A note from our editor

June 1, 2006
One of my job requirements as editor of Dental Equipment & Materials is traveling to trade shows.

One of my job requirements as editor of Dental Equipment & Materials 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?

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 American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), I was lucky enough to spend time with 67 dental assistants and chat 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 DE&M, we have a cover story that features a dentist and assistant who work together and make a great team (take a moment to read about an office in Birmingham, found on page 43 of this issue). 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 (oh, did I hear horror stories about this during the roundtables).

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).

Read on, this is your magazine...

Kevin Henry
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