There’s Batman and Robin, Flash and the Green Lantern, Katniss and Peeta, even the President of the United States has the Vice President. Every superhero has a sidekick. Without them, their job would be impossible, and the reason is due to trust. Each of us probably has someone we depend on to make our lives easier. Who doesn’t love a good superhero? The person who knows how to come in and save the day. I can think of no dental team member as more fundamental and indispensable, than the dental assistant.
Arguably the most well-rounded team member in the practice, assistants perform the broadest array of tasks. They are often responsible for administrative responsibilities, which may include scheduling patients and processing payments to assist the dentist in any number of varied tasks.
Hygienists and office managers may balk at this, but the dental assistant may very well be the backbone of the dental practice. They are Clark Kent’s and Bruce Wayne’s of the team. With the right personality and work ethic, they may even outshine the doctor, as far as patients are concerned. Assistants are known for their knowledge of all aspects of restorative procedures, but their wealth of marketable skills does not stop there.
Dental practices are fast-paced, some significantly more so than others. Most assistants are skilled at taking an active role in keeping the practice on track. Many commanders ordering supplies anticipate the doctor’s next move, having the instrument or medicament ready before the doctor even requests it. In fact, they excel at preparedness and consistently stay ahead of ordering and organization. Like Batman, they swoop to the rescue with a toolbox of ideas to conquer any jam.
Let’s talk about their communication skills. As we all know, communication is necessary, regardless of the profession, but assistants are the liaison between the front office, the doctor, the lab, the supply company, and the patient. They can switch hats at a moment’s notice. From explaining procedures to patients in a manner that is calm and authoritative, to engaging in small talk, presenting treatment alternatives when a procedure is not working out the way the doctor anticipated, and later switching gears to explain to the office manager why the procedure codes are different from what was originally scheduled, assistants have got it down!
Assistants master the most important communication skill of all, listening. They lend an ear to afflicted patients, and relay the information accurately, leaving extraneous details behind, so the doctor can focus on what they do best, treating the patient and halting the dental disease.
Most of us find it difficult to believe as much as 60% of the population are afraid to visit the dentist. Dental assistants are highly attuned to the nuances in patients’ physical and spoken mannerisms. As a result, they are able to pivot and respond accordingly. They build a strong rapport with patients, distracting them from their perceived fears. This fortification may not make the patient ever love visiting their dentist, but it builds trust, and without trust, patients would not return.
Comparable to a superhero, assistants react with the correct response, the appropriate instrument, and the accurate insurance code. Since March of 2020, the term essential has taken on an entirely new meaning. The dental assistant is the essential team member worthy of a superhero’s cape. When it comes to dental assistants, Batman may have said it perfectly. “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do, that defines me.“
Her clinical and support team experiences are the inspiration for her writing and the motivation for coaching clients to succeed. She is a regular contributor to various publications within dentistry and beyond. In addition to feeding the homeless, starting a non-profit, and being involved in her church and other community organizations, she sings professionally and enjoys several creative outlets. She resides in Florida where she enjoys the company of her husband, three children, and four beautiful grandchildren.