Who’s the glue that holds it altogether in your office? Or your household? The one that works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep things going? In a dental office, this person is the dental assistant or hygienist.

Their job can involve all sorts of tasks. Their primary responsibility is to make you feel comfortable and to communicate, effectively, with the dentist. But their work goes beyond what you see. They are tasked with the responsibility to disinfect chairs and rooms and implement sterilization procedures to ensure your safety. When you see the neatly organized trays of tools, it is the handiwork of the assistant. If you multiply those processes by the number of patients a dentist sees in a day, that’s roughly 6-10 rounds of cleaning.

When they get a moment between patients, they are often responsible for ordering supplies and making sure the dental practice has plenty in stock to stay on schedule with clients. They are often limited by time constraints, an office budget and tracking inventory. In addition, it is often the assistant that helps schedule future appointments, processes payments and answers calls the front desk can’t take.

Being a dental assistant requires many hours of training to obtain the job, but they also must take ongoing training and hours of development required by the state to renew their certification. After all, they need to keep up with new technologies and practices implemented in the dental world! They are often the first to arrive and the last to leave; the glue holding the office together.

Next time you visit your local dentist, extend some grace and a warm smile to the person working on your teeth.