To become a successful dental assistant, you must have the proper education and dental assisting skills to add value to your workplace and patients.
A dental assistant role is a blend of general administrative work and performing dentistry procedures. Therefore, you must cultivate good ethics, personal accountability, and a continuous development mindset in this profession.
In this article, we will explore the importance of the 15 essential dental assistance skills. We will also share strategies to identify and improve your skills to become an excellent dental assistant.
What and Who is Dental Assistant?
Dental assistants are critical in assisting the dentist with procedures and performing administrative work.
Their duties mainly comprise making patients feel comfortable, taking x-rays, and ensuring the dental tools and equipment are sterilized. They also schedule appointments with clients and update patients’ medical records.
15 Examples of Dental Assistant Skills
1. Interpersonal skills
People’s interpersonal skills enable them to engage with others. To work as a dental assistant, you must have exceptional interpersonal skills to build a close relationship with both parties. In addition, you need to be attentive to patients’ feelings, especially when they are feeling stressed or uncomfortable.
As a dental assistant, you will meet individuals from many walks of life. Hence, having great interpersonal skills will ensure you can provide excellent customer service to your patients. For example, before their dental appointment, you will need to brief the patients on the purpose of their appointment.
2. Listening skills
As a dental assistant, you must be ready to listen to your patients’ concerns or the dentist’s instructions in treating the patients. The instructions can include performing procedures such as X-ray processing, fillings, or extractions that leave no room for mistakes.
To become a better listener, you must be fully present when the patient speaks. You will not interrupt while others are talking; use your facial expression to let others know you’re listening. Towards the end of the conversation, you summarize what they’ve said to check if you hear them accurately.
3. Organizational skills
The dental sector is fast-moving and constantly changing. Therefore, you are expected to be equipped with the necessary skills to handle any task given to you.
To stay on top of things, you have to be well-organized. Strong organizational skills will help you manage, prioritize, and plan your work. In addition, it allows you to optimize and be the best you can to deliver in your role.
As a dental assistant, your tasks can range from scheduling patients’ appointments and doing paperwork to preparing the examination room. All these tasks require you to have good organizational skills.
Paying attention to detail is a great skill to have as a dental assistant. Being detail-oriented allows you to keep the dental clinic safe and clean and take care of the patient’s needs. Here are several benefits of being detailed-oriented :
- You can notice patients’ emotions and body language, especially when they are anxious or in pain.
- You do an excellent job of recording the patient information without missing any details.
- You ensure the dental tools and equipment are appropriately sterilized and stored.
- You ensure you complete all the tasks assigned to you with no mistakes.
5. Communication skills
Excellent communication skills are essential in a dental practice. As a dental assistant, you will spend a lot of time communicating with your team or patients. You must also act as a bridge between several parties to resolve issues or convey messages. Here are some examples of tasks requiring good communication skills:
- Explaining a complicated topic related to dental to the patients
- Giving instructions to patients on how to take care of their oral, gum, etc.
- Having a conversation with your team and patients
6. Positive mindset
Dental assistant spends the majority of their time interacting with patients. Therefore, maintaining a positive attitude is critical. You will encounter individuals from different walks of life. That includes unpleasant and ill-tempered patients. This is where your positive attitude will come through. You see things in a positive light and expect things to turn out well. This allows you to transform a patient’s bad experience into a pleasant one.
7. Dexterity skills
Dexterity skill refers to your ability to use your hands and fingers skillfully and with precision. It is an essential skill that every dentist must have. As a dental assistant, you must use your hands to assist dentists during treatments. In addition, you may be requested to use dental tools or equipment during procedures. Hence, a dental assistant must also have excellent dexterity skills.
8. Basic computer knowledge
Basic knowledge of using computers and average typing speed are two skills that can set you up for success as a dental assistant. These skills allow you to work efficiently to transcribe doctor’s notes, update patients’ medical records, or file insurance claims.
Dental assistants must care for their patients and keep them relaxed during their sessions. With empathy skills, you can understand and relate to how your patient is feeling. Patients will appreciate you for making them feel heard and understanding their concerns.
10. Administrative skills
Your time as a dental assistant is also split into performing administrative tasks. These tasks include arranging appointments, handling patients’ medical records, and processing patients’ information. These administrative works also require you to be meticulous and understand how to use the medical files systems and technology.
11. Customer service skills
Communicating with patients is one of the core responsibilities of a dental assistant. As the first line of service of the dental clinic, you will determine if the patient will be your clinic’s long-term customer. So, always greet your patients with a smile and offer help whenever required.
12. Technical Skills
You must be educated in dental tools and procedures as a dental assistant. For example, you have to know how to take X-rays, read blood pressure readings, perform dental impressions, prepare dental supplies, maintain equipment, and sterilize dental instruments.
Furthermore, you need to know what calls as a dental emergency is and be equipped with first-aid training such as CPR certification.
13. Ability to manage multiple things at once
By now, you should know that dental assistants have a variety of job roles and responsibilities. So, it is essential that you can handle several different tasks at the same time.
Occasionally when things are busy, you are required to anticipate the duties that need to be completed in addition to completing the tasks on your hand.
Strong multitasking skills will allow you to streamline your work and provide the patients with a smoother and more enjoyable service.
14. Professional demeanor
As mentioned above, you represent your dental practice. A patient’s satisfaction dramatically depends on the way you treat them.
You are often the first and last person that the patients see. Therefore, your behaviors and demeanor will influence (either positively or negatively) the patients’ impression of your dental practice. Hence, it is incredibly vital that you always display a professional demeanor to give the patient a positive impression.
What does it mean to be a professional?
- Being punctual and arriving for work on time
- Always follow the dental clinic dress code
- Maintaining a positive mindset at work
In every job, having resiliency and a strong work ethic can propel you to success. The same goes for a dental assistant role.
Like many other careers, a dental assistant has highs and lows. You will have hectic days where you might not have time for lunch or to manage disgruntled patients. But there will also be times when you meet friendly and warm patients.
However, what you do during those difficult moments will shape you for success. Usually, persistent and committed individuals are the ones who can weather these difficult periods and recover quickly.
Why Is Dental Assistant Important & Their Benefits?
A competent and well-educated dental assistant is the backbone of any dental service team. Dentists are unlikely to treat as many patients without a capable dental assistant’s support.
Although the tasks of a dental assistant may differ from one clinic to another, they are undeniably critical for the success of a dental practice. A dental assistant’s responsibilities are making sure the dental office functions efficiently and taking care of patients’ needs.
As a result, every dental clinic should have at least one dental assistant for the practice to function productively.
Below is a list of benefits of being a dental assistant:
- Interaction with Patients
Becoming a dental assistant is a good option if you enjoy meeting new people. You can meet patients from various backgrounds and professions as a dental assistant.
- Flexible work schedule
One of the benefits of a dental assistant is the ability to create your work schedule. You have the flexibility to organize your work schedule by working part-time or splitting your time between two dental offices. This work flexibility is especially beneficial to those who have to take care of children or have other family commitments.
- Decent remuneration package
It should not be surprising that you are eligible for dental benefits if you work in a dental office. In addition, many dental practices offer their dental assistants other employee benefits such as medical insurance and paid sick leave.
- High demand for a dental assistant role
Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, dental assistants’ job growth is expected to increase by 11% annually, substantially higher than the average overall growth rate.
In other words, this means that the need for qualified dental assistants is increasing. Furthermore, people are also more conscious about their oral health nowadays, which will increase the demand for dental assistant roles.
How To Identify Your Dental Assistant Skills?
You probably have many skills that you might be unaware of. By doing self-reflection, you can identify and look into how you can discover and develop those skills further to benefit your career. Consider looking at it from different angles.
It can be:
- your personality or strengths and weaknesses
- skills obtained via formal education
- skills developed at work
- skills developed outside of work
If you are unsure where to start, you can try this free Strengths test by HIGH5 to discover your top 5 signature strengths. Then, you can see how your strengths relate to the dental assistant role using the results. And subsequently, develop a personal development plan to improve the areas that you are lacking.
How To Improve Dental Assistant Skills in The Workplace?
- Get to know your dentist.
As a dental assistant, you have to establish a positive working partnership with the dentists. Spend the time to know more about them. Be curious about them. Try to find out more about their personalities, working habits, and styles. Understanding who and how the dentists you’re working with may help reduce misunderstanding and enhance productivity.
- Be proactive.
Every workplace has its busy and non-busy periods. Take the downtime to prepare for your duties ahead of time proactively. You have to be slightly forward-thinking, anticipating what you need to do several steps ahead of time. You can prevent burnout or being overwhelmed by work if you are proactive and can manage your time more efficiently.
- Maintain a professional demeanor.
It is still essential for you to keep a professional demeanor while doing your work. A collaborative and friendly work environment is the building block of a high-performing team. But, you should keep your close relationships with co-workers from affecting your performance and capability to carry out your required tasks.
- Remember that you represent your dental clinic.
Remember that you are the face of your practice while interacting with patients. Therefore, you should treat every patient with courtesy and respect. Ensure you listen to your patient’s needs and concerns and find ways to make them feel comfortable in the clinic. Ensure that you explain things clearly and patiently to the patients. It will help the patients understand why they need to undergo dental procedures or testing.
How To Highlight Dental Assistant Skills In a Resume or a Job Interview?
If you have job experience, you will have acquired skills essential for the dental assistant role. These skills can be communication, interpersonal skills, organizational skills, etc. Highlighting your competencies in these skills will make your resume stand out.
Recruiters are always searching for talents with a combination of individuality and necessary skills. A workplace filled with the same type of people will not function well. Hence, it is essential to highlight your unique strengths in your resume and interviews.
Here are several guidelines that you can refer to highlight your dental skills in your resume or interview:
- Highlight your experience in dental assisting
Use bullet points to highlight your dental-related experiences in your resume. Remember to include the keywords related to the role in your resume to ensure your resume passes the first round of the screening process.
- Showcase your professional certification
A professional certification, such as the Certified Dental Assistant issued by the Dental Assisting National Board, is one method to set yourself apart from others. When including the certificate on your resume, make sure to include the certification’s full name, its abbreviations, and the organization that provides the certification.
- Use every opportunity to highlight your dental assisting skills
During an interview, try to use every question to demonstrate your worth. Always structure your response to showcase your skills or experience to impress the interviewer.
- Don’t criticize other dentists or dental clinics.
It is not a good idea to badmouth others, especially in interviews. A void criticizing or calling out the names of your previous company even if you had a bad experience working there. You do not want to give your potential new employer the impression that you will do the same thing when you quit.
Dental Assistant Skills Frequently Asked Questions
What are your career goals as a dental assistant?
There are several career pathways that a dental assistant can consider. Firstly, you can set goals to obtain additional certifications to open up new and better job opportunities. An example of accreditation you can consider is the Dental Assisting National Board certification.
If you are interested in continuously upskilling yourself in the dental industry, consider taking up programs that expose you to expanded dental assistant functions. Furthermore, once you have accumulated enough experience in this field, you can consider transitioning your career into a trainer or program director for dental assisting.
What are the 10 duties of a dental assistant?
- Getting patients ready for treatments or operations
- Assisting with operations such as fillings, crowns, and extractions and ensuring dental instruments and equipment are cleaned and sterilized
- Appointment scheduling
- General administrative tasks include recording and updating patient dental records
- Coordinating patient check-in procedures
- Assisting patients with insurance form submission and any payment-related processes
- Taking and processing patients’ X-rays
- Offering guidance on the right way to take care of a patient’s oral hygiene
- Making sure that patients are comfortable and relaxed during dental appointments
What is the most important role of a dental assistant?
A competent and well-educated dental assistant is the backbone of any dental service team. Dentists are unlikely to treat as many patients without a capable dental assistant’s support. Although the tasks of a dental assistant may differ from one clinic to another, they are undeniably critical for the success of a dental practice. A dental assistant’s responsibilities are making sure the dental office functions efficiently and taking care of patients’ needs.