When you decide on a career in dentistry, you start with a lot of choices. There’s dental assisting or hygiene, maybe dental school, or even dental lab tech. How do you choose? They each have their pros and cons, right?
For those who choose dental assisting, there are even more choices to make — do you want to work clinically as a chairside assistant, or in the front office as a business assistant? The choices continue as you grow in your career, affording the opportunity to work in a specialty practice, or perhaps in the insurance field or as a sales rep, and there's also teaching, which I chose to do. I have never regretted my choice of dental assisting as a career, because there are so many choices! And if you ask any assistant who's been in the field very long, they will tell you that they love dental assisting not just because of the patients, but also because of the variety it provides.
Most of us start as a chairside assistant, and that’s where the multitasking really comes in. When I look at all the other disciplines in the area of dentistry, I can’t think of any that provide more opportunities for multitasking than assisting. And that’s a good thing. Think about it. No matter how long the day may seem, a day in dental assisting is never boring. There are so many different tasks to perform that the day seems to fly — everything from seating patients, taking X-rays, making temporary crowns, placing sealants, ligating arch wires, temporary fillings, and more. In your spare time you might pour a model, trim a die, polish a denture, or help out in the front office by calling patients or pulling charts. At the end of the day you may be exhausted, but never bored!
The wonderful world of multitasking in dental assisting exposes us to patient relations, infection control, radiation safety, technology, HIPAA, OSHA, and for some, supervision of personnel. These are serious responsibilities when you consider that your first responsibility is the well being of other human beings. Yet the multitasking with all its demands keeps us versatile, interested, and interesting, with an important need to remain current.
A busy brain will not become stale, particularly if you feed it good solid information to prepare for the coming days of your career. Take a look at ADAA’s continuing education catalog if you don’t think that dental assisting is a varied, challenging job. Pharmacology, radiology, infection control, patient relations, and lots more. Please don’t ever say “I’m just a dental assistant” where I can hear you!
If you take your job seriously, you’ll find that the wonderful world of dental assisting leads you to other wonderful life choices as you find your niche in clinical, administrative, specialty, education, or sales, all of which are challenging and rewarding. (I didn’t mention fun, but you can have fun too.)
And while you’re busy multitasking, taking continuing education courses, and, we hope, having a little fun, take the opportunity to join your fellow dental assisting professionals at the American Dental Assistants Association. For more than 80 years we’ve helped dental assistants develop their profession as we’ve helped them develop themselves as professionals.
Our members receive free, unlimited, online education and discounts at many educational events. There’s also professional liability included with ADAA dues and accidental death insurance. There are newsletters in areas of special interest, and our Dental Assistant Journal is available both in print and online. On a personal side, we have a credit card program for members, a discount pharmaceutical program, discounts at Office Max, and just for fun, discounts at Alamo and National car rentals, Choice Hotels, and more.
Visit our website, a great site with loads of information. It’s the fastest way to acquaint yourself with the ADAA and take advantage of our benefits.
So join us. We’re the people who make dental assisting a profession, and you should be one of us!
Claudia Pohl, CDA, RDA, FADAA, BVEd
President, American Dental Assistants Association
The people who make dental assisting a profession