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As the Editor in Chief for DrBicuspid.com and co-founder of IgniteDA, Kevin Henry is no stranger to the concerns of dental assistants. As he goes around the nation speaking to groups, many dental assistants ask him advice about career opportunities. Assistants wonder what it may be like to work in a group practice or DSO instead of a solo practice.


Opportunities Abound

When dental assistants who are used to working with a solo practitioner ask if there are more career opportunities in multi-location dental groups or DSOs, I always say yes, absolutely. But it’s a different world.

  • In a group practice or DSO, the dental assistant works with more management layers and practice leaders. It’s dental practice on a grander scale. Therefore, there are more personalities to understand and navigate. 
  • Sometimes the dental assistant works with more than one dentist. 
  • Sometimes the team leaders -- say the practice manager, dentist, and regional manager are not in full alignment on priorities. Notice, I am saying sometimes. Leaders in many large group practices and DSOs are well aligned.
  • A group practice or DSO is typically being run as a business with more attention to best business practices and investing in a well-managed business infrastructure.


The Only Limit Is the One You Set Yourself

Many dental assistants limit their opportunities by diminishing their self-worth. Dental assistants are essential, valuable team members. With empowerment, they can add tremendous value to all patient and team relationships. Everyone benefits in the industry when dental assistants are encouraged, empowered, and educated more.

Career advancement requires introspection with these questions in mind: 

  • How can I be the most proficient at what I do? 
  • How can I gain more clinical knowledge?
  • How can I learn and master more clinical skills? 
  • How can I improve my listening and communication skills?
  • How can I improve the work life of the dentists I work with?
  • How can I give patients a better experience?
  • How can I collaborate in leading patients to accept treatment?
  • How can I better support others on the dental team?
  • How can I better hone the messages I give patients?

Career advancement as a leader in the dental practice requires willpower, commitment, and intentional effort to:

  • Understand yourself and define your goals.
  • Understand patients and the concerns of patients.
  • Understand the work and concerns of dentists.
  • Understand the mission, priorities, and policies of the business you work for.
  • Communicate your goals and converse about how to move forward.
  • Seek resources to achieve your goals.
  • Step out of your comfort zone.
  • Do the work to acquire knowledge and new skills -- and to practice them until you are competent.
  • Self-assess and refine your work.
  • Appreciate and support others at work.

One action will lead to another, giving you courage, competence, and confidence. Perhaps, you will expand your duties as a dental assistant. Perhaps, you will be come a dedicated patient coordinator. Perhaps, you will become highly proficient doing in-house lab work. Perhaps, you will lead clinical team meetings. Perhaps, you’ll become a collaborative, restorative partner with one or more dentists. Perhaps, you will have responsibility for the location’s annual Hazard Chemicals and Bloodborne Pathogen training. Perhaps, you’ll become a trainer and mentor to new dental assistants… and so on. Each time you advance your personal development, you advance your true value to the business. And the journey of learning and mastery can be a lifelong one without end.


The Common Denominator

Of course, you can achieve much of this growth in a solo dental practice, too. At the end of the day, it boils down to two facts:

  • Every dental assistant is there for patient care. 
  • Everyone on the team they support is there to take care of patients. 

If dental assistants can remember that's the common denominator wherever they go, they will be well set for success.  


More Patient Prism Resources for Dental Assistants

Patient Prism Academy is a video library containing hundreds of videos that feature dental industry experts. This library has a section devoted to clinical team members and many dental practice leadership videos that touch upon the significance of the collaborative relationships dental assistants and hygienists have with the dentists they partner with every day.

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