Earlier this month, dental offices around the country celebrated Dental Assistant Recognition Week to honor the hard work that dental assistants put in every day. Dental assistants support dentists and oral surgeons, and often prepare patients for surgery or support extensive cleaning routines. Sometimes they take the lead role in routine cleanings, x-rays, and other dental office procedures.
Dental assistants may also take impressions, create temporary crowns, or act as the oral surgeon’s second set of hands during a root canal or other significant procedure. The job requires the ability to think and react quickly to instruction and often, requires the anticipation of what the dentist will need next. Simply put, dental assistants work hard and are deserving of recognition all months of the year, but March specifically.
Back in 1885, a dentist in New Orleans named Dr. C. Edmund Kells was considered a pioneer in the field of dentistry and is generally credited as the first person to use a dental radiograph in the United States. Many of his inventions and writings are still considered applicable to modern dentistry and serve as reference materials for today’s crop of oral surgeons and dental professionals. Dr. Kells’ wife acted as his assistant during the early years at his dental practice and was later paired with a second assistant on a full-time basis as business picked up.
With two women on staff at all times, it was noted female patients were more comfortable receiving dental cleanings and treatments, leading to the adoption of “Ladies in Attendance” signs popping up at Dr. Kells’ location and other dental offices in the area. The era of the dental assistant was born, and today’s skilled group of dental assistants carry on the legacy of these early adopters, helping patients feel comfortable and confident during dental procedures.
Fast forward 40 years to the formation of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA). The association was created on March 17, 1925, and still going strong more than 90 years later. Considering the origins of the ADAA, modern dentists formally recognize their assistants during the month of March each year.
Each year, the role of dental assistants becomes more involved, more patient-centric, and more reliant on an understanding of the unique inner workings of the dental field and modern oral care concepts. 50 years ago, a dental assistant may have been in charge of checking people in and sterilizing instruments. Today’s skilled assistants may create provisional crowns using the latest in dental appliance equipment, complete digital scans and x-rays, and even directly assist in an oral surgery under the watchful eye of a trained surgeon.
Dental assistants are often highly involved in patient care and act as the “face” of the dental practice. They set the tone for those who choose the dental office as their primary oral health care provider. It’s important for dental offices to recognize their efforts and celebrate how much they mean to the practice.
Good dental assistants are invaluable to a practice because of their reliability, capabilities, and overall demeanor in the office. Often considered the right-hand for dentists, assistants make sure the details are well taken care of and everything is fully prepped well before a patient ever speaks to the dentist.
First, there’s no reason why you have to “quietly” recognize anyone, so break out the banners, balloons, streamers, and signs to decorate the office to show your appreciation for your dedicated assistants. Flowers go a long way, as do personalized posters or banners that are visible from the waiting area. In fact, anything you can do to show the public that you appreciate your team will create positive vibes in the office and my even improve the client experience and overall patient satisfaction.
Another thing to keep in mind is to incorporate something personal into your recognition. Create a personalized note or message that shows how much you care. A basic “thank-you” conversation on a one-on-one basis is simple, yet highly effective, and will make your assistant feel appreciated and cared about. It can be easy to think that “bigger is better” when it comes to celebrating your team members, but genuine recognition trumps all.
If you’d like to make your dental assistants feel supported and appreciated, consider throwing a small office party in their name. All members of the company can attend, and you can buy a small cake, balloons, or other celebratory goods to participate in office fun. Invite others to say a few words about your honored guests, then simply take the time to reflect on the huge impact these professionals make to your team.
If you really want to make a splash with your dental assistants, consider organizing a small pool to buy them a gift. Five or ten dollars per person in the office can add up to a nice dinner out or a personal gift that will demonstrate your appreciation for all of their hard work. You can even ask the friends or family members of the assistants for gift ideas to ensure you round up the most personal, high-impact gifts possible.
There may be a special week dedicated to celebrating dental assistants, but they deserve to receive praise year-round for a job well done. An encouraging word or a note of thanks can help someone to feel valuable in their role. Dental assistants are an invaluable part of the team and help support the patients in the most efficient and caring manner possible. This year, show your assistants how much they mean to you and your patients by celebrating their contributions to your dental office.