Professional Courtesy: Ode to the Dental Assistant by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, Editorial Director, Dentaltown Magazine

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, Editorial Director, Dentaltown Magazine

The best and worst job in any dental practice is dental assistant. I don’t think it is possible to have a dental practice without a dental assistant. I have seen offices operate without hygienists (bad idea) and even front deskless (not a real word but a real concept) but I have not heard of very many dental practices without a dental assistant. I’m not looking for hate mail from hygienists and front office staff, rather I would love some fan mail from dental assistants and dentists that gave a copy of this column to their dental assistant to show their appreciation.

Dear Dental Assistant,

I want you to know that your job is the best job in the office because you have a front row seat for the dental procedures that we perform every day. You are the first one in the office to see the reaction of a patient when they look at their new crown or filling in the hand mirror and marvel at how well it matches their other teeth. You are the person that patients confide in—sometimes it is juicy and interesting, other times a question they are too embarrassed to ask me. I know you enjoy a smile or quiet chuckle behind your mask when I have to numb a nervous or difficult patient. That’s OK, I’m accustomed to playing “bad cop” to your “good cop.”

Sometimes your job may not feel like the best one in the office because I am grumpy and it appears that I’m throwing my instruments back on the tray. Rest assured my frustration is rarely directed at you, it is the frustration that comes from the demands of great dentistry. Everything must be done well or it must be done again. Patients have a long memory for failure and an expectation for consistent success. Sometimes you cannot see what frustrates me even as close as you are to the procedure, but rest assured, I must live with failures that others may never see. Nobody enjoys cleaning traps or the daily grind of the sterilization area. You see the nasty stuff and often have to clean it up. Just remember, if you were not there to do it, it would not get done well.

You take pride in the cleanliness of our practice and you know that it is noticed by every patient. When time permits, you help the hygienists with turning a room, taking X-rays or bringing a patient up front to check out. You are the best mind reader that I know. You anticipate my needs in a way that makes each procedure seamless.

When yours seems like a thankless job, remember this: There are few opportunities in life for you to help so many people in such a personal way as you can in a dental office. There are many other jobs you could be doing, but very few that provide the joy of seeing so many people happier after they meet you.

Thank you for everything you do,

I left the signature line blank so you can sign the letter and share it with your assistant. Yes, I know some would say a letter written by someone else is not as impactful as a personal letter and I would agree. Use this letter as a template and write your own thoughts for your dental assistants on a note card or piece of office stationary. I promise it will be appreciated. Share your comments after this article online, send me an e-mail at or find me on Twitter: @ddsTom.


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