Dental assistants share common traits and strengths. They are a compassionate and detail-oriented group of health care professionals who enjoy providing quality care to their patients. While it is true that hard skills are required to provide care to patients by way of professional training, there are also some soft skills required to be a successful dental assistant. Essential traits of a dental assistant include being an effective communicator, compassionate, organized, and professional. Do you have any of these traits to be a successful dental assistant? Let’s explore these requirements in more detail.
Being a good communicator is effective in all healthcare professions when providing quality care to patients, especially in the field. As a dental assistant, one must be able to communicate well with patients, families, and coworkers. In a dental office setting, face-to-face communication is used, as well as communication via phone or telehealth, which is becoming more popular due to the recent pandemic.
Also included in communication is non-verbal communication. Positive non-verbal communication starts when patients first enter a practice. A dental assistant who smiles and is welcoming will make patients more at ease. While, on the contrary, staff that is frowning or seem stressed and agitated will also make the patient feel more anxious and unwelcome.
Research by Team Health has shown a connection between better communication scores and “improved patient adherence, lower readmission rates, improved mortality rates, lower malpractice risk and reduced cost per case.” Patients should feel a connection to their caregivers and dental team members, in order to have the best oral health outcomes. When patients are having a procedure or treatment, dental assistants will often be responsible for providing patient education and home care instructions. Communicating well with both verbal and non-verbal communication skills is required for a successful dental assistant.
Having empathy and compassion for people are essential traits for dental assistants. Empathy is defined as being aware of and sensitive to a person’s feelings, thoughts, and experiences. One reason to be compassionate and empathetic in the dental office is because dental anxiety is experienced by many patients. It is estimated that 60% of people have anxiety about the dentist’s office and procedures.
Some ways to show compassion and empathy include active listening and interaction, maintaining patient privacy and confidentiality, and offering emotional support. Dental assistants provide compassionate care to dental patients to improve the patient experience and to facilitate positive outcomes.
When working in any healthcare field, especially dentistry, a person must be organized to ensure patient flow and quality patient care. Being organized is an essential trait for a dental assistant, because of the fast-paced environment and increased patient flow for appointments. Dental assistants have many responsibilities, including assisting in procedures, patient education, and managing patient appointments and medical records. They must also ensure that workspaces are adequately stocked with items necessary for procedures.
Dental assistants must be organized, but also detail-oriented. For example, when taking a patient’s medical history and reason for a dental visit, it is vitally important to take a detailed history to ensure appropriate treatment. Dental assistants are also relied upon to set up procedure workspaces appropriately. They must be able to anticipate the needs of the dental provider, and be ready to go when the dentist asks for a specific tool.
Being able to multi-task is essential, while still maintaining an organized approach. Often, dental assistants will be asked to do multiple tasks at once. For example, you may receive instructions to take a patient’s medical history, take a different patient for an X-ray, do a procedure setup and provide education to another patient. Dental assistants must be able to prioritize and stay organized using a detail-oriented approach to provide quality dental care to patients.
Professionalism is expected and required in a dental practice. Professionalism in the workplace is essential for positive patient outcomes, increased patient safety, and patient satisfaction. Professionalism includes respecting others, maintaining patient confidentiality, honesty with coworkers and patients, and exhibiting a calm, polite demeanor even during stressful times. Maintaining respect in the workplace, even in difficult situations, demonstrates competency as a health care professional.
Being professional also includes being a team player, and working well with others. Dental assistants are required to assist other providers when needed. They may also be asked to do clerical tasks, train new team members or assist in patient flow tasks. Flexibility and resiliency are needed to maintain a positive, professional attitude in a fast-paced dental environment.
Do you have these necessary traits to thrive as a dental assistant? If so, SPS Dental Academy can assist you in achieving your goal. Their cost-effective, 10-week program will leave you prepared with the skills and knowledge needed for success as a dental assistant. Call or click to learn more about their program, and how they can help you meet the needs of your community and achieve your personal goals.