Throughout my experiences, Ive ran into many excited new assistants ready to start their career. My #1 advise was to specialize. No matter what specialty- orthodontics (woot woot), oral surgery, something! The most negative feedback I ever received was from a general practice. I see those people a year later (not specializing) and deciding dental assisting isn’t for them. This equals a huge waste of time and and money if you went through a DA program. This breaks my heart.
Please understand that I am not bashing on the general dental assistant profession. By all means, this category is perfect for some people. However, it was just not what I had in mind when I thought of a fulfilling career. Im looking for the three following things:
1) Independence: My biggest issue with not specializing was independence. I like knowing that what I do matters. I am not just here to suction and sterilize! If a patient just came in with an impacted tooth exposure, guess who’s responsibility it is to lasso that tooth with a power thread to come into alignment? Mine! If a patient comes in with severe crowding, I know that it is my experience that ensures every tooth that is engage-able gets engaged!
Ive heard parents ask numerous times: isn’t your job repetitive? In some ways yes. I have stable work on a repeated basis. Untying and retying is officially apart of my daily life, and I’ve accepted it. Ive also accepted the fact that people will always want straight teeth (yay for ortho assistants!). The banding and bonding process does not change very frequently, either. However, you will run into the “head scratching” patients more often then you’d think. Patients with underbites at age 6 and age 36 are treated so differently. Patients with missing teeth or teeth that never grew, what do you do? The orthodontist creates individual plans catered to the patients goal end results. No matter how complex the treatment, there are never-ending treatment options out there. Besides the always evolving learning curve, watching patients character change over the course of 1-3 years is always exciting. The relationships formed with those patients only happens once. Ive watched couples get married together after orthodontic treatment, brothers and sisters compete on who can get their braces off sooner, kids afraid of the dentist become ecstatic to come to their appointments. Guess who makes a direct impact on those patients? You do. Talk about job satisfactory… and thats all on you. I N D E P E N D E N T do you know what that means? Orthodontic Assisting… yeah!
2) Security: Let me remind you, I started in this field when I was 16. I wasn’t too concerned with security. Fortunately, security is what I found. One thing I’ve learned is that it isn’t all what-you-know. What makes me so exctied about orthodontics is that I know I don’t know everything! The different avenues to explore within the profession are so abundant (Lab tech, Treatment Coordinator, Lead assistant, etc). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dental Assisting is expected to sky rocket by 2024 (almost 3x the average growth of any other profession). If you take that up another notch and look at CA specifically, Southern California is the #1 area. Job growth= higher demand for orthodontic assistants. I was pleasantly surprised when looking for a job at the beginning of this year. I received so many responses!
Admittedly, yes, it is more difficult if you have less than 2 years experience. Yes, you may have to start at the bottom. But if your confident in yourself, this shouldn’t be a problem.
This leads me to reason #3) Growth: Like I’ve mentioned in my previous blog- I started as a kid (16). I was ready and willing to learn and make money. I had the opportunity to show my superiors that I can think for myself, problem solve and be efficient. I made it clear to my hiring manager that I was their to learn all I could; even if that meant doing the runt work- wether that was front office, back office, janitorial or anything in between- I was there. This willingness allowed me to grow. I went from $13/hour starting to $17/hr within 2 years (and this was back in 2012), and continued growing into the mid $20’s as I acquired more and more knowledge under my belt.
Today as the supervisor to my team, I make it clear that there is nothing I’d ask them to do that I haven’t done myself. There is no task too large or too small for anybody. Part of the job satisfaction you receive from this career is being apart of a team, that eventually feels more like a family. With this mindset, your doctor recognizes hard work- and most of the time you are rewarded. If your not… communication skills are key with your deciding factor (office manager, doctor, whoever).
The easiest way to explain my experience advancing my career as an orthodontic assistant is this: Work hard and get rewarded. There are plenty of dental assistants in the state. What makes you stand out? Believe it or not, work ethic is 90% of the battle most of the time. Everything else can be learned.
So the real question is this: Are you ready to learn?
Feel free to message me with any questions!