Becoming a professional dental assistant is more than acquiring the knowledge necessary to perform dental assisting duties. A dental assistant should treat patients with compassion, keep patient confidentiality, be dedicated, show empathy, have interpersonal skills, patience, exude a positive attitude, keep a professional appearance, take responsibility, be sensitive to patient’s needs, be sincere and act as a team player.
Characteristic #1 – Compassion
The dental assistant should go out of their way to help patients. They should show concern for patients that are suffering. The dental assistant with compassion will suffer together with their colleagues and patients.
Characteristic #2 – Confidentiality
Not only should a dental assistant adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations, but they should want to keep sensitive patient information confidential. Everything that is said and done in a dental office must remain confidential according to HIPAA regulations. Breaches of confidentiality can result in governmental fines and patient lawsuits.
Characteristic #3 – Dedication
Dental assistants should be dedicated to their patients, the dentist and other colleagues. The employees of a dental practice should have strong feelings of support and loyalty for one another. Dedicated dental assistants are often first to show up and last leave at the end of the day. They show a passion for their work and the health of their patients.
Characteristic #4 – Empathy
Patients do not enjoy going to the dentist and are often intimidated by being at the dental office. The dental assistant must put themselves in the patient’s shoes and sense the patient’s emotions. They must also be able to put aside their viewpoint and try seeing things from the colleague’s perspective.
Characteristic #5 – Interpersonal Skills
Dental assistants work closely with colleagues and patients. Patients may be stressed or in pain and the dental assistants goal should be to show sensitivity to the patient’s emotions and create a comfortable environment. The dental assistant will also want to have good verbal communication with patients and colleagues. They will also need to be an active listener to truly understand what the patient is going through.
Characteristic #6 – Patience
The dental assistant must have the capacity to accept delay, trouble or suffering without getting angry or upset. The dental assistant may face an emergency and they should stay calm to endure this difficult circumstance.
Characteristic #7 – Positive Attitude
People appreciate when a dental assistant has a good attitude. The dental office can be stressful for patients, so it is important for dental assistants to always keep a positive attitude.
Characteristic #8 – Professional Appearance
A dental assistant must maintain a professional appearance at a dentist’s office to exude confidence and receive respect from colleagues and patients. Having a professional appearance means good oral health, good grooming and appropriate dress. The dental assistant is the ambassador of good oral health for patients, so they must also keep their mouth looking healthy. Good grooming includes showering and wearing deodorant. However, a dental assistant may not want to wear heavy perfume or cologne since they will be working in close personal proximity with colleagues and patients. Appropriate dress is not only wearing appropriate uniform or scrubs but keeping them clean, wrinkle free and wearing appropriate undergarments.
Characteristic #9 – Responsible
A dental assistant must be responsible on the job by arriving on time, staying for the full shift, cooperating with the dental team and not asking to leave early. The dental assistant should be willing to learn continuously and help out if a coworker is overloaded.
Characteristic #10 – Sincerity
The dental assistant must show a mix of seriousness and honesty when talking with patients and colleagues. They don’t want to be sarcastic or dismissive to patients, but be serious and truthful. Further, dental assistants should not be deceitful or hypocritical.
Characteristic #11 – Sensitivity
The dental assistant should express interest and concern for their patients, especially when they are worried about a dental procedure or apprehensive about going to the dentist. The dental assistant should learn to recognize patient’s emotion whether they are sad, fearful, angry, etc. Knowing the emotional cues will help dental assistant better communicate with patients and colleagues.
Characteristic #12 – Team Player
Dental assistants must be willing to pitch in whenever necessary, especially in an emergency. A dental assistant should always be reliable, communicate with confidence, do more than they are asked to do, adapt quickly and always display genuine commitment to patients and colleagues.
Do you have one or more of the characteristics that make a professional dental assistant? Are you interested in learning more about how to become a dental assistant? The Dental Assistant training program at Meridian College provides extensive hands-on training including a school externship at a dental office where you will assist the dentist to treat actual patients.
Contact Meridian College today to learn more about becoming a dental assistant.