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Dental Assistants Recognition Week: How Dental Assistants Ease Anxiety in Patients

Donna Jalai

Project Smile Global

March 17, 2024

As Dental Assistants Recognition Week took place this month, occurring from March 4 to March 8, it is a time to shine a light on the work that dental assistants accomplish in a dental care office. Dental assistants typically work both at the dentist’s chair and upfront. As such, they are often one of the first workers to greet the patients and usually bring the patient to the dentist’s chair. Dental assistants also make sure the patients and the dentist have everything they need or request for their procedure. A study observing patient satisfaction across five dental centers reported that after the dentist, the patients were most satisfied with the work and attentiveness of dental assistants (Ali 311). Another study focusing on empathy and responsiveness in dental offices found that a key factor in patient satisfaction was the dental assistant's knowledge of the patient's needs during the procedure (Dewi et. al 173). Another interesting point from the study is that patients often felt more comfortable discussing their complaints with the dental assistant rather than with the dentist (Dewi et. al 174). So, it is safe to say that dental assistants are key to the comfort of a patient and the overall success of a dental clinic. 

San Joaquin Valley College

Many patients often feel anxiety when visiting the dentist, whether it be children, teenagers, or adults. In fact, it is estimated that around 36% of people in the United States have a fear of dental treatments (“Dentophobia [Fear of Dentists]”). As such, administering empathy within dental clinics is important for the well-being of the patient and the overall success of the procedure. A dental assistant’s duties encompass many different tasks within a clinic, and their behavior during chairside assistance of the dentist can greatly influence a patient’s overall satisfaction and anxiety during treatment. A common fear within the dental care practice is the use of syringes during various treatments. It is important for the dental assistant to prepare syringes and materials in a way that minimizes patient anxiety and to answer any questions about pain to help calm their nerves. Additionally, the dental assistant is responsible for providing materials for the patient’s comfort, including things like pillows, water, mouthwash, toothbrushes, and seat adjustments (Waterman 392). Furthermore, dental assistants must demonstrate strong communication skills and empathy, answering questions and providing undivided attention to effectively ease a patient’s anxiety (Dewi et. al 173-174). These practices make the patients feel a sense of respect and acknowledgment, which eases their anxiety and contributes to their overall satisfaction with treatment. 

Overall, dental assistants are a vital component of the dental healthcare system, performing various duties throughout the clinic. Dental assistants listen to the needs and complaints of patients, accommodating to the patients to make their experiences more comfortable and enjoyable. In turn, they help to calm down patients who may experience dental anxiety or be nervous about their procedure. This results in greater overall patient satisfaction, allowing the dental clinic to run smoothly and successfully (Dewi et. al 174). The ability of dental assistants to provide ample patient satisfaction proves they are a key element to the team of dental care professionals. Dental Assistant Appreciation Week, and indeed all year round, is a time to rightfully applaud dental assistants for their work in dental care facilities.


Ali, Dena A. “Patient satisfaction in Dental Healthcare Centers.” European Journal of Dentistry, vol. 10, no. 03, July 2016, pp. 309–14,

“Dentophobia (Fear of Dentists): Causes, Symptoms & Treatments.” Cleveland Clinic, 22 Mar. 2022,

Dewi, Fellani Danasra et al. “Patient satisfaction analysis on service quality of dental health care based on empathy and responsiveness.” Dental research journal vol. 8,4 (2011): 172-177. doi:10.4103/1735-3327.86032

“How to Become a Dental Assistant in California.” San Joaquin Valley College, Accessed 16 Mar, 2024. Waterman, George E. “Effective use of dental assistants.” Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1896) vol. 67,4 (1952): 390-394.

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