Dental Staffing

The New Hire Dental Assistant- Do We Want a New Grad or Experience??

Oh, the decisions we must make in our profession. I’m certain if you placed ten dentists in a room and asked the question: Would you rather have a new hire dental assistant be experienced or a new grad, it would become quite a debate. So many advantages and disadvantages to your decision.


The New Hire Dental Assistant: Experienced

A. The new hire dental assistant brings experience and knowledge that can only be had by someone who’s been there and done it. All of that doesn’t really matter if their personality isn’t the right fit for your office. Do they know their role, fully perform their duties and know their position is legally limited?

I had a friend tell me an interesting story about a very experienced new hire dental assistant who just didn’t know her boundaries. He was a young associate in a group practice and was sitting in the large office he shared with two other doctors and the office manager.

They had just finished interviewing the applicant and he walked into the office to sit and document his chart. As he was documenting the details of the patient’s visit, the applicant asked him: “do you guys document your own charts?” He responded with an emphatic “yes”, to which she answered, “well, that’s going to change!” The word liability immediately comes to mind.

Suffice it to say, she was hired and went on to cause numerous issues with all the doctors and assistants. Although she was hired, he went on to be extremely guarded around this individual and reported the entirety of his employment was uncomfortable around her. She continuously crossed boundaries, was caught trying to perform duties that were legally inappropriate and portrayed an attitude of superiority.

B. Then there’s the consummate professional. This assistant knows their role and wouldn’t so much as think about crossing boundaries. They’re secure in their identity and they perform their duties to the fullest and provide team support wherever necessary. These people are rare and when you are lucky enough to find them, they should be greatly appreciated.

In the first scenario, the new hire dental assistant went on to stifle the practice. They hired her because they were desperate to have another set of hands. She was, however, their weakest link. In the second scenario, the dental assistant was with her doctor for twenty-five years. She’s loyal and loyalty goes a long way to improving the practice and the practice owner’s life.

C. Typically, there’s more of an everything in between; in other words, the new hire dental assistant brings experience and needs to be trained in how you operate your practice. With your help and the help of your team, the new hire dental assistant will make mistakes, get them corrected and become a valuable employee.

The New Hire Dental Assistant: New Grad

A. The new grad is someone who can be molded, trained, and educated just the way you’d want them. Training takes time and costs the practice money, so you need to be willing to be up to the task. The entire team needs to be on board as the individual grows and learns the real world of this profession. I believe it’s the younger doctor who is more able to step up for this role.

B. I often see new grad resumes with the list of past work experience, totally unrelated to dentistry. I utilize this information because of something a mentor said to me I will never forget. He said: “I can teach a monkey to assist. I’m looking for a warm, people-loving personality.” He hired the cashier at his local grocery store, trained her as his new hire dental assistant and she worked for him for 25 years. Now I realize this was a very long time ago, but the atmosphere the new hire creates can be more important than their experience.


“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped”

-Tony Robbins