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It's the tooth: We appreciate our dental assistants

Posted by Cheryl Bell on March 11, 2022 in News
l to r: Jennifer Hatfield, Kim Marchand, Charlene Jarvis, Carol Sauve, Donna Dickie, Morgan LeBlanc, Melissa Landry,Debbie Comeau, Jennifer Tulk, Catherine MacNeil, Leanne Paddock. Missing: Maureen LaPierre and Jennifer Wallace

It’s National Dental Assistants’ Recognition Week, so it’s the perfect time to show the dental assistants in your life some appreciation.  

In the Faculty of Dentistry, we are lucky to have a team of 15 dental assistants (DAs) working in the main dental school clinic, the North Preston Dental Clinic, and the clinic at Harbour View Elementary School.

Although the highlight of Dental Assistants’ Recognition Week for the team is a pizza lunch with the dean, they say that even on a normal day they feel appreciated by both students and patients.

Each day is different, they say, depending on where they are assigned. It could be oral surgery, periodontics, or one of the main clinics. Many of them rotate through the Government Assisted Populations clinic on Monday evenings. They describe themselves as “very versatile” and say that they are all crossed-trained to work in every area.

Patient gratitude means a lot
A good day, says Jennifer Wallace, is “when you have done right by the patient”. Debbie Comeau says it’s when they start the day off with a laugh before they begin work. Donna Dickie adds that it’s when there are dry roads on the journey to work and everything goes well in the clinic. Patient gratitude at the end of a procedure always means a lot.

DA responsibilities include monthly chair maintenance, collecting all the supplies and instruments that will be needed during the clinic, and assisting students and faculty members. Charlene Jarvis explains that part of their role is to “put patients at ease”, which makes it easier for students to do their work.

Janice Ruppert and Juliette Thomas

Paediatric dentistry is so joyful
For Juliette Thomas and Janice Ruppert, who work at the North Preston Dental Clinic and the paediatric clinic respectively, their roles cover dental assisting and taking X-rays, sterilizing all the instruments, and coordinating their clinics – administering the front desk, ordering supplies, taking payments, and making appointments.

Juliette says that the children at the school seize on any opportunity to visit the clinic, like a wiggly tooth or a fall in the playground, while parents are grateful that their children’s teeth are being cared for while they are in school.

Over at Harbour View Elementary School, Janice says that, like Juliette, she is a “one-man band”.  When the students walk into the clinic in the morning, “the cubicles are ready for them and the instruments are in place”.

She also feels appreciated. “The school is in a high needs area. Both the families and teachers are grateful for what the clinic does and see the good we’re doing for the kids. Plus, paediatric dentistry is so joyful.”

All the DAs are grateful that jobs in their field are plentiful, but also point out that their role has become much more regulated over the years, with licensing, professional membership, and continuing education requirements.

Most of the Dal DAs have previously worked in private practice and they find that they like the consistent workplace, regular hours, pension, and other benefits working in the dental school provides. Morgan Le Blanc, a relatively new member of the team, appreciates the diversity of both the student and patient populations. “The fees are different here at the school, which is nice for our patients, because many of them are on limited incomes. I like that.”

Thank you for everything you do
To our hard-working, cheerful, and dedicated DAs, thank you for everything you do. You are appreciated during National Dental Assistants’ Recognition Week and every day of the year.