Inside Dental Assisting
Tyler Winter CDA, RDA, LDA
Maxillofacial Surgical Assistant Sanford Health
Fargo, North Dakota
As a maxillofacial surgical assistant, Tyler Winter, CDA, RDA, LDA, says that every day is both rewarding and challenging. “I love a good challenge,” he says. “My colleagues are very creative problem solvers, coming up with new ideas and approaches—everything from patient communication to advanced technology to treatment planning. The dental assistants I’ve known are hardworking, passionate, and creative.”
It was Winter’s own experience as an orthodontic patient that first sparked his curiosity. “When I was 14, I began orthodontics,” he explains, “and from that moment I was hooked. I remember one evening after my wires were adjusted, I bit into an orange peel so I could check it the next morning to see the movement. I was already making my own bite registration.”
Winter remained intrigued by the field, achieving an associate degree in dental assisting at Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Moorhead. His career path began at a nonprofit clinic, where he continued to learn the “nuts and bolts” of dental assisting. “I was so fortunate to work in a great learning environment,” he says. “Everyone there was very patient, taking the time to help me to apply my skills.” After a year, he moved to a private office, and two years later found his home working as a maxillofacial surgical assistant at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota.
Once there, Winter quickly became involved in the state and national dental assisting associations. “After a friend described the benefits, I went online immediately to become a member,” he says. Over the years, Winter has held various positions, currently serving as the immediate past-president of the North Dakota Dental Assistants Association. As a first-time delegate, he attended the ADAA Annual Session in Orlando, Florida, and found the experience career changing. “I thought, here is a room full of people who share the same passions, commitments, and challenges. This is rewarding on a personal and professional level.”
Winter believes in the benefits of education and working toward the goal of having all dental assisting programs CODA accredited. “I’ve met students who graduated without realizing their program wasn’t accredited by CODA. When they move from state to state, they have to jump through hoops to be able to practice. Credentialing is hugely important—we are all professionals.”
For his next personal goal, Winter would like to teach dental assisting, and plans on additional education that would open that door. “At Sanford, my favorite experience is working with the interns from North Dakota State College of Science. They are so intrigued and have such an open mind about their profession. They are the future of dental assisting and it is a privilege to support them.”
Last year at the 87th ADAA Annual Session, Winter received the New Member Involvement Award. “I was honored even to be nominated,” he says. “It was a great feeling to be in the presence of so many dedicated people, working toward the same goals.”
Winter works once a week for the Red River Dental Access Program, a nonprofit program providing an emergency relief and urgent care walk-in dental clinic for low-income individuals. He also sits on the advisory committee, which works closely with other facilities in the area to bridge the gap in healthcare needs. “Patients are so appreciative, so many have hit a rough spot in this economy—they just need a little help,” he explains.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Winter adds. “There are so many opportunities to make a difference. There’s a great deal of variety in dental assisting—for example, during any day I could be working with head and neck cancer, sleep apnea, and dental implants. For me, the most important aspect is the special level of rapport we develop with our returning cancer patients, we’ve become like family. It’s very fulfilling, the realization that dental assistants can have a positive effect on people’s lives. To anyone who is considering this field, I say, go for it.”
If you know people in the dental assisting community who should be highlighted as our cover story for their dedication and contributions to the profession, please contact Catherine Paulhamus at 215-504-1275, ext 213, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.