How to hire a dental assistant

Dental assistants perform a range of important tasks at dental clinics. Recruitment of people with a knack for dentistry, therefore, is essential for the smooth operation of any dental practice. In this post, we will highlight a few tips that will help you source and hire dental assistants, capable of performing a variety of patient care, office, and laboratory duties.

Essential dental assistant licenses and certifications

As a dental office owner, you are aware that certification usually represents knowledge. Besides being HARP approved, a dental auxiliary or assistant who is certified must have passed an entry-to-practice exam. It’s also good to note that:

  • In the U.S dental assistant licensing requirements differ by state. The scope of practice also varies by state. Dental assistant certification entails graduating from a course endorsed by the Commission on Dental Accreditation and finishing the requisite hours of dental assisting.

  • Expanded-function dental assisting encompasses dental assistant specializations in restorative dentistry, orthodontics, and preventive dentistry.

  • On the other hand, in Canada, certification from The National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) is essential for dental aides entering practice and seeking to be licensed.

Key dental assistant job skills you should look out for

Like we have just mentioned, while you are recruiting a dental assistant, it is vital to note that their roles and scope of practice sometimes depend on state regulations. However, below are some standard tasks a dental nurse or assistant should be able to perform:

  • Assisting or supporting the dentist to carry out a range of dental treatment procedures;
  • Helping patients feel comfortable prior to, during, and after dental treatment;
  • Checking the patient’s medical history;
  • Taking blood pressure and pulse;
  • Taking and analyzing dental radiographs (x-rays);
  • Performing chair-side assignments such as ensuring the patient’s mouth remain dry throughout the operation;
  • Preparing and sterilizing instruments and treatment equipment;
  • Providing patients with advice in regards to oral care following an operation;
  • Taking impressions of patients’ teeth;
  • Performing office management tasks that require the use of a computer; and
  • Communicating with patients and suppliers (e.g., billing and ordering supplies, scheduling patients assignments, and answering the telephone);

Does experience count when hiring a dental assistant?

There’s no denying that job experience usually provides benefits that surpass the classroom teaching. But here are some factors you should consider as you take on a dental assistant:

    the majority of aspiring dental aides, externships through certified training programs offer the initial experience which launches a career position.
  • At times, dentists may prefer to get a dental assistant straight out of college, and then train them to gain the necessary experience.
  • Some dental aides accumulate experience over the years in vital specialties ranging from oral and maxillofacial surgery to orthodontic and periodontal disease treatment.

How to source dental assistants

Here are some sources where you can get qualified potential recruits for your dental office.

  • Externships are a great source of newly trained dental aides
  • Social media, Job postings, and word of mouth can yield competent candidates
  • Dental staff recruitment firms are also excellent sources for getting recruits
  • New graduates in dental aiding may welcome temporary roles

The interviewing process

Once you have qualified a potential group of applicants, it’s time to carry out a series of interviews. Only ask questions relevant to the job. Remember, your interview objective is to know more about the candidate’s capabilities: Consider the following factors as you conduct the interview:

  1. Be polite and professional – Keep in mind that you are representing your dental practice’s brand. So be respectful as you conduct the interview.

  2. Be as objective as possible – As we have said, be sociable but don’t get too congenial. Ensure all your questions are job-related. Base your dental staff hiring decision on qualifications, not just personality.

  3. Watch nonverbal signals – Check the eye contact. Is the candidate communicating with confidence?

  4. Do not talk too much – Give candidates time to explain their qualifications. Only interject when you need them to clarify something, or when asking the next question.

Sample questions to ask your dental assistant recruits?

Tell me about your strengths and skills

  • What makes you interested in the dental assistant position?
  • Tell them to talk about their work related experience.
  • What motivates you?
  • How would you handle this predicament … (ask about a particular situation related to the job opening).
  • What new skills have you acquired in the past year?
  • How would you describe a perfect work environment?
  • What skills have been most practical in your work life?

Closing the deal when hiring dental assistants

Like any other life aspect, your dental assistant hiring process should mirror your core principles and values. By establishing a well-defined and thoughtful hiring process, taking into account the above mentioned tips, you will be in a position to attract top quality dental assistants needed to complete your “dream team.”


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