Dental assistants fill many essential roles in oral healthcare, many working primarily in the dental office. The essential nature of a dental assistant’s work has been even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the entire dental team working together to avoid interruptions in patient care. As a result, dental assistants are now busier than ever. Most are taking on additional duties, including in the critical area of dental infection prevention and control.

However, not everyone — members of the public, the patients, or even sometimes dental assistants’ colleagues and supervisors — may know just how important dental assistants truly are.

Brenda, CDA, agrees: “We are often seen as nonessential.”

But, as Ronda, CDA, points out, this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth: “Dental assistants are who makes a dental practice work; assistants are essential and should be recognized for their hard work.”

We agree. That’s why this Dental Assistants Recognition Week (DARW), held March 7-13, 2021, we are highlighting why dental assistants have always been, and continue to be, essential workers. Read three reasons why.


Dental assistants provide patient care.

Even though the pandemic persists nationwide, patients continue to seek care in the dental office. During this time, dental assistants have been instrumental in helping to ensure not only patient and provider safety but also patient comfort throughout their appointment.

It’s not uncommon for patients to feel a bit uneasy in the dental office. Patients often look to their dental assistant for reassurance, especially now, with updated social-distancing, screening and infection control protocols in place.

Dental assistants interact with patients before, during and after the appointment. They strive to answer their questions, hear and validate their concerns, and empathize with their experiences. Many dental assistants say their patients thank them for helping them through their appointment. This is one of the top rewards of the role, assistants agree.

“The best thing about being a dental assistant is putting a nervous patient’s mind at ease,” believes Carla, CDA.



Dental assistants implement infection control.

Of course, one of the core tasks for many dental assistants is keeping everyone — both patients and providers — safe in the dental office, including from COVID-19 exposure. During the pandemic, dental assistants have stepped up to help implement revised infection control protocols. They also seek additional education on this topic, to help dental teams stay on the cutting edge of knowledge when doing so matters most. Some dental assistants have even been motivated to pursue dental infection control education through the OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program™.

“Infection control is so important, and the dental assistant’s role in infection control is vital,” agrees Robin, CDA.


Dental assistants support the dental team.

Being a team player is one of the top five qualities successful dental assistants have. And since spring 2020, we’ve heard from many dental assistants who have stepped up to support the dental team. From taking on more duties during staffing shortages, to cross-training to support non-clinical areas of the office, the most successful dental assistants are flexible and keep a positive attitude. And they deserve to be recognized during DARW for their willingness to put the team first.

Judy, CDA, agrees: “Through teamwork, dental assistants offer their best every day to their patients and practice.”

“To be a dental assistant is to be kind and understanding,” adds Darci, CDA. “The dental assistant is truly uplifted when they’re uplifting others with their talents. It is a special treat to be recognized during DARW for the essential work dental assistants do.”

3 Reasons Why Dental Assistants Are Essential


Ask a dental assistant what they love about their profession, and you’re likely to hear plenty of positive responses.

Helping patients, first and foremost. Working alongside supportive dental professionals. Learning new things and, likely as a result, advancing in the workplace.

It’s true: For those dedicated dental assisting professionals, there are many rewards to the role — even considering all the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dental assistants’ unwavering passion for the profession deserves to be celebrated, especially during Dental Assistants Recognition Week, held March 7-13, 2021. Below are some top reasons dental assistants say they love their career.


Helping patients is the best feeling ever.

Typically, when dental assistants talk about the rewards of their role, being able to help patients is the No. 1 item that comes to mind. Dental assistants simply love helping patients improve their oral health, which can alleviate their pain, enhance their overall health or transform their smiles, and more. Patients with healthy mouths and smiles likely have boosted confidence, plus tend to return to the dental office for future care. This benefits not only the patients, but also the practice. Often, patients credit their dental assistant’s skill, knowledge and efforts as a reason they keep coming back.

“I enjoy helping patients to feel better and helping them relax during their procedure,” shares Hilda, CDA. “When patients tell you that you made their appointment enjoyable, it’s nice to feel appreciated.”

“I get to help people achieve their oral health goals,” adds Jackie, CDA. “I like helping people smile!”


No day in dental assisting is ever the same.

Dental assistants also often say they love the variety in their workday. Since every patient is different, so is every appointment and patient interaction. Plus, many dental assistants are cross-trained to work both in the clinical side of the office and at the front desk. What’s more, there are many opportunities for dental assistants to advance in the dental office, from performing infection control duties to taking on expanded functions as their state allows. As you can imagine, a day in the life of a dental assistant is never without excitement.

“I love working with various patients, doing a variety of tasks, and the fast pace of my day,” agrees Suzie.

“The best thing about being a dental assistant is helping people, plus all the variety,” adds Linda, CDA.


Opportunities to learn something new.

The most successful dental assistants are committed to lifelong learning. They enjoy regularly taking continuing education (CE) courses to stay up-to-date on the latest dental procedures and advancements, including when it comes to infection control. Those especially motivated dental assistants seek to demonstrate their knowledge through earning and maintaining DANB certification and completing CE options, such as those available online through the DALE Foundation.

“I have been working as a dental assistant for 24 years. I love going to work every day. I’m always learning,” shares Karen, CDA.

Agrees Jammie, CDA: “I’ve been in my practice for almost 19 years, and I am always learning something, every day. We have seen so many advancements, whether it’s with technology or general procedures. Dentistry is constantly changing.”

What Dental Assistants Love About Their Career