Sept/Oct 2014
Volume 11, Issue 5

Dental Assistants Can Make A Difference

The unique skills that dental assistants can use to “give back” can make a positive impact

Judith Forsythe
Director, Dental Assistant National Strategy
Pacific Dental Services

You may have heard of the term “access to care” and wondered, what exactly does that mean? In the United States, we have access to some of the best oral healthcare providers in the world, yet millions of Americans are in need of such care and cannot or do not obtain it for various reasons. One of the main reasons is cost. In addition to the high costs of care, low-income families may experience other barriers such as language, culture, transportation issues, and childcare difficulties. While a lack of oral healthcare can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, the groups that tend to be the most adversely affected are children, older adults, those with special needs, and those who live in rural communities.

Dental assistants have unique skills to help with the access to care crisis in the United States, and those skills are very much in demand. For a dental clinic to run efficiently, it takes two or more dental assistants for every dentist. The dental assistant helps the dentist in triage, takes x-rays, works chairside with the dentist, assists the hygienist in giving oral hygiene instructions, keeps the instruments sterilized, and manages supplies. Sounds like your typical day in the office, right? There isn’t anyone else with the skills to do this job like you, the dental assistant.

Sometimes we think that giving help to others involves giving money. That’s not always the case. You can give your time and skills to help others and make a huge impact on someone’s life. When people who can help connect with people in need, lives become transformed. Studies show that people who volunteer to serve others feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. It gives someone a better sense of community and helps individuals to feel better connected with others. At times your experience may become overwhelming; when this happens, try to focus on the good you are doing, not on the daily struggles of the individuals you are helping. One person, and one day, does make a difference in someone’s life. Whether you are helping to relieve someone of pain, improve his or her smile and confidence, or prevent future dental-related issues, you are making a difference.

If you are interested in using your skills to help others, I would encourage you to get involved with your local and/or national dental assisting associations. Networking with like-minded people will create amazing energy, help you to develop a broader base of contacts, and keep you better informed of upcoming activities and events.

Spend some time researching local dental clinic events. If you are challenged to find one, you could use this as an opportunity to partner with others to create an event.

Let’s all work toward helping others in need of dental care. I would like to challenge you to volunteer for at least one event in the next year. Bring a friend or two with you. In fact, bring your entire team and make a day of it.

About the Author

Judy Forsythe has been a registered dental assistant in the state of California for 31 years. She was a member of the Committee on Dental Auxiliaries prior to her current role as the RDA board member for the Dental Board of California. Judy just completed her fifth trip to Ethiopia working in a dental clinic and has served in many local dental clinic events.

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