National Dental Assistants Appreciation Week

  • Published
  • By Capt. Paula Morse
  • 42nd Aeromedical Dental Squadron
Despite being far removed from the setting of dental school, I have vivid memories of its difficulties. Few of those memories are more prominent than that of not having an assistant. Each dental student was responsible for being the secretary, assistant and dentist all in one. Every day that I've had an assistant to facilitate, I have been incredibly grateful.

The week of March 1-7 was dedicated to thanking all of those who contribute to patient care here at the Maxwell-Gunter Dental Clinic. Our technicians, assistants, hygienists all fulfill different roles of which most people are not aware. Our assistants and technicians make and locate records, schedule appointments, take radiographs and impressions, order our supplies, set up for and assist during procedures and even provide patient care in essential areas making it possible to care for our active duty base population. They are the collective face and voice of our dental clinic as they are usually the first point of contact for patients. We also have three registered dental hygienists who keep very busy with patient treatment, and extra duties including the recent Children's Dental Health Month activities and filling in wherever they are needed. Maxwell-Gunter is also lucky to have an outstanding dental laboratory adjoining the dental clinic. Four highly-skilled laboratory technicians complete a myriad of cases, including making crowns, partials, dentures, retainers, night guards and more. Behind the scenes we also have support personal who create our schedules, input data, mentor other technicians and provide other services that make our day-to-day operations possible.

Although the training provided for each technician can be different, all of our auxiliary personnel receive exceptional training from one source or another including appropriate professional military education. Every active-duty assistant attends a training program to learn basic dental assisting skills. Most then go on to training for "dental prophylaxis", or learning how to provide dental cleanings for patients. Our civilian assistants and hygienists have various backgrounds including attendance at dental assisting schools and private practice experience. Becoming a laboratory technician involves six months of initial training, after which other specialty courses can be accomplished. In all my years in dentistry, I have not seen a group of assistants who have such varied and well-developed skills as we have here at Maxwell-Gunter.

Nothing short of showing daily gratitude and commendation for all of our auxiliary dental personnel is acceptable when it comes to acknowledging the importance of the role each and every one of them plays at the clinic. It was especially gratifying to have a week set aside to make sure they know we appreciate the work they do, seen and unseen. We hope all the patients of the dental clinic realize how vital they are to the success of our mission. All of the dentists here would like to publicly thank them for all that they do, and we ask you to please remember to thank them for their work the next time you visit the dental clinic. We could not do it without them!