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Seven Ways to Succeed as a Dental Assistant

Dental offices are hiring more and more dental assistants every day, making the job one of the fastest growing in the United States. And as anyone who has ever worked as a hiring manager can tell you, finding the good workers is a lot easier than it sounds. As our Dental Assisting Program begins, and as our students begin looking ahead to their future careers, here are seven pointers on how to stand out as an irreplaceable asset.

#1 – Take on responsibility (don’t wait for it)

There are busy times in every dentist’s office, and there are slow times. Make sure you’re giving 100% during both. Employers will quickly recognize assistants who are proactive in their daily tasks, and an employee who’s constantly looking for ways to improve the office and the business is an employee they’ll definitely want to keep around.

#2 – Keep the water cooler positive

Mini-communities evolve in every office setting, and as long as that community stays positive, all is well. But these office communities can quickly become hostile, hurtful, and counterproductive if employees forget to work as a team. Make sure and keep the lunch-break chatter positive—steer away from the juicy gossip and backbiting—and your work days will be much more rewarding. You’ll also avoid the awkward moment when those negative words come back full circle, and they always do.

#3 – Listen Up!

In the fast-paced environment of a dental office, communication is huge. That doesn’t mean being the loudest voice in the room, though. True office communication means attempting to understand before attempting to be understood. You’ll find that this approach makes your co-workers (and boss) feel important in your eyes, and that is a rare, irreplaceable feeling.

#4 – Show some personality

Specifically, show it in your cover letter when you apply for the job. Your resume is a sheet of cold, hard facts, so use the cover letter to let you shine through. Let your future boss know that you’re a hard-worker, but also someone interesting, engaging, and who will brighten up that office.

#5 – Leave the old job at the old job

This is a huge pet peeve for many dentists. If you walk through the office continually reminding everyone how they did things at your last office, they’ll quickly start wishing that you’d stayed at that office. Remember, right or wrong, every practice has a different way of doing things. Adjust quickly to the new routines, let go of the old ones, and your blood pressure (and the blood pressure of your co-workers) will thank you for it.

#6 – Get the patients to talk about the patients

Not about the other patients; get them to talk about themselves. It’s the most comfortable topic you can possibly introduce, and it’ll quickly have your patients feeling at ease. Ask them about their jobs, their families, their pets—and let their responses steer the conversation naturally. And if you can recall their stories the next time they drop by the office, well, you just won a truckload of bonus points. It’s hard not to notice an employee who has a genuine positive interest in their patients, so this works in everyone’s favor.

#7 – Don’t fall for the old suction trap trick

Hazing isn’t just reserved for fraternities and football teams. The suction trap comes out of the floor, into a biohazard bag, and into the appropriate disposal bin. If someone tells you to open up that foul cesspool of saliva, odors, and nastiness—they’re having some fun with you. Don’t fall for it. Trust us. (This doesn’t have much of an impact either way on establishing yourself as a quality employee… we just thought you should know).

Don’t forget to check back each week as we continue to explore the career opportunities ahead of our Dental Assistant School graduates, plus some sneak peeks at the program, the people making it happen, and more from our Unitek College campuses.