Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Things I Learned From Being a Dental Assistant

I haven't talked about it much on this blog but from 2003 till 2005 I worked for a dentist first as his main assistant and then as office manager.

There's a reason why I don't work for dentists anymore.  They are horrible jerks.  At least the ones that I've interned or worked for.

On my old blog I had a post about things I learned from working for a dentist and thought I'd move it over to this blog.


I'm not sure it's the same in every state but as a dental assistant I assisted the dentist with procedures, took x-rays, and worked in the front office.  Eventually we hired a different girl to be the assistant so I could take over the front office since everyone we were hiring sucked!

Anyway here are the things I learned:

~Some people have never brushed their teeth, ever. Seriously.

~People think since their parents have bad teeth they'll have bad teeth. False! My parents both had horrible teeth and I've only had 7 cavities my entire life and they were all on the grooves of my molars.

~Most dentist are know-it-all weirdos who have no knowledge of the "real world". The dentist I worked for didn't know what a hooker was, what it was like to not have money to own a car, or that strippers made good money but that they waste a lot of it on drugs and that's why they don't live in nice houses (typically).

~Hygienist (the girls that actual clean your teeth) mostly all act like princesses. All the ones I met did anyway. They are actually dental assistants that had the money to go to college for a full year after dental assistants school (which clearly I did not).

~Only floss the teeth you want to keep. A dentist I interned for said this to people. It makes you think...

~It takes tarter (the hard gross stuff that's on your teeth that you can't brush off) 24 hours to form. If you brush and floss your teeth correctly only one time within 24 you should be good.

~Flossing is not a painful form of torture. If you do it everyday it will stop hurting. Plus it's going to hurt a lot more when you're teeth fall out or when you get gum disease.  And yes you can reach the back of your mouth, just do it and stop whining!

~Dentist do not perform miracles. If you don't brush and floss and you're teeth are falling out of your head that's your fault.

~You know that stupid story your dentist is telling you when he's filling your tooth? The assistant as already heard the story 500 times in the past 3 months.  I'm surprised I didn't need to be medicated while I worked there.

~Crowns and bridges are expensive. It takes at least an hour for the dentist to prepare your tooth, an impression of your tooth gets sent to a lab, they pay a fee for it and then you come back in to get it cemented. Think of how much equipment and supplies were used and the staff that has to be available.

~People think dentistry is like buying a used car. So many people tried to negotiate fees.  While some fees can be negotiated remember you get what you paid for and don't make the person that is about to hold a drill in your mouth upset!

~If you have crooked teeth you will end up with issues. Get braces, I did and my TMJ pain and gum issues are gone. Sure I looked like a 15 year old for 3 years when I was in my 20s but it was so worth it.  Without braces I was looking at losing my bottom 4 front teeth because they were spaced apart strangely and my gums were a mess from it.

~You must get your wisdom teeth extracted. No, no, no I don't want to hear how you have room for them, you don't. Eventually the gums behind the wisdom teeth get infected and you need them out. Could be when you're 17, could be when you're 60. Trust me, it's easier on a person to get them out when you're 17 then when you're 60.

~Meth destroys your mouth. I saw a 20 year old girl that was hooked on meth and we had to extract her teeth "fragments" and give her dentures.

~People have horrible gag reflexes. I will never understand how a person gags from having a little mirror put in their mouth yet they are overweight (for some reason the really overweight men always had this issue the most). So food doesn't make you gag?

~You will not get cancer from the dental X-ray machine. It's a small amount of radiation. (Now I believe most dental x-rays are digital and I'm not even sure if those have radiation at all.)

~People wait until the problem is at it's worse. My favorite story of this:

A man walked in to the office and said he had an issue with a tooth. His upper front lip was swollen like a tennis ball!!!!! We took an x-ray and realized it was his front tooth that was infected. He said it had been hurting him for 6 years but he was scared!!! We gave him antibiotics for 2 days. He came back and was still swollen but to the size of a golf ball.The dentist couldn't get him numb because the infection was so bad. I had to assist so I had the suction tube right underneath and behind the tooth. The dentist used forceps to remove the tooth, it almost fell out on it's own. After it came out yellow and white pus came pouring out!! The smell was like death, even with my mask on. I handed the suction tube the the dentist and ran out of the room gagging!! The dentist said this guy could have filled a soda can with all the pus that drained/poured out of his mouth. So gross!!! And it could have been prevented if he came in 6 years ago.

~Everyone is scared of the dentist.  Going to a job every single day where people are terrified of you and your boss is not fun.

~The needle used for injections is one of the smallest gauges you can get. It does not hurt if you don't think about it. It is not huge.  I've actually injected my own mouth because I was weird like that and wanted to try.  Totally didn't hurt!

~If you have a small "silver" filling and nothing is wrong with it, leave it. Don't replace it just because you don't want the mercury in your system. The mercury level is low and won't hurt you if the filling is small.

~Silver fillings (I don't think anyone does these anymore, at the time I wrote this post they may have) last around 10 years while the pretty white composite/resin ones only last 5. I've already had to have all of mine replaced.

~Children should go to pediatric dentists. Normal dentists are mean and don't understand kids.  After the dentist was mean to a child I insisted on being allowed to do all cleanings on children's teeth or allowing them to either hold my hand and squeeze it when they wanted him to stop or even have them sit in my lap!!  Back then I was not into children at all but I would feel so bad for them!!

~Follow all post opt directions given to you after you get a tooth pulled. So many people don't and you will end up in soooo much pain!

~Don't try to sue a dentist for anything petty. He's probably friends with the lawyer and the lawyer won't waste his time on a case only worth $5,000.  We had a few patients try to sue and the lawyers they tried to hire were all our patients too.  Not happening!

16 comments:

  1. Wow, I'm sorry you worked for some bad dentists. I have been to several different ones, as a patient, and I liked the ones I had as a child, until I grew up and realized what an idiot the one guy was, and then the one I went to as an adult was a jerk. I like to be told when they are about to inject the novacaine but he didn't even speak to me when he walked into the room. He was talking to his hygienist the whole time. Then he just came at me with the needle, which, frankly, and respectfully, I don't care how small it is. I can feel it and it hurts. Not like break your arms off pain, but it's still pain. Some people have a low tolerance for pain and some have a high tolerance. My friend had root canal with no pain meds at all because she's highly allergic to them. I'm not making that up. The dentist I met with Karina the other day seems nice, and both he and the hygienist were super nice to Karina, even though they are in a family practice. I also have a friend who is a dentist, and he just got out of the military. He's not a jerk, so if anyone is in Ohio looking for a pediatric dentist he's there somewhere. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. OMG that is the nastiest story you just put in my head! And I just got back from the vet where my dog has infected anal glands but your story will stick in my head. :)

    I admittedly haven't been to the dentist in a couple years. Thankfully I have very good teeth and always have. The kids go every six month to a great pediatric dentist and they love going.

    Good info for people though; thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. ALL xrays are radiation. Digital just means that the image goes straight to a computer rather than on actual film. While it does require a much lower dose of radiation, it is still radiation nonetheless and you should ALWAYS be shielded during xrays, dental or otherwise. While many bigger or newer dental practices have digital equipment, there are many older practices that have ancient equipment. Just wanted to put that out there, because saying digital xrays do not use radiation is completely wrong and potentially dangerous for the general public to think that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just want to clarify that I never said that digital x-rays do not use radiation at all. I said I wasn't sure since I've never even seen the equipment used since in the office I worked at we had very old equipment.
      And, of course, you should always be shielded. I was just saying that you will not get cancer from one tiny x-ray, we had patients come in and cry because they refused to have any x-rays afraid they'd get cancer from 1 x-ray! we needed the x-ray to treat them.

      Delete
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  6. It's sad to hear that you experienced working with bad dentists (as you see them), but it's clear to see that you understood what's happening inside a dentist's clinic. The things they do to save one's teeth and work on people's overall dental health can be tough. Being a dentist is a tough job since you're dealing with people, some of them in pain, and most of them in dire need of professional help. By the way, thank you for sharing these tips and facts with us!
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  7. From personal experience I know most of what you wrote is true. I am a general dentist. But I love seeing kids, I use "silver fillings" when I think it is best suited, I know what warrants wisdom tooth extractions, and I have a pretty firm grasp of the real world (my dental school loans alone help with that). I guess what I'm saying is that you have some great advice up here, but also some generalizations that add to misconceptions folks often have about dentists. Those are just my two cents.

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  8. As a kid, going to the dentist can be scary! I feel bad for any little kids I see at my dentist's office that look scared. I think a pediatric dentist is great for those kids that are nervous! I don't see my dentist very much, so this list of things you have learned while working in a dentist's office was very enlightening! Your story almost had me gagging too. It is SO IMPORTANT to have your teeth and gums checked regularly! http://www.dentaljobsplus.com

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  9. Thank you for sharing your experience! Well, I have a sister who works first as a dental assistant and she really become interested to become a san clemente dentist. Now she is enrol to a college university and taking pre-dent course.

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  10. Okay, after hearing about that guy, I'll stop thinking my cracked, infected little tooth that I just had root canaled, grossed my endodontist and dentist. Obviously, it did not.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Really nice article. I'm an endodontic assistant and we only do root canals. Love it, Drs are all douche bags to a certain degree. They act like you have to prove yourself they have no patience even if you're fast as lightening which I am. Omg I can go on for days, I have seen people meaning co workers get treated so wrong. And I'm sure the patients can tell when there's tension in the air

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  12. The dental field is slavery they want you to do s excellent job but don't appreciate anything you do and at some point during the work week they have a attitude about something dentist that own their own practices are the worst they are cheap no some places have no benefits no paid time off and low pay if your considering a career on dental assisting run don't do it unless you find s awesome dentist which is hard bc the staff never leaves those type don't waste your time out of my 8 years I only found one that I could work with that was fair and actually care about the staff it's also a very physical job over the years you will become exhausted and tired of catering to the dentist that's what it becomes catering I love my patients and that is all I love about that career

    ReplyDelete
  13. The dental field is slavery they want you to do s excellent job but don't appreciate anything you do and at some point during the work week they have a attitude about something dentist that own their own practices are the worst they are cheap no some places have no benefits no paid time off and low pay if your considering a career on dental assisting run don't do it unless you find s awesome dentist which is hard bc the staff never leaves those type don't waste your time out of my 8 years I only found one that I could work with that was fair and actually care about the staff it's also a very physical job over the years you will become exhausted and tired of catering to the dentist that's what it becomes catering I love my patients and that is all I love about that career

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