One of my job requirements as editor of Proofs is traveling to trade shows. Like everything else in life, it certainly has its good and its bad points. Getting to see new places, meet new people, eat in new restaurants, and rekindle old friendships are some of the joys of travel. This job has taken me to Brazil, Germany, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, and many other places, and I’m thankful for that. Wearing a suit and walking the trade show floor from opening to close? Well, I guess every rose has its thorns, huh?
Along with Proofs, I also work as the editor of Dental Equipment & Materials and as the managing editor for Dental Economics. Like many of you, I wear many different hats during the day. It’s challenging and fun and, as my grandpa used to say, it keeps me out of the pool hall during the day.
Each of the different magazines has a unique audience. Dental Equipment & Materials is sent to not only dentists, but also to 7,500 dental assistants, many of whom are members of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA). Through Dental Equipment & Materials, I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time working with ADAA and the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB). Both organizations do great work in promoting the role of dental assistants in the dental profession.
During the first three months of this year, I attended trade shows in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta, and I was lucky enough to spend a half-day or more with dental assistants at the last two shows (Chicago MidWinter and Hinman). During roundtable discussions presented by the ADAA, I spent time with 67 dental assistants and chatted with them about their joys and frustrations of being a dental assistant. Naturally, there was some griping about cantankerous patients, other staff members, and leaving late almost every day. That’s to be expected, especially when I opened the discussion by stating, “You can say whatever you want. This is like Las Vegas - what is said here, stays here.” Talk about opening Pandora’s box!
During these roundtables, I asked the dental assistants to fill out surveys about their work, reading habits, and lifestyle. There were some interesting statistics that came from these surveys.
• One of the questions was, “Do you see yourself being a dental assistant five years from now?” Of the 67 dental assistants who were present at the roundtable discussions, only one said no. Only one! Of the 67 in attendance, 51 dental assistants felt they would be a dental assistant in five years. I know there is talk that dental assisting is a “temporary” profession. Anyone who believes that needed only to see the passion in these ladies’ eyes when they talked about helping people. These ladies not only cared about their jobs, they cared about their dentists and their patients - and they planned to keep that caring spirit for years to come.
• When I asked them about their relationships with the dentist or dentists in their offices, not one of them said they had a bad relationship. Most spoke in glowing terms about the dentist. In every issue of Dental Equipment & Materials, we have a cover story that features a dentist and assistant who work together and make a great team (you can log on to www.dentalequipment.net and check out some of the back issues for free). The fact is that good relationships are found in the vast majority of offices around the country, making the practice run more smoothly and making patients feel more at ease. I know I wouldn’t want a filling replaced if I could feel tension in the room.
• Of the 67 dental assistants surveyed, 64 attend only one or two trade shows per year. Wow...that’s not very many opportunities for these important team members to listen to lectures and walk exhibit hall floors. It’s also a limited chance for exhibitors to make or break company relationships with assistants. This was a key point brought up to me several times during the roundtables. I heard many horror stories about dental assistants who went to trade show booths and were ignored or treated poorly because of the color of their badge.
During the Hinman, I stopped by a company’s booth to look at a new product. This company will remain nameless, but it is one of the bigger players in the industry. As the sales rep was explaining the virtues of this new product, he kept mentioning the benefit to the dental assistant. After the presentation, I asked him why it was so important to concentrate on the dental assistant. He looked at me and said, “A lot of companies ignore the dental assistant. We don’t want to do that.”
What’s the bottom line? These roundtables reminded me that dental assistants are committed, compassionate professionals - and they should be treated as such in the office (which happens in most practices) and on the trade show floor (which still needs a lot of improvement). Don’t let your company be the one that misses out on a chance to reach out to dental assistants. You may be surprised about the return from investing in them.
Read on, this is your magazine.
Kevin Henry, Editor