Young girl sitting in dentist chair

The Importance of a Positive Attitude in a Dental Assistant Career

Carey-Ann Thurlow

June 29, 2023

Summary:

  • A positive attitude in a dental assistant can significantly influence the entire practice, including other team members and patients. This “ripple effect” can make anxious patients feel at ease, motivate coworkers, and foster a productive work environment.
  • Negative attitudes in a healthcare setting often result in lower patient satisfaction, poor team dynamics, and increased stress levels among staff members. Over time, these issues can lead to burnout and high staff turnover rates.
  • Maintaining a positive attitude can be challenging, especially in high-stress healthcare jobs. Techniques to help maintain a positive attitude include practicing mindfulness, starting the day with positive affirmations, keeping the workspace tidy, caring for physical health, and seeking support when needed.
  • Adopting a positive attitude early in a dental assistant career can enhance your job performance, reduce errors, earn you a good reputation, and aid your career advancement.

In a fast-paced and dynamic field like dental assisting, having a positive attitude makes a significant difference—not only in your well-being at work, but also in your patient interactions and overall career success. As a dental assistant, you’re in a particularly unique position where your attitude has the potential to impact the entire practice, from the rest of your team to the patients who come in every day.

This article goes into detail about why it’s so important for dental assistants to maintain a positive attitude, and provides tips for how to do so under a variety of different possible circumstances. Let our experienced team at Risio teach you how to cultivate optimism and resilience in your future career as a dental assistant.

Dentist and assistants laughing together in practice

The Ripple Effect of Your Attitude

Just like a ripple in a pond, your attitude can influence those around you. A positive attitude is contagious, but so is a negative one. The energy you bring into a room can either uplift or bring down others. In the context of a dental office, this means your attitude can have a direct impact on your coworkers and patients.

For instance, if you maintain a cheerful demeanor, it can help to put anxious patients at ease, which in turn makes the dentist’s job easier. Likewise, your positive energy can also motivate your coworkers, fostering a supportive and productive work environment.

However, a negative attitude can have the opposite effect. It can increase patients’ anxiety levels, create tension among staff, and lead to a less efficient and less enjoyable workplace.

Research shows that emotions are highly contagious, especially in close-knit groups like a dental office team. Research shows that teams with members who had a more positive mood were more cooperative and produced better quality work than teams with members who had a more negative mood. This is known as ’emotional contagion’ – the phenomenon where we ‘catch’ the feelings of those around us unconsciously​.

Unhappy young patient during dental appointment to symbolize how negative attitudes can impact patient experience

The Detrimental Impact of Negative Attitude

Negative attitudes in a healthcare setting can be detrimental. They can lead to:

  • Lower patient satisfaction
  • Poor team dynamics
  • Increased stress levels among staff members

In the long run, these problems can contribute to burnout and high staff turnover rates. Consider a scenario where a dental assistant is always grumpy and complains regularly about their tasks. This will likely create an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone in the office.

As a result, patients may perceive the office as unwelcoming, and they may even decide to seek care elsewhere. On the other hand, the dental office staff might start to feel demoralized, leading to lower productivity and a decrease in the quality of work.

Research conducted by the Beryl Institute found that patient experience significantly correlates with the culture of a healthcare organization. In particular, the positivity and engagement of the healthcare staff are key factors that influence the patient’s perception of their care.

Dental assistant smiling and maintaining positive attitude while working with patient in exam room

Maintaining a Positive Attitude: Practical Tips for Dental Assistants

Maintaining a positive attitude can be challenging, especially considering the high-stress nature of healthcare jobs. Here are some practical tips you can use to help maintain a positive attitude on a daily basis:

  • Practice mindfulness: Stay present in the moment and try not to let past or future worries affect your current mood. Mindfulness can help you to keep things in perspective and react more calmly to stressful situations.
  • Positive affirmations: Start your day with positive affirmations. They can help to put you in a positive mindset and boost your self-confidence.
  • Stay organized: A cluttered workspace can add to stress. Keeping your workspace tidy and organized can help you to feel more in control and less overwhelmed.
  • Take care of your physical health: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep can significantly influence your mood and energy levels.
  • Seek support when needed: Don’t hesitate to reach out to your colleagues or supervisor if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember, everyone needs help sometimes.
  • Savor pleasure: Consciously enjoy the small, pleasing moments as they occur. Whether it’s a patient’s smile, a delicious meal on your lunch break, or a chat with a friend, slowing down to appreciate these experiences can help sustain a positive attitude​.
  • Practice gratitude: Keep a gratitude journal where you note down things you are grateful for. This practice can help you appreciate the good things in life and not take them for granted​.
  • Cultivate mindfulness: Engage fully in activities and open up to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences. This mindfulness can help you manage stress better and form deep connections with others​.
  • Retain a sense of purpose: Try to view major life changes as new challenges or opportunities. If you’re facing a difficult time at work or in your personal life, maintaining your normal routines and focusing on what you can control can help you keep a positive outlook​.
  • Emphasize the positive: While you need to address challenges in the workplace realistically, it can also be beneficial to focus first on the positive aspects of your situation. Building resilience can help you bounce back from difficult times and maintain a positive attitude​.

Remember, it’s okay to have moments of negativity—it’s a normal part of life and work. However, by implementing these strategies, you can ensure that these moments are the exception rather than the norm.

Adopting a positive attitude early in your dental assistant career can significantly enhance your performance, reduce errors, earn you a good reputation, and ultimately help you advance in your career. More importantly, it can enhance the care you provide to your patients, ensuring they feel comfortable and cared for, thereby contributing to their overall well-being​.

Learn more about the skills you’ll need to succeed as a dental assistant by learning more about the training we offer at Risio. Contact us for details on how to apply for our next intake.

The Different Specializations Available to Dental Assistants

The Different Specializations Available to Dental Assistants

Dental assistants can choose from various specializations such as orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, endodontics, and more. Each requires specific training and skills, making them valuable assets for dental offices. Read ahead to learn more about these different specializations.

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