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The Role of Dental Assistants in Case Acceptance

Has this ever happened in your dental practice? The dentist walks out of the room and the patient turns to the dental assistant and asks, "What do you think?"

How the dental assistant replies could influence whether the patient moves forward with treatment, explains Kevin Henry, co-founder of IgniteDA.net, an online community designed to encourage, empower, and educate dental assistants.

A former editor of Dental Economics magazine, Henry has devoted the past decade to promoting the role of dental assistants in the dental practice. In addition to founding IgniteDA.net with his business partner Dr. David Rice, Henry is a well-known speaker at dental conferences and the author of a new book titled "Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting."

Empowering Dental Assistants

Many dental assistants feel like the low man on the totem pole and lack confidence, Henry said. It's up to the dentist and the team to ensure the dental assistants know they are an integral part of the practice. 

"One of the things I learned when I was the editor of Dental Economics is that dental practices need to be run as a business and every employee of that business needs to feel empowered to do as much as he or she can to bring value to the bottom line," Henry explained.

That's easy to see when it comes to case acceptance. Once the doctor walks out of the room, the patient may turn to the dental assistant and ask "Do you really think I need that?"

"We like to have things reinforced in our heads as consumers," Henry said.  That's why it's important that the dental assistant have the clinical skills and sales skills to talk to a patient and reinforce what the dentist has prescribed.

The dental assistant can use reaffirming phrases such as, "The doctor has your best interests in mind; that's why she prescribed that for you. It will get you back on the road to good oral health."

Developing Confidence 

 "Dental assistants need to feel empowered by their dentists to talk to patients," said Henry. They also need some training and the ability to say with confidence, "Yes, you do need that crown. Here's why, and our dental practice is the best place for you to have that done."

Dentists can foster confidence by saying something as simple as, "I have faith in you. I believe in you. You are a vital part of this practice." 

There are other ways to gain the training and confidence dental assistants need to speak knowledgeably. Going to local dental meetings, listening to industry speakers, reading dental blogs, viewing videos online, and asking their dentist questions are just a few resources. Patient Prism Academy has hundreds of educational videos and the IgniteDA.net website is full of content. 

"If you don't feel confident in selling or backing up your dentist, really dig down deep and find out why," said Henry. "Ask yourself what is holding you back, and talk to your dentist about that, because the worst thing that can happen is that the patient senses the hesitation in your voice. 

Showing Empathy

A lot of time the patient sees the dental assistant as an equal, Henry said. Dental assistants typically spend a lot of time with the patient while that person is in the office. They may talk about how things are going and build a friendly relationship. It's common for the patient to feel as if the dental assistant is a friend standing by their chair. 

Dental assistants help promote the well-being of the patient by helping the patient understand he or she needs the treatment that is being prescribed. By helping the patient, the dental assistant is making a difference in that person's quality of life.  

And that's good for everyone.

About Kevin Henry
Kevin Henry Headshot

Kevin Henry is an advocate for dental assistants and the author of the "Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting." He co-founded IgniteDA.net to provide an online community for dental assistants. He is also a nationally-known speaker on topics that empower dental assistants, propel dental practice growth, and restore peace between the front office and back office teams. 

Kevin is the former Managing Editor for Dental Economics magazine and the former group editorial director for UBM Medica's dental division consisting of: Dental Products Report, Modern Dental Assistant, Modern Hygienist and many more magazines. He was named one of the top five influential voices in the dental industry on Twitter. 

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