40 Dentists Share The Best Qualities Of Dental Assistants

When you are interviewing people it’s very useful to have a list defining your expectations.

As a dentist, you must ask yourself what are the best qualities that a dental assistant must have to bring value to your team? Things like experience, knowledge but also certain personality traits are essential for a good employee.

Each field has its own challenges. Dental assistants must attend to patients of all ages, some of which could have excruciating tooth pains or different types of emergencies.

Hiring a new person can be an overwhelming process, especially for young dentists. We want to help you clarify your needs and priorities so we reached out to 40 dentists and asked them the following question:

What are the top three qualities dentists look for when hiring a new dental assistant?

Keep reading to see what they had to say.

We asked:

Dr. Suzanne Ebert – Ada Practice Transitions

When hiring a dental assistant, I worry less about skills – those can often be taught – I am more concerned with finding someone with the right attitude.

Dentistry is all about relationships so I need to pay attention to how this person will fit in and support me, the rest of the staff, and the patients:

1. The right personality

I want someone who puts people at ease, someone who is adept at reading other people and understands when to talk and when to listen. This is especially true in an office where I rely on assistants to make patients comfortable.

2. A strong work ethic

I look for someone who has held positions with some accountability, who will work hard and show up (both physically and mentally) for our patients.

3. Similar expectations about the role

During the interview process, I have an in-depth discussion about how the practice works, how the assistant will work with the rest of the team, and how duties will be divvied up.

This is especially true if they are coming from a practice significantly larger or smaller than mine, where an assistant might be responsible for a completely different set of duties.

Dr. Roham Rafat – Valley Dental Health

1. Prioritizes knowledge and learning.

In my office, everyone is constantly learning and improving their skill set. This is a pre-requisite in my dental assistants – as the dentist they work with learns a new skill set, so too must the assistant.

2. Gotta keep busy.

We have a staff of over 25 – if someone is sitting around doing nothing it doesn’t work well with the rest of the team of hardworking individuals.

3. Fast on feet

We see a lot of patients, and we go the extra mile by connecting with patients on a personal level, performing community service, and upping our social media game. No time for indecision.

Dr. Catherine Yang – Chats Dental

In my 23 years of practicing dentistry, I have met, interviewed, and worked with more than hundreds of dental assistants (DA). The DAs I appreciate the most are those who stand out, not just with their great technical skills, but also with their great characters.

Having a career in the dental industry requires a long-term endeavour with a growth mindset. It is a small society working in a dental clinic together with a team serving the larger community (people from all walks of life).

1. Strong Organizational Skills

Therefore each team member must be accountable, well-prepared, and very organized. Good organization helps you gain control of your time so you can plan and complete the tasks with confidence.

2. Good Communication Skills

Great communication between the dentist and the dental assistant(s) is essential to carry out procedures with clarity and to deliver the satisfactory outcomes for the patient efficiently.

3. Responsive to receiving constructive feedback

Accepting feedback with a growth mindset strengthens the bond, builds trust, and takes the business to the next level!

Dr. Ziad Jalbout – Making You Smile

The dental assistant plays a critical role in molding the experience of the patient in the dental office.

Often she meets the patient before the provider and the dental assistant spends more time in contact with the patient than the dentist.

The number one quality of a dental assistant is the capacity to welcome and to create a positive rapport with the patient.

This can only be achieved if the dental assistant is inclined and enjoys the personal relationships of interacting with patients and genuinely caring for their concerns and anxiety of being in the dental office.

The second quality is attention to details needed for the preparation for each procedure.

The quality of care, efficiency of delivering the care, and patient overall experience is impacted by the thorough preparedness before the arrival of the patient of the entire dental team, especially the dental assistant.

The third quality is reliability. A dental assistant is a critical part of the team as a provider of care. The general attitude of dental practices that dental assistants are interchangeable is false.

The absence of a dental assistant reverberates across the entire dental team and creates a poor patient experience when patients have to be cared for by a short staff or temporary workers who have poor knowledge of the operating procedures of a practice.

Dr. Mahnaz Rashti

When hiring a dental assistant, I always look for people who are caring for those around them. Their sincerity must shine through to comfort the patients during visits.

I also look for people that are educated in the field and know exactly what they are doing with confidence.

Additionally, a great dental assistant is one that is always willing to learn and grow with you. This allows your practice to flourish and ensures the best patient care possible.

Another great quality of a dental assistant is their availability. The field of dentistry is full of emergencies and unknown schedules, yet no matter what, our goal is to help our patients no matter the time of day or year.

Dr. Bryan Simone – Grove City Center for Dentistry

Three important qualities I look for when hiring a new dental assistant is to be detail-oriented, meticulous and attentive.

1. Detail-oriented

Essentially, a dental assistant needs to be focused on every detail of the patient’s experience – from setting up the treatment room to ensuring the patient is anxiety-free and cared for. That’s the job.

There are many finite steps to setting up a treatment room and each patient’s procedure and health need is different.

2. Meticulous

So, a great assistant needs to be focused on setting up the treatment room with the right set of instruments and materials for that appointment.

We see many patients a day and the room set-up is key to keeping our team and patients on schedule.

3. Attentive

A great dental assistant also is meticulous and attentive. We expect every member of our team to be constantly watching the patient during a procedure to ensure they are always comfortable and safe.

The materials we use in our patients’ dental care are very sensitive. Certain materials can’t touch certain parts of the teeth, for example.

At our office, we live by the value that there is no room for error when you are treating your patients. So, we expect this attentiveness from everyone who works here.

Dr. Gareth Edwards – Smile Stories

Dental assistants are vital auxiliary roles that require a range of skills and traits to succeed. When we are looking to bring in a new dental assistant we always focus on three main qualities. These are:

1. Teamwork

Our cosmetic dentist relies on a collaborative environment. Each member of the team has to work together to provide the client with the best experience possible. Teamwork is also vital for our workplace culture, morale and productivity.

2. Organized

Our work environment is fast-paced and sometimes pressurized. Actively ensuring that you are prepared and on top of the patients’ schedules is important. Being organized helps keep the appointments running smoothly.

3. Compassionate Attitude

Undergoing cosmetic dentistry procedures can cause patients anxiety. A compassionate attitude helps clients feel relaxed and confident. These key people skills help create a positive work environment and more importantly a pleasant client experience.

Dr. Kristy Gretzula – Hawley Lane Dental

When I am interviewing a new dental assistant, I look beyond technical skills. I know that you may not have much experience taking impressions or performing chairside so I place emphasis on personality traits. Skills can be taught, personality cannot!

1. Willingness to learn

There is so much that is not taught in school! Look for ways to improve and expand your skills. Show the ability to take criticism and pointers from your doctors and seasoned assistants.

During an interview with a new assistant, I may ask you to take an impression and pour a model. I know it won’t be perfect but I look at how you respond and perform if I ask you to do it again a different way.

2. Friendliness

In most cases, you are one of the first interactions patients have with our practice. I look for an individual that can be a great representative of our office’s core values and disarm nervous patients!

Be friendly and professional to coworkers as well.

3. Organization/Neatness

Dental assistants have a lot on their plates and must be able to juggle multiple tasks at a time.

Keeping track of inventory, lab cases, instruments, while keeping the flow of patients on time is a talent! If you aren’t organized, it makes for a chaotic and stressful work environment.

Dr. Thomas J McCarthy – Sporting Smiles

Thomas J McCarthy

1. Well prepared

The top quality I look for when hiring a new dental assistant is to make sure they will be a good fit in our work environment. What to make sure they have the correct knowledge, skills, and ability, but also fit with the company culture.

2. Team player

The second quality I look for is a team player and will work will other employees. A dental assistant isn’t a solitary position, you are a member of a team and most of your day will be working with either the doctor or another member of the staff.

3. Being willing to learn

The third thing is motivation and willingness to learn. If a dental assistant doesn’t have all the skills needed it is not as important to me as the motivation to learn. I can always teach the assistants new skills, but they have to be willing to learn.

Dr. Catrise Austin – VIP Smiles

1. Organized and one Step Ahead:

A good dental assistant is a leader. They play a key supporting role as a team member for not only the dentist but the entire staff. They operate with systems in place.

A dental assistant acts as the right-hand person for the dentist and can make or break the patient experience and the dentist’s workflow each day. It’s nothing like having a dental assistant who is organized and who prepares for the week.

They should track inventory to ensure the staff has the supplies needed to perform the procedure for the week.

If there are dental lab cases like dental crowns, bridges, veneers, retainers, mouth guards, dentures, or Invisalign aligners due back in the office, a good dental assistant will track cases to make sure the procedures can be performed.

Each day a good dental assistant should set up for each procedure with a full understanding of the step-by-step process.

When the dental assistant knows the procedure that is being performed well and is able to think one step ahead, not only does it make the procedure go faster, it makes for a beautiful experience for both the doctor and patient.

If they have expanded functions like making temporary teeth and appliances, they can really help the office become more profitable by stepping in and taking over so that the dentist can move on to the next patient faster.

2. Knowledgable and Have a Passion for Dentistry:

When your dental assistant is passionate about dentistry it shows. They take pride in their job. They want to know what’s new in dentistry and may even belong to local or national organizations for dental assistants.

They seek knowledge and enjoy learning about dental procedures, dental supplies, and ways to perform efficiently. Many times when the dentist is not in the treatment room, patients will ask questions.

It’s an incredible feeling and makes your team stronger when your dental assistant can answer questions or can ensure patients about the procedure or process.

3. Multi-skilled and cross-trained :

I always appreciate a dental assistant who is a team player and knows how to step in and do multiple positions. For example, book dental appointments, answer the phones and help the dentist write clinical notes.

Dr. Alexander Yeh – Smiles Dental Group

The dental group I work for has a list of 10 qualities they look for:

  1. Highly organized
  2. Detail-oriented personality
  3. Ability to multi-task
  4. Good dexterity skills
  5. Professional demeanor
  6. Strong communication skills
  7. Excellent Listening skills
  8. Compassionate
  9. A desire to help
  10. Determination & strong work ethic

Dr. Michael Gulizio – Core Smiles

1. Timeliness

Being on time to start the day, returning from lunch on time, and having some flexibility with the end of the day.

On occasion, patients may run late getting to their appointments (or we might run late); these are things in a dental practice that are inevitable and it is helpful to a doctor when an assistant has a little flexibility so that he/she can stay to finish up a patient.

2. Proactiveness & cleanliness

Taking the initiative to do things without being asked and keeping the workspace neat and orderly. These are probably the most important factors we consider when hiring a dental assistant.

We use a lot of instruments and having an orderly workspace is crucial to make certain that procedures go as planned.

3. Customer service

Treating patients like they walked into a 5-star resort is what makes or breaks the dentist-patient-dental team rapport.

Dental assistants are our liaisons – they know what was done on the patient, should be able to answer any questions patients have when the dentist is not around and should make the patient feel like they are the only one in the practice.

In today’s day and age with everyone writing reviews, if someone isn’t treated correctly or with disrespect, they’ll note that on a review before anything else.

Dr. Brad Eckhardt – Elite Dental Center

1. Good Organizational Skills

Organizing and creating a smooth flow that allows the dentist to better cater to the patients’ needs and requirements is essential when looking for an assistant.

If the assistant isn’t able to organize and introduce discipline and proper workflow, then what’s the point of having one in the first place.

2. Multi-Tasking Capabilities

A day at a dental clinic can get busy, really fast. The assistant you should hire has the skills necessary to handle multiple tasks even under pressure because when things get tough, you should know that you can always rely on your assistant.

3. Strong Communication Skills

Dental assistants will welcome the patients into the cleaning, tending to their needs as they wait, asking appropriate questions that the dentist can use, and prep them for the treatment.

All of these tasks become significantly difficult without proper communication skills. Hire an assistant who knows how to talk to the patients and make them feel comfortable.

Dr. Karen Tiwana – Chatham Dental Arts

After many years of practicing dentistry and having the opportunity to sit knee to knee with many different dental assistants, there are qualities that are ideal in candidates you are looking to hire.

1. A positive attitude and empathy.

We all know it takes one rotten apple to spoil the bunch. When it comes to any new employee this is the most important and creates a winning team.

People generally dread dental visits, having kind and happy people taking care of them eases their apprehensions and makes them more trusting.

2. Willingness to learn.

Someone who is adaptable and enjoys growing and stretching in new directions is always the best hire.

Every dentist has their own quirks and practices differently; clinical skills develop around how the dentist practices and their mix of procedures.

A dental assistant is the ‘right hand’ of the dentist and is responsible for making all visits run smoothly from greeting the patient, setting up and being chairside, cleaning up, handing off the patient to the front desk, and getting lab cases out.

As a result, the dentist relies heavily in particular on the assistant, and their relationship is one of the most critical in the dental office.

3. Loyalty to their dentist.

Not blind loyalty. But, loyalty that is cultivated and earned over time. An honest, ethical dentist will always make an assistant feel good about working for them. Especially, if they model excellent patient care.

In turn, the assistant will go above and beyond for a dentist they respect. How do you find this in someone you hire?

It means asking the right questions at the interview, gauging how they speak of dentists they previously worked for, why they left their last job, etc.

It also sometimes means going with your ‘gut’, and hiring someone who you have a natural ease with at the interview and common ground.

Dentists that have a high Emotional Quotient hire better, as they can cue into nonverbal communication and ‘read between the lines’ of what is said.

I have learned a lot from my assistants over the years, some have taught me what I don’t want in my next assistant and others have given me memories and laughter that I will cherish.

A great dental assistant is a cheerleader for the patient and dentist. They keep the day moving and for that, they are a respected team member in any well-run office.

Dr. Kami Hoss

1. Hire someone who is detail-oriented.

Being a dental assistant requires a lot of attention to details. They must make sure that dental tools and instruments are properly sterilized and put in the right place after use.

They also must pay attention to the record of patient details and make sure that they are doing the right work on the right patients.

2. Hire someone who is highly emotionally intelligent.

Being a dental assistant requires one to be self-aware of their own emotions and be able to relate to others who are nervous or in pain.

Having these skills will allow your dental assistant to be more successful at providing a superior customer experience and helping your patients feel comfortable and relaxed during the visit.

3. Hire someone who is able to multitask.

Being a dental assistant requires one to be able to juggle a lot of different tasks as once.

Between sterilizing equipment, answering phone calls, answering questions about billing and insurance, and assisting other dental needs, requires one to be able to juggle all of these things efficiently and effectively.

If someone has a hard time answering your interview questions, then they might not be the best fit because a lot of unexpected things will come this person’s way if hired for the position.

They need to be quick on their feet and able to do multiple things at once.

Dr. Jin Lin – Hurst Pediatric Dentistry

1. Professionalism.

It is extremely important to behave in a professional manner at all times when in the office. Sounds obvious, right?

But you’d be surprised at how many applicants behave professionally while interviewing with dentists, only to ruin their chances of getting hired by using obscene language or making otherwise inappropriate comments while chatting with the office’s other employees.

2. Friendliness.

Even one negative experience at the dentist can lead to a lifetime of dental anxiety for patients. Dental assistants who are always friendly, and who treat all patients with respect and compassion, can make an enormous impact.

When I’m looking for dental assistants, the top candidates are always ones who are bubbly and speak to patients with warmth and kindness.

3. Dependability.

Most dental offices are very small businesses, and each employee’s actions can make a huge impact on the practice.

When a dental assistant provides little or no notice that he or she won’t be able to work an assigned shift, it can sometimes be impossible for the dentist to find someone to cover for the day.

This means that the dentist will not have enough help, the other dental assistants will be overworked, and patients will experience longer wait times than they should.

Of course, sometimes last-minute emergencies do happen, but dental assistants, like all employees, should do their best to show up for work when they are scheduled to work and to provide as much notice as possible when they can’t work.

Similarly, when you are interviewing for a dental assistant position, demonstrate that you are a dependable and considerate person by making every effort to show up on time for your interview and, in the event that you need to cancel or reschedule an interview, providing as much notice as possible.

4. Initiative.

If I had to pick the one quality that makes the truly exceptional dental assistants stand out from the good dental assistants, it would be initiative.

If you see that something needs to get done, don’t wait for someone else to tell you to do it. If you find yourself with nothing to do at some point during the work day, don’t sit around and text on your phone – ask around to see if anyone needs help.

Taking initiative and doing what you can to help the days run more smoothly is an excellent way to make yourself stand out.

Dr. Peter Guirguis – Definitive Dental

1. Coachability

Coachable dental assistants can adapt and meet objectives without disrupting the workflow or becoming too dependent on other professionals within the practice.

You can test their skills by giving the candidate a clinical case scenario to evaluate their reasoning and potential course of action. This brief test can also serve as a lesson to offer advice in areas where they can improve.

2. Communication

In addition to expertise and dexterity, prospective dental assistants should have strong communication skills.

You need to build a team that can complete tasks, remain on schedule, and interacts with patients of all ages. This includes explaining procedures and care instructions, communicating over the phone, and following up on schedule changes.

3. Organization

A dental assistant should be highly organized and know where to quickly gather tools and resources.

Further, candidates need to keep their professional space and person clean to ensure germs aren’t transferred to another patient.

Their organization, cleanliness, and promptness will directly represent your business and influence patient retention.

Dr. Alexie Aguil – Exquisite Dentistry

1. Following procedures

The first quality I look for in a dental assistant is their focus on following procedures, especially concerning health and safety. That includes COVID-19 precautions which they’ll not only need to abide by but help enforce for our patients.

2. People skills

The next most important quality in a dental assistant is their people skills. The comfort and treatment of our guests is at the heart of our practice.

They need to be exceptionally warm, calm, and considerate showing our patients to their chair, adjusting it for comfort, taking x-rays, and addressing questions.

They may also provide herbal tea, blankets, noise-canceling headphones, or set our guests up to watch Netflix or Disney Plus. Our guests need to inherently trust our dental assistants, and they need to build instant rapport.

3. Initiative

The final most important quality is initiative. I like to know that they’ve asked thorough follow-up questions of our patients for anything of note about their teeth and gums.

I like to know that they will record the stage of work and instruments used if treatments like endodontics are interrupted.

And I love to see an active interest in learning their trade, and how to better treat our patients.

Dr. Jalal Daher – My London Dentist

1. Strong work ethic

Dental assistants often must juggle multiple tasks at once, so they need to stay organized and focused under pressure.

This is especially important in dentistry, where even small mistakes can have serious consequences.

A dental assistant needs to have a careful eye for detail, from preparing instruments and materials before a procedure starts to ensuring everything is cleaned up and put away correctly afterward.

2. Good communication skills

This means effectively communicating with patients, co-workers, and supervisors. Good communication skills are essential because the dental assistant is often the first point of contact for patients

3. Passion for helping people

passion for helping people is vital because the dental assistant often must comfort anxious patients and help keep them calm during their visit.

Dental assistants are responsible for various tasks, from preparing patients for treatment to cleaning teeth and equipment.

They must be able to work closely with dentists and other members of the dental team to provide quality care for patients.

Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani – Costello Family Dentistry

When interviewing dental assistants, I look for three main qualities.

1. Preparedness

Being well-prepared for the interview, such as having specific examples, their work history, and their resume ready to go, is a great way to stand out because dental assistants need to be people who are organized and prepared every day at work, and even before they come in for the day.

2. Professionalism

As being a dental assistant is a primarily client-facing role, I also watch out for both professionalism and a positive attitude in new hires.

3. Positivity

We want everyone who works at the dentistry to contribute in a big way to our mission in providing the ultimate experience in patient care to all our clients, so having professional, personable, and positive dental assistants goes a long way towards that goal.

Dr. Robert Warren – Brooklawn Dental

When interviewing prospective candidates for a dental assisting position, there are three primary qualities I look for:

1. Experience

A candidate should have prior experience because a busy dental practice often needs an assistant to step in on Day One and quickly integrate with the dental team.

The existing staff is typically occupied with their own responsibilities, and doesn’t necessarily have enough time to teach the basics of dental assisting to a newcomer.

2. Personability

An assistant who is personable and can get along well with both the staff and patients will become a great team member, helping to create a pleasant work environment.

Moreover, patients are often alone with assistants while awaiting treatment and an assistant with good interpersonal skills can help put a nervous patient at ease.

3. Dependability

Dependability is essential because patients are taking time from their busy schedules to have treatment in the dental office.

Staff members who are frequently late or absent from work can make appointments run longer than normal or even cause last-minute cancelation of appointments, which understandably disappoints and annoys patients.

All of this reflects poorly on the practice.

Dr. Shivani Sachdev – Gentle Dental Care

1. Compassion and empathy.

When looking for a dental assistant, first and foremost I look for someone that demonstrates compassion and empathy.

Dental assistants will be interacting with patients, other nurses, different dentists, receptionists, and other members of the team, to it is important to communicate with people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Plus, many of our patients choose us for our gentle, pain-free, and friendly approach to dentistry. Therefore, being compassionate and empathetic towards a patient to help expel their worries and nerves, is crucial.

2. Work ethic

Secondly, a dental assistant needs to have a good work ethos. Turning up early, being prepared for the day, dressing appropriately, acting professionally and positively, and working hard are vital traits for working effectively at our practice.

3. Being a team player

Finally, I would say being a team player is very important. Often. we can make each other’s day smoother and calmer by helping one another.

Dr. Arun Narang – Smile by Design

As a dentist with a busy practice, I think the single most important position on my staff may be my dental assistants.

Over the years, I’ve learned that a great dental assistant can be the difference between an office that merely gets the job done and an office that runs smoothly and efficiently. I have three qualities I look for in every dental assistant.

1. Compassionate

Every one of my patients deserves to be treated with compassion and respect.

Dental visits can be stressful, and an assistant who’s able to assess a patient’s emotional needs helps deliver better outcomes in a number of ways.

2. Organized

Dental care isn’t the kind of work that can be accomplished in a haphazard way.

It requires precision in every area, from gathering patient information to recording outcomes and sharing information with patients. Organization is absolutely essential.

3. Good communicators

Part of the job is sharing information, both with me and with our patients, and understanding how to give information and ensure it’s understood is critical.

Dr. Edward Harsini – Smile Dental Clinics

1. People skills

It’s very important that the person is personable. We, as dentists, are in the human business, so if they aren’t personable then they aren’t going to work out.

They must be willing to interact because that interaction helps the patients feel comfortable in what can be a stressful environment.

2. Willing to learn

Another quality I look for is how coachable they are. It doesn’t matter how much training a person has when they come on board because they are still going to need more training. This training can be from a technical standpoint or just learning how we work at our clinic.

The field of dentistry is constantly changing so they have an open mind and the ability and desire to keep learning.

Potential dental assistants also must be focused and attentive when working with a dentist. A lack of focus shows they aren’t interested in what they are doing. When they are focused, they are in tune with the dentist, the task at hand, and the patient.

3. Loyalty

Another thing I look at when hiring a dental assistant is their employment history. This shows how reliable a person will be on the job. A person who has jumped around between a bunch of different clinics or other jobs shows a lack of reliability and desire.

You want someone who is going to be with your clinic for a long while, so checking the employment history is important.

Dr. Jordan Weber – Burlington Dental Center

When hiring a new dental assistant, a dentist must value reliability, effort, and organization.

1. Reliability

If a dental assistant can show up on time and put forth a solid effort each day, he or she will quickly become a valuable team member.

Technical skills can be learned on the job, but there is no substitute for an employee that can be depended on to be there each day and work hard to take care of every patient.

2. Organization

Being organized is simply essential to the job. A good dental assistant has to balance so many things at once. They have to keep the dentist happy and productive while making sure the patient is comfortable.

3. Effort

A good dental assistant is helping the dentist, helping the patient, helping the front desk, occasionally fielding phone calls, typing notes, tracking lab orders, cleaning rooms and instruments, setting up treatment rooms and handling instruments, monitoring the schedule, and basically keeping the dental office running.

Trying to accomplish all those tasks in the midst of constant interruptions and changes of plans seems impossible without organizational skills.

In a job interview, we use nifty adjectives and buzzwords. But all a dentist wants is an organized, reliable dental assistant that will put forth maximum effort each day.

Dr. Elizabeth Robinson – Cranford Dental

Here are the top three qualities we look for when hiring a new dental assistant:

1. The right personality

The assistant enjoys talking to people from all walks of life. She cares about the total person (not just their teeth) and reflects concern and compassion in the way she interacts with others. He seems to be a “good fit” with our staff.

2. Good work ethic

She (or he) is a hard worker. He likes to multi-task and work in an efficient way. She admits to loving the dental profession and enjoying working as an assistant. She loves teamwork and encouraging her fellow workers.

3. Excited about learning

She wants to keep learning and developing her skills. We hire assistants who want to learn new skills and keep improving. He is willing to cross-train and learn all the jobs in the office. He loves increasing responsibility as he learns new skills.

I hired two assistants this past year. They are hard-working, energetic, and fun to have around. Our hiring qualities seem to work well as our staff members usually stay with us for many years.

Dr. Jason Hui – Paragon Dentistry

A great dental assistant can make a significant impact on a dental practice. A few qualities that make a great dental assistant include emotional intelligence, attention to detail, and reliability.

1. Someone with a high level of emotional intelligence has the foresight to recognize subtle cues given by the patient verbally and non-verbally.

When the patient’s current mood is mirrored, they often feel more relaxed and have a more enjoyable experience. The difference between quality and average dentistry can be as little as tens of millimeters.

2. An assistant with attention to detail often gains their dentist’s trust and can be given additional key responsibilities in dental treatment. Taking on additional tasks can lead to a more efficiently run dental practice and allow the dentist to help more patients.

3. A dental assistant must be reliable. They are a critical member of the dental team. As such, if they fail to show up on time or make it to the office, it can negatively affect the practice schedule.

Most dentists prefer to train their assistants regardless of their experience. For this reason, my recommendation would be to hire for personality and train for the dentistry.

Dr. Charlie Cage

I have had the opportunity to work in several dental offices across the country and to work with people of several different cultures.

This experience has allowed me to restructure how I evaluate dental assistants and for the construction of this list that would be considered unique compared to the superficial traits that are usually considered.

The most important trait that I look for in a dental assistant is that they do not have an ego.

This does not mean they lack confidence, but instead, they are confident enough to be selfless and a team player.

Honesty is important, especially in a world that is afraid to openly criticize. It’s a business and I need my team to have my back by being honest as this is the foundation to building trust.

I often see people looking for things such as love or money to make them happy and if they only had that one thing, like employment to accomplish that, but lack to see that happiness comes from within.

This is why oddly enough I look for someone who is happy because I need a team that can boost each other and not constantly depletes others in search of happiness.

Marco Gonzalez – Hero Practice Services

At Hero Practice Services, the top three qualities we look for when hiring a new dental assistant are:

1. A willingness to learn and respond to professional coaching.

Developing skills in a hands-on environment and working toward personal growth are important to building a career that is fulfilling and our dentists take care to coach all team members to be their best.

2. A desire to help others.

A career in healthcare gives us all the unique opportunities to care for people. We roll out the red carpet for our patients and work to ensure that they understand all aspects of their care and the options available to them.

3. Reliability.

Keeping commitments to patients and teammates is vital to success.

Dr. Izbel Aksit – Longevita

1. Organizational Ability

A dental assistant should be able to manage the clinic’s daily routine and make the clinic work more precise. This position sometimes requires a multi-tasking individual who can manage incoming and outgoing patients while keeping their dental records.

2. Hygiene

This is one of the most important qualities that the assistant needs to have. Since s/he will be working at a clinic/hospital, any negligence on this part can put the health of the patients at risk through cross-contamination.

3. Trustworthiness

This is also something that dental assistants have to have. Dentists should be able to trust their assistants to take care of administrative tasks smoothly and efficiently so that they can focus on providing dental care.

4. Understanding & Comforting

Dental assistants need to be debonair and understand what a smile can mean to people. They also have the responsibility of making people feel more comfortable once they come into the treatment room, especially those who have a dental phobia.

Dr. Nina Izhaky – Tribeca Dental Studio

When we are looking for dental assistants, we search for a number of characteristics.

To be honest, it’s tough to narrow down to three!

We want them to not only be capable, but excited to work as part of a family-oriented team, and also willing to learn new skills and further educate themselves.

It’s also important that they’re compassionate since our priority is to care for the overall health of the patient and to create a lasting impact on their confidence with the dentist.

Brijesh Chandwani – TMJ

My top three qualities for a new dental assistant are team player, empathy, and lab/clinical skills.

A dental assistant plays a key role in four-handed dentistry in assisting in most dental procedures; additionally, the dental assistant should be detailed oriented with regards to cleanliness, disinfection, and sterilization.

The dental assistant is a communication bridge between the dentist and patient as well as the patient and billing department; patients find it easier to have a candid conversation with a dental assistant.

A good dental assistant can anticipate the dentist’s next step/need and can make the clinical step seamless and prompt.

2. Empathy has long been shown to improve treatment outcomes and better patient experiences.

Studies have shown a decline in empathy among doctors including dentists; while dental assistants cannot replace empathy from dentists, empathy can improve better patient satisfaction and higher quality service.

3. Lab/clinical skills involve polishing dentures, temporaries, mouthguard, taking impressions, suction and these greatly improve patient satisfaction and can make a dentist’s job efficient and quick.

Dr. Fran Rhee – Smiles By Glow

In general, I look for certain qualities in an individual that is not easy to train & change – somewhat intrinsic to that very candidate.

1. Personality

Everyone needs to get along. I love coming to work and seeing little kids and their families. I would like my assistants to be the same. The last thing I want in our office is an office drama stemming from personality clashes.

Over the years, I’ve found Myers & Brigg’s 16 personalities a good tool to utilize. It’s hard to assess and learn about one’s personality based on a short working interview or interaction.

We have our candidates take the personality test beforehand which gives us a good insight into the individual behind the ‘interview smiles’.

There are certain personalities that are very well suited for certain dental assisting duties and I’m a firm believer that everyone has their strength and weaknesses.

We look at personality not only as a gauge to be able to get along with our existing team but also to see if that individual’s personality is a good fit for the particular job description that we’re looking for with a new dental assistant hire.

This will vary from office to office and what their needs are and their existing team culture/personalities.

2. Past work history & resume

It’s amazing how much information one can get about an individual based on a resume. It shows the depth of one’s professionalism, basic computer skills, and motivation for a new position.

Nothing deters me more from calling a candidate than a resume that is outdated, filled with typos & grammar issues. It makes me question why that candidate wants/needs a new job, to begin with.

Past work history is often one of the most important aspects of seeing and assessing one’s resilience, work ethic, professionalism, and personality.

I love seeing a well-written resume with long work history at only 1-2 offices. Regardless of how much of a good fit you are to an office and team, there will always be something that the office and the individual need to work on to make things work.

A long work history at 1-2 offices shows me that the individual is willing to work things out and able to reach a resolution with other people.

A list of multiple offices with short few months of work history often tells me that the individual may not be keen on working things out with other people.

They’re often looking for the right ‘fit’ and inevitably label the previous office as the wrong ‘fit’. This suggests that the individual may be avoiding taking responsibility or the blame him/herself to improve and change based on what the office may need at different times.

3. Motivation and ability to learn new skills

Whether you’re a new grad from a dental assisting program or an assistant with 30 years of experience, at a new office, there are always skills and knowledge that you have to learn and adapt to.

I’ve also learned and experienced over the years that this is a very difficult aspect for an individual to change. Some people are very easy to be molded into new offices and some are simply not.

Unfortunately, this is not something that you can assess in a short period of time.

This is where the probation period can be beneficial (maybe location-specific, in BC where we are, there is 3 month probation period to protect both the new hire and the employer).

In the ever-changing world that we’re living in, the ability to adapt and learn new ways of doing certain things is crucial.

Will and Susan Revak – Ora Wellness

A compassionate, helpful heart with good listening skills.

A comprehensive understanding of cutting-edge alternative and holistic products to recommend to patients.

A flexible can do attitude and a real team player!

Elizabeth Graves – Take Home Smile

When hiring a dental assistant, there are three top qualities that are key to forming a good team:

1. Efficient time management skills are important for setting up and breaking down the operative room between patients, preparing the patient for the dentist with necessary x-rays and information gathering, and sticking to the dentist’s schedule.

2. Good bedside manner is important to support the patient so the dentist can complete their work. A calm and relaxed patient makes for a much easier appointment.

3. Finally, a deep knowledge of common dental procedures and sterilization processes combined with an open mind and willingness to learn more makes for a well-rounded and extremely helpful dental assistant.

Dr. Dmitry Tsvetov – Temecula Facial Oral Surgery

A dental assistant is an essential staff member.

As an oral surgeon, I need to be able to build a connection with my assistant and have trust in their abilities and decision-making, and the best way to do that is to look for someone with plenty of experience working alongside a fellow oral surgery specialist.

But of course, you also want to hire someone who shares your values as a person and shows compassion toward patients, someone who is not only a competent professional but also a like-minded peer.

So to put it simply, the top three qualities in my opinion are experience, quiet confidence, and the ability to think independently.

Dr. Ameerzeb Pirzada – Z Dental Studio

1. The backbone of a good assistant is communication skills

When I’m hiring a dental assistant, my main priority has always been to find someone who has mastered their communication skills with patients.

Sure, that’s important in each healthcare facility but when it comes to dental assistants, they’re in charge of greeting a patient, welcoming them with a smile, making them comfortable when they’re on their side, and most importantly, explaining to them procedures.

These little things add up and can have a positive impact on patients.

2. Past Experience

Healthcare is a profession in which we’re always learning, no matter how much we excel there is always something new to learn every day.

Therefore, hiring a dental assistant who has had a little bit of experience and can teach the dental office a new thing or two is a cherry on top.

3. The desire to help

At the end of the day, dental assistants are an integral part of a dental facility, having a desire to help patients, staff members, even dentists and being a team player throughout the day to make sure the office runs smoothly will always be one of my top three priorities when interviewing a dental assistant.

Dr. William Phillips – Park Cities Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates

What makes our dental assistants EXCELLENT? When selecting team members we look for the 3 “E’s”: Efficiency, Empathy, and Energetic.

Having individuals who are efficient, go getters if you will, helps maintain the detail-oriented environment we strive for.

Empathy is another characteristic we look for. Someone who has the ability to truly care for our patients, as well as love their coworkers, strengthens our team culture.

And finally, energetic people are just fun to be around and their lively personalities keep everyone in a positive state of mind.

When hiring our team members, these distinct qualities ensure our practice’s culture remains one of integrity, mindfulness, love, and is enjoyed by all who enter.

Dr. Bryan Laskin – Upgrade Dental

In my experience, all skills can be trained and likely will need to be retrained even if your incoming assistant has worked for decades.

One of the most difficult aspects of hiring and retaining top-performing dental team members is establishing the right culture. The culture is an aggregate of the people that make up your team.

So, when selecting team members, attitude and trustworthiness are, in my opinion, so important no other characteristic comes close.

Beyond the person’s attitude and trustworthiness, looking for someone who can help lead and manage others is the only other trait that I would be concerned with when selecting who I want to work with.

Hiring is a reversible decision. Hiring should be looked at as a selection process to see who to try out for your team.

As one of my favorite consultants told me, “you can’t change people, but you can change people”.

Dr. Verónica Ruiz

The top three qualities that I look when hiring a dental assistant are:

1. Kindness

Our dental assistant has many interactions with our patients, in some cases he/she executes certain procedures as such is very important to have a kind person that can easily connect with our patients, give them trust and reduce the anxiety that some patients have when visiting a dentist

2. Proactive

I expect from a dental assistant to be proactive, to look on what to do next, a type of person that is always looking to look for opportunities to improve my practice without the need for me to tell him/her what to do next.

3. Efficiency

The main reason for us to hire an assistant is to become more efficient, the most valuable asset that we have in our practice is the time, the more efficient that we work with our time the more patients we can have on a single day.

Thus having an assistant that works fast and efficiently is the key to the success of any dentist.


Thank you so much to all the dentists that have contributed to this expert roundup! Please share this post with your friends and followers on social media!