Are you interested in becoming a dental assistant? It takes more than training and a certification. It takes special skills and qualities as well. Attributes like professionalism, organizational skills and a detail-oriented personality can help you get a long way in your career. But why are these so-called “soft skills” as important as learning hard skills? Let’s explore why these and other qualities are needed to be an excellent dental assistant.

What is a Dental Assistant?

Dental assistants perform many tasks to aid the dentist and office in patient care. These tasks include patient registration, obtaining vital signs and patient history, preparation of workstations and handling tools when assisting the dentist directly in patient care. Some states require dental assistants to complete a regimented training program and pass an exam, while others allow on-the-job training. There are about 250 accredited dental assistant programs in the U.S. Now that a few hard skills essential to the job have been listed, let’s talk about some soft skills that are also essential.

Good Communication and Listening Skills

Good communication and listening skills are essential qualities in any workplace, but they are especially important when working with patients in a dental office. Good communication is needed between a dental assistant and the patient, as well as with other members of the health care team, in order to maintain patient safety and give quality care. As a dental assistant, it is important to listen attentively to the patient’s concerns and relay them to the dental provider. Also, listening to instructions and being able to carry them out correctly is important to patient care.

Excellent Organizational Skills

Working in a dental office can be fast paced, with patients coming and going from open to close. A dental assistant will be responsible for patient’s paperwork, schedules, procedure preparation and other tasks. You must be organized and prepared for upcoming appointments and always be ready to assist the dentist. It is important to make sure all needed materials are in the right place and well stocked. Anticipate what will be needed for a procedure and have it ready. Being detail oriented and well organized in your thinking and work habits will ensure patient safety and provide good patient care.


The term compassion can be defined as “the sensitivity shown in order to understand another person’s suffering, combined with a willingness to help and to promote the well-being of that person, in order to find a solution to their situation.” According to one study, an estimated almost 60% of people have anxiety about going to the dentist. Some people have so much anxiety about dental procedures that they require anti-anxiety medications prior to going to the dentist. Having compassion for your patients can ease their anxiety and help them have a better experience. The most successful dental assistants love their jobs and their patients and take pride in what they do for others.

Team Player

Dental assistants must work with many other people in close relationships to provide quality care for patients and ensure they have a good experience at the dentist. They will often have to communicate with dentists, hygienists, and administrative assistants. Share information with your colleagues and demonstrate reliability. You must be respectful of everyone on the care team in order to keep the office running smoothly. The chemistry of a dental team is crucial to success and you must be able to get along and work with the entire team for things to operate smoothly.


Being a dental assistant can have its hard days. Having a good attitude and strong work ethic are essential for this job. Some days you may be faced with a heavier workload, disgruntled patients or more than your share of problems. If you are dedicated to your job, you will be more likely to pull through with a great attitude. One blogger writes about five ways to boost resilience as a dental professional. These include expressing your emotions safely, “building little gems,” practicing emotion regulation, being optimistic and accepting what you cannot change. Just realize that at the end of the day, the goal is to ensure that you provide the patient with the best quality care.


According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, dexterity is an important quality for a dental assistant. Most of your career, you will be working with your hands, using small tools in a small area of the body. There is also the chance that you will work in a small space and must work in tandem with another provider. For the safety of the patient, dexterity is a must. This is also a skill that improves over time with continued practice. The longer you continue your career as a dental assistant, the more adept you will become at handling tools and delicate situations effectively.

Do you have these necessary qualities to be a dental assistant? What about these “soft skills?” Strategic Practice Solutions is a company that offers an affordable dental assistant certificate program and is committed to quality learning opportunities through a variety of platforms. Click or call for more information and start your career today!