Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice

Delivering value to the dental practice

The DALE Foundation surveyed dentists, dental hygienists, dental office managers, and dental assistants to explore the many ways in which dental assistants bring value to the dental office. The results of this first-of-its-kind survey show that dental assistants contribute to the dental practice in varied and meaningful ways.

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Overall, 99% of dentists and dental office managers agreed that dental assistants contribute to the productivity of the dental practice. They said that dental assistants make significant contributions — 97% agreed that effective dental assistants allow the dentist to move to the next patient more quickly, and 98% said that effective dental assistants contribute to team synergy and make all team members more effective. They also help alleviate strain on the team, as 86% noted that dental assistants help prevent the dentist from becoming burned out.


Dental assistants contribute to the practice’s profitability in many ways, according to dentists and dental office managers. Specifically, 97% reported that dental assistants contribute to patient retention, and 91% said dental assistants make it more likely that the patient will accept the dentist-recommended treatment plan.

Patient and provider safety

Busy dental offices see thousands of patients each year, and keeping those visits safe for everyone is essential. Proper infection prevention and control is critical — and dental assistants are on the front lines of keeping patients and providers safe. According to 99% of dentists and dental assistants, sterilization and disinfection duties are delegated to dental assistants in the practice.

Purchasing power

Dental assistants play a key role in making purchasing decisions for the practice. In fact, 74% of dental assistants said that they recommend products, and 72% are involved in placing orders. DANB Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certificants are particularly influential. Dental assistants who hold DANB’s CDA certification were more likely to independently meet with sales representatives, make recommendations for purchases, and place orders for some products and services.

Qualities and traits

Dental assistants are responsible for many areas within the dental practice and often wear a lot of hats. With broad roles like these, it may seem impossible to find a dental assistant who can do it all. However, dentists and dental office managers said that the five most important qualities for dental assistants to have are good patient care skills, being a team player, being willing to learn, taking ownership of work and showing initiative. They also said that effective dental assistants anticipate the needs of the dentist without the exchange of words and perform duties properly the first time, avoiding the need to redo work.

Training and education

Dentists and dental office managers agreed that dental assistants can bring tremendous value to the dental practice — but they need training and education to be most effective. Fully utilizing dental assistants is one of the ways practices can maximize performance. According to dentists and dental office managers, 84% said dental assistants should do everything the state allows them to do, and 85% said their practice cross-trains dental assistants to do whatever is needed.

Beyond training, education plays a key role. A majority of dentists, dental hygienists, and dental office managers believe that continuing education (CE) helps the practice thrive. Overall, 89% said that CE is critical to maintaining the dental assistants’ skills, and 90% said that dental assistants who complete CE are more likely to contribute to the profitability of the practice.

About the research

The Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice survey was conducted in November 2016 by Association Laboratory, an independent research firm, on behalf of the DALE Foundation, the official affiliate of the Dental Assisting National Board. Results from nearly 3,000 dentists, dental office managers, dental hygienists, and dental assistants underwent thorough statistical analysis and validation in 2017 and 2018 to identify trends and key takeaways. The Value of Dental Assistants to the Dental Practice research was generously sponsored by Benco Dental and Henry Schein.