, this is your magazine...

Kevin Henry, Editor