Interviewing as a dental assistant can be unnerving if you are not prepared. While you want to market yourself, you need to ENSURE you do NOT come across as being overconfident. Additionally, you need to provide practical answers and come off professional and eager to learn.

Being well-prepared is the most excellent approach to reducing stress and anxiety, which in turn will ensure you nail the interview. You should anticipate interview questions directly related to your skills and experience as a dental assistant. You should also expect some questions related to your soft skills, such as relationship building, teamwork, etc. With that said,

With the RIGHT preparation before your dental assistant job interview, you can ensure you DON’T get caught off guard and have precise responses ready when questioned. To help you along in your journey, we have prepared the following guide that you CAN utilize during your interview for a dental assistant position/role.


1) Can You Tell Me a Little Bit About Yourself?

You can expect this type of ice-breaker question for any job, not just for dental assistant interviews. Do not make the mistake of a quick introduction about your spouse, children, and hobbies, etc. This type of question will likely be asked at the beginning of the interview, so consider your answer as a springboard to the rest of the conversation. Most candidates TEND to ramble on and provide answers NOT related somewhat to being a dental assistant, and we recommend you DO NOT make this mistake.

Your answer should include your past, present, and future, having a clearly defined structure. DO NOT talk about your personal life but rather your career. For example, focus on what you have done in the past and how it has led to the present. Then move from the present and decide how to focus on the future. In your answer, MAYBE mention your passion for being a dental assistant and how your life experiences have LED you to this career PATH. You CAN also mention some skills you have GAINED along the way that will help you as a dental assistant. With that said, companies also like to FEEL confident that you will FIT into their company culture and work well with others. For this reason, it’s ESSENTIAL to talk about your hobbies and what you like to do on your time off as this will give them an insight into your personality and traits.

“Well, I have over five years of experience as a dental assistant and have been lucky enough to work for Children’s Dental in St. George, UT, with a highly professional team. I enjoyed working with all the children and their parents and ensured they had a good experience before visiting. For example, I wanted to ensure they received the proper care/treatment at the clinic and follow-up care. At this point, I am ready to work for a larger company such as this clinic, to continue to learn even more, such as how a practice this size operates.  I have researched and heard many great things about working here, so I am ready for my next long-term adventure.

 When I’m NOT working, I enjoy reading and exercising three (3) times a week. Exercise makes me feel good about my health, keeps me positive, and allows me to remain focused on my future career GOALS”


2) Describe Your Greatest Strength?

Interviewers WILL ask this question to find out how well your strengths align with the needs of the company and the job’s responsibilities. When you answer this question, the interviewer is trying to match your STRENGTH with the skills needed to succeed in the job. So, first, remember to focus on one (1) particular strength and make sure it fits perfectly with the job role you have applied for. You CAN narrow down the strengths suited for the job by reading the job description. We recommend that since a dental assistant is responsible for files and patient information, focus on the following strengths in your answer: your ability to organize information quickly, your ability to communicate and explain things to a client thoroughly, or even your ability to LEARN and PROCESS new information quickly, so no delays occur in the business process.

“I would say my greatest strength is my ability to prioritize information from MOST to least significant. This strength is one I am proud of because it helped me complete priority assignments on time in college. Then, once I started working, I used this strength to ENSURE that deadlines were met so our department could continue to run efficiently. Another essential point to mention is that by prioritizing different levels of a project, I was able to delegate more effectively, ensuring that the main parts of a project were completed first and handed over to management so they could continue without any delays on their end.”


3) What Interests You MOST About Working For Us or Being a Dental Assistant Here?

This is another VERY common dental assistant interview question, so to SET yourself apart from others and be effective in your answer, you must research the company thoroughly. Many interviewees/candidates focus primarily on “gaining experience” or “just needing a job.” Those answers are not impressive and may show that you have a general interest in the position. What’s remarkable are answers that show you know the company and WHY you want to work there.  Before the interview, find out how the company is RIGHT for you and how it also fits into your future CAREER plan. We recommend researching the following:

– The company’s size
– How long it’s been in business
– Overall customer and employee reviews (easily found on Glassdoor, Google, and Indeed).
– What their specialties are

Once you are comfortable with discussing the business, you could provide the following answer:

“As I did my research on Jackson Dental Works, I was excited to see your company’s mission and values focusing on “Changing lives, one smile at a time.” First, I know how much one’s smile means to people, and a smile does impact someone’s life, and I want to be a part of that. Secondly, I have noticed that your office specializes in many things, including cosmetic dentistry and partials. I haven’t been exposed to those areas and would like to learn more about them. Both are PART of my future career GOALS, so I want to learn as much as possible with you. After gaining enough experience and upgrading my current education/skillset, I would love to transition into those areas with your company. Lastly, the customer reviews of this place are very positive and speak a lot of friendly staff. I want to be a part of that, too.”



4) How Does Being a Dental Assistant FIT In With Your Career Goals?

This dental assistant job interview question will require some thought, and it will require you to think about your future. Therefore, your answer should NOT be as simple as STATING you want to be a dental assistant to pay the bills, etc. This answer lacks passion and shows a lack of motivation to excel to greater heights with your career. Companies, especially those that offer internal mobility opportunities, want to hire employees they know will stick around and continue to utilize their experience and skillset with them. Remember, by hiring you as an employee, they are investing in you and hope to see a considerable return in their investment both short and long term. With that said,

When asked this dental assistant interview question, it ESSENTIALLY measures how far forward you think about your career. It also shows the interviewer to what degree you would like to learn and whether the company will develop those skills. When answering this type of question, DON’T be too aspirational either i.e., “I want to learn all I can here, so I can open my practice and become the world’s best dentist!, because it will turn the interviewers off. Why? Again, companies want to hire someone that will grow with them and continue to work for them in the future. So, we recommend finding a proper balance in your answers between your future goals and the reality of what the company can provide. Think about what specializations this company provides, such as orthodontics, dental implants, periodontics, oral surgery, dentures and partials, and cosmetic surgery. Base your answer around these specialties and how you have a passion for transitioning into one of these areas of specializations in the future. Keep it specific, but make sure your answer includes the employer’s learning or training.

“I eventually would like to land in orthodontics but have a lot to learn before I get there. Your company will give me the foundation I need to learn as much as I need to transition to orthodontics. You have great staff and experienced dentists working here, so what better place to learn and hone my skills. The growth opportunities here are also worth mentioning, and I feel that Jackson Dental Works (name of company) will be a great place for me in the future. For now, my focus is to do the best I can in this position and gradually GAIN more experience along the way.”


5) In What Areas Would You Like to Learn More or Specialize In As a Dental Assistant?

Many interviewers assess a candidate’s desire to learn more. By making this assessment, interviewers CAN determine a lot about a candidate’s character, motivation, focus, etc. Another essential point is that interviewers CAN determine if the candidate is teachable by asking this question during the interview process. Keep in mind; no company wants to work with a know-it-all because these people are harder to work with or delegate responsibilities to. So, even if you are convinced that you know all there is to know about working in a dental office, remember that each office is different. Ask yourself the following questions when preparing for your interview –  Do you want to work for a more established office with a solid history in the community? Maybe you want to work with a specific type of radiology machine. Or is it that you want to work more with children?  We recommended researching what areas the dental office specializes in and how this FITs in your future career goals. By narrowing down the specializations offered, you CAN start to craft a relevant answer, one that not only aligns with your passion but provides an in-depth answer to the question asked. With that said,

Show the interviewer(s) that you are teachable, eager to learn, and plan on learning from Day 1.  The best way to answer this question is to genuinely state what you’d like to know.

“There are specific areas that I am passionate about and experienced in. For example, I prepped patients by cleaning, x-raying, and preparing the instruments before a dentist performed their work. I enjoy that part of the job quite a bit, including getting to know the patient more. However, I would like to get more exposure and experience assisting dentists during procedures. Besides your basic filling and extractions, I am mainly interested in learning more about crowns and root canals. Working in a dental office is about professionalism and the quality of work performed. These two aspects CAN only be learned through practical work alongside with more years/experience in the industry. I hope that once I get a broader perspective into other areas/specialties in dentistry, it will help mold my future career path even more.”

PLEASE NOTE: If you are clear about the area you would like to specialize in dentistry, it’s IMPORTANT to mention that in your answer. For example, you CAN state –

“Your dental office specializes in the following areas (mention area), I have done my best to educate myself about this area; however, I would like to GAIN actual practical experience in the area working alongside a reputable dental staff like yours throughout the years”. 


6) In This Position, You Will Need to Keep Patient Information Highly Confidential. What Measures Will You Take To Protect a Patient’s Information?

Because the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rule is crucial in the dental field, it is good to brush up on a few basics before the interview. This question provides you WITH an excellent opportunity to show that you are attentive and accountable in your work. During your interview, make sure you discuss how you have kept previous patient information confidential in the past. You CAN even throw in some examples of when information had to be kept confidential during your previous job assignments. Some practical answers will include proper record keeping, restricting file access, avoiding or addressing gossip about a patient’s situation, and so forth. Instead of “I take that very seriously,” use “I take that very seriously by…” and list the steps you have taken to keep patient information confidential.

Also, using words such as HIPPA, personal health information, protected information, and discretion when providing answers is always a good idea. Why? Because doing this shows you understand the applicable laws governing patient confidentiality.

“I believe people need to be able to trust that their information is held in confidence and used with discretion. I would not want my personal information shared freely, so I make sure I keep every safeguard I can by NOT leaving patient files out, locking my computer when I am away, and not gossiping about someone’s condition. I would also ENSURE that all proper protocols are adhered to when others may be requesting medical information, so it doesn’t get into the wrong hands. I also wanted to mention that I have studied HIPAA extensively and applied this rule to all of my work assignments. I have also kept up to date with any changes being made to the HIPAA policy.”


7) What Kind of Patient Management Software Have You Used In The Past?

Through this dental assistant interview question, the interviewer is trying to assess the types of software you have been exposed to and how much training they will need to invest in you to get you up to speed. Remember, when companies hire a candidate for a position, they WILL invest enormous time into your development, so they want to ENSURE you have some knowledge of DENTAL software applications or are willing to LEARN if needed. The KEY is to answer with enthusiasm because this shows your passion for learning and growing. With that said,

If you have used the software before, be as SPECIFIC as possible (ABELDent, Dentico, tav32, Open Dental, etc.) AND discuss what you have done day-to-day in using that software. However, if you have NOT used any of the software applications, ENSURE you answer the question and show that you are computer savvy, familiar with the software and scheduling work, or have had some exposure to software applications while attending classes.

(WITH EXPERIENCE)

“I am familiar with similar programs, such as Dentrix and Practice Works, but I am sure I could learn more if I need to. I usually train new people on how to use them, so I am familiar with scheduling, checking in, sending patient reminders, online appointments, and maintaining electronic forms. I am sure that I can get up to speed with your systems with the proper training. I’m curious. What system do you use?. Also, I just wanted to let you know that I have been using computers/systems since the age of 12, so I am very familiar with the way operating systems work.”

(NO EXPERIENCE)

“I have not used an actual system specifically for patient management, but have maintained spreadsheets and reports for scheduling, checking patients in, sending out patient reminders, and maintaining electronic forms. I use systems such as Excel and Outlook for most things, but I am also familiar with invoicing programs such as QuickBooks. What kinds of systems do you use here? I have in the PAST had to learn other programs NOT related to dentistry, so I am familiar with training environments and the time I have to dedicate to learning new software programs.”



8) Tell Me a Time When You Had to Deal With a Difficult Patient? Why Was It Difficult, And How Did You Handle It?

No matter how much you share about your experience with dentistry, x-rays, patient management, and so forth, it won’t mean much if you do not exhibit the ability to work with people—challenging patients. Interviewers ask this type of question to determine your ABILITY to manage people and even learn more about your temperament. For example, interviewers want to hear you mention the importance of remaining CALM, being patient, or communicating with aggressive customers effectively. When asked this dental interview question, be prepared to share one (1) or two (2) telling stories about how you HAVE handled difficult situations before at work. Interviewers want to know what you HAVE done, NOT what you WOULD do! Real stories and experiences are much more potent than hypotheticals. If you have NOT worked in a dental office before, we recommend sharing your experience at another job where customer service was a high priority. With that said,

Practical explanations will follow a SITUATION-ACTIONS-RESULTS pattern. For example, what was the situation? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?

“I had a patient not too long ago who came in very upset about his bill. It was higher than expected, and he wanted to speak to someone. I made sure that I did not become defensive and remained CALM while listening to the concerns of the customer. In my experience, most patients who are surprised about their bill are missing some KEY information, so it was my duty to walk through his bill with him in detail. In this case, the patient thought his insurance company would cover half of his crown. To better assist the customer, I researched and went through his insurance policy with him to figure out the discrepancy. I found the problem rather quickly. I communicated with him my finds and mentioned that he was correct that his crown was covered, but he had already received the annual maximum benefit from his insurance company, and he was now over that limit.

At first, he couldn’t believe it, but I went over his record line by line with him. After he did realize that he was, in fact, over his limit, I advised him to contact his insurance company to see if there were any other options available to him. Finally, he thanked me for my time and left. From that point on, I made sure to advise others to check their annual dental maximum so we could avoid further issues like this one.”


9) How Do You Prepare For Patients Before Their Appointment? Tell Us What You Do Before They Arrive?

Every dental office will need to prepare long before a patient arrives. Each day will likely be different since each patient has their own SPECIFIC needs i.e., cleaning, crowns, cavities, etc. The interviewer WILL typically ask this question to gauge your preparation style for the day, learn more about how you prioritize work and minimize any unnecessary work the dentists do. We recommend speaking from previous work experience to answer this type of question. However, if you do not have experience, you CAN do a little research online or speak to a friend at a dental office who WILL be able to shed light on the process. When answering this question, think about your experiences at the dentist and what prep-work was completed before you arrived. Our research shows that dental assistants WILL organize files on upcoming appointments beforehand and even prepare the machines or sterilize dental instruments used throughout the day.

“I believe preparing for a patient’s visit avoids a lot of uncertainty and unnecessary work later on. First, I would ensure that all the necessary paperwork is in place and available when we need it. For example, this would include verifying all patient history is received and completed, checking benefits coverage in preparation for any questions by the patient, and communicating any potential obstacles to the proper staff to address before the patient arrives. During my first week working for (name of dental office), a patient arrived on the date of his appointment, and his insurance information wasn’t in the system. I realized that it was never collected when booking his appointment. To make matters worse, he did not have the information with him, which led to a huge delay pushing other appointments back. He ended up leaving and coming back with the correct information, but this backlogged the rest of the day. I learned from then on that before the end of the day, I would check the next day’s schedule to ensure that all the patients had their insurance information completed. If their information was NOT on file, I would contact them to get the information from them before their appointment.”


10) How Did You Handle A Situation Where You Did NOT Get Along With A Fellow Team Member? How Would You Handle Such a Situation?

This is another very COMMON question asked during the interview process. It is IMPORTANT to keep answers as POSITIVE as possible even if you have encountered challenging situations at work with other team members. Remember, recruiters are trying to assess how you handle difficult situations and if you are the type of person to work towards a solution NO matter how difficult the situation is at work. Companies DO NOT want to hire someone who creates a TOXIC environment at work since this will jeopardize the OVERALL progress within the workplace. With that said,

When describing an incident at work, you MUST always avoid criticizing your former colleagues as this can reflect poorly on your personality and your ability to work in a team. Hence, ensure your tone is positive and constructive.

“I think most teams have some internal conflict, which can sometimes be healthy but shouldn’t be ignored. I believe disagreements will happen, primarily when so many different personalities work together. We have many patients to provide for, and sometimes the hours can get long! At my previous job, some team members expressed concerns about their CURRENT schedule, working longer hours than others on the team. After speaking with them, I got a better understanding of the situation and found out the issue wasn’t the schedule but the overall feeling of being unable to take time off for personal events, like children’s baseballs games, etc. So, as a team, we decided that everyone would pull together when someone needed time off, but with the understanding that it should be scheduled as far in advance as possible. This way, we could have the proper coverage when needed. We still have some scheduling issues now and then, but we now communicate our concerns more effectively, allowing us to work much better as a team since we were TRANSPARENT about it.


11) What is Your Greatest Weakness?

A standard dental interview question that can be tricky to answer; however, there are some strategic ways of answering this question that can put you in a WIN-WIN situation. First, when asked this question, do NOT deny that you have weaknesses and DO NOT give a typical answer like “I work too hard” because interviewers have heard this several times before. This type of answer is WAY too generic and won’t make you stand out as a candidate for the position. With that said

We recommend you take two (2) approaches when answering the question. First, you can present weaknesses that CAN be potential ‘strengths’ in nature, for example, your passion for perfection. When applying this to dentistry, you CAN say that when working in a team, you expect perfection from everyone, even the new dental assistants, which may be an unrealistic demand since they are not fully equipped with the experience necessary. So, your weakness in this situation is PERFECTION from new dental assistants who DO NOT have the FULL experience working in the office. Next,

The second approach is to highlight those weaknesses that are not in direct conflict with the dental job requirements. For instance, public speaking may be one of your weaknesses. It may be unlikely to be a requirement for a potential new dental job. Therefore, we recommend stating public speaking as your weakness, which should not adversely impact your job chances.

In the end, you must finish off your answer by describing the steps you are taking to overcome your weaknesses. By stating these steps, it shows you understand your shortcomings and how you pride yourself in making improvements to better yourself.

“One of the things I struggle with is my tendency to want perfection out of everyone I’m managing. Perfection stems from my passion for delivering excellent patient care no matter what the obstacles. Therefore, I want everyone on my team to be aligned with this shared objective. Perfection at all times, in turn, may, however, put pressure on others to perform, especially those who are new to the team. To improve on this weakness, I’ve learned to delegate more tasks and even taken some online management courses. I have also taken one on one meetings with all my team members so we can voice concerns with each other and help each other in achieving a common objective.”


12) What Type of People or Personalities Do You Have Difficulty Working With?

Interviewers WILL ask this question to determine how well you will work with others in your group. Again, there have been people who have been hired before you, and companies want to determine how well you will blend into the workplace. In the end, it all comes down to progress/productivity, and companies want to AVOID hiring someone who will slow this down. When answering this type of question, we recommend that you DON’T over-generalize groups and label people as lazy, irresponsible, slackers, or other general terms. Instead, we recommend focusing on characteristics that affect the flow of business that MAY may affect your job. Why is this strategy effective? It demonstrates that the FLOW of business is your priority, often the same priority as the interviewer. Anything that interferes with the flow of business limits growth, which is ULTIMATELY a business’s objective.

I feel that I can adapt to MOST people and their situations. I try always to keep an open mind! However, I don’t do well with inflexible people and those who refuse to work to find a middle ground to ENSURE that the business is NOT affected anyway. I work hard to ensure that employees/customers are taken care of and that we continue to FOCUS on the OBJECTIVE together. If I do encounter a situation with someone that I feel will disrupt the business, I will take the necessary measures to de-escalate the situation and use whatever resources I have possible. I have found that having an open conversation helps provide an open channel of communication enabling everyone to easily convey any concerns they have. Consequently, this enables us to effectively find a common solution that works for everyone making it easier for each person involved to get the job or task done.”


13) How Often Should You Sterilize Instruments And Equipment?

This type of dental assistant interview question gives you the opportunity to let the interviewer know that you take your patient’s health hygiene seriously. The interviewer is also testing your  BASIC knowledge of dental office procedures. When answering this question, start by focusing on the IMPORTANCE of sterilizing instruments after every use. It would be best to mention that NO piece of equipment or instrument should be used on a patient unless it is fully clean and sterilized. You CAN extend your answer by mentioning your experience WITH the sterilization process and how you continue to educate yourself with any changes in procedures and the technological devices used to sterilize instruments.



14) How Do You Calm a Nervous Patient?

At work, you will be required to assist in performing dental operations and help DENTISTS with patients’ needs. Interviewers like to ask this type of dental assistant interview question because it helps assess a candidate’s behavior in hypothetical situations. For example, the interviewer CAN determine if you have the expertise and interpersonal skills to manage complex/ nervous patients effectively. When answering this question, you should include the steps you take during these situations, like talking with the patient before and during the procedure. You can also ADD how you take time to explain the procedure in simple terms, explaining what the patient CAN expect and listening to the patient’s concerns. You CAN also mention that from previous experience, patients typically are nervous because they DON’T know what to expect during their appointment. Explain to the interviewer how your ability to speak and answer all the patient’s questions while guiding them on what to do next has been highly effective.

“I know how frightening dental procedures MAYBE for some patients, and it is our responsibility to support them anyway we CAN. However, if a patient continues to REMAIN nervous, then completing the dental procedure WILL be delayed, leading to their issue worsening over time. Ultimately, the GOAL is to calm the patient down and proceed with the dental procedure to complete it in time. Once I had a patient at my previous job that was nervous and wanted to leave. I decided on a strategy to take the patient away from the noise and have the dentist go over the process again in detail, helping them work through their anxieties. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve even stayed with a patient throughout the procedure, holding their hand the entire time. They usually calm down after we get started.”


15) How Do You Know When a Patient Has Received The Best Customer Service? What Are The Best Indicators?

The interviewer will ask this question to better understand your definition of EXCELLENT customer service. Keep in mind that a business’s success is directly tied to a customer’s experience. The better the experience, the higher the chance of a customer returning a second time. When answering this question, we suggest speaking to what matters MOST in business-like your understanding of the product, a positive attitude, solving the customer’s problem, excellent communication, and your ability to make changes when necessary. Take some time to think about your visits to a dental or doctor’s office and what mattered MOST to you. We recommend adding your personal experience to your answer. With that said,

Avoid talking about anything NOT related to people when answering this common question. For example, now is not the time to focus solely on procedures or proficiencies.

“I believe the best way to find out about a patient’s experience is to ask them about their experience DIRECTLY. This can be in the form of a survey at the end of their visit or a simple follow-up phone call. Hearing directly from the customer will allow you to clear up misunderstandings about their visit and even make changes where necessary. However, to answer your question, the BEST indicator is the customer coming back for a second time because this shows they were SATISFIED the first time around.” Next,

You can talk about your own experience, for example –

“Recently, during my dental appointment, I was rushed from the second I entered to complete forms, and I didn’t even have a chance to ask questions about my procedure/appointment. The fact that I was rushed caused me to have anxiety causing me to have a horrible experience.”


16) This Position Has High Physical Demands, i.e., Long Hours, Standing on Your Feet For Hours, etc. Would You Be Able to Perform This Type of Work?

This dental interview question measures your ability to meet the job’s physical demands. Some candidates are very good at dealing with patients but have trouble meeting the physical demand of the job. In this case, a job with high physical demands MAY NOT be the right choice for you! In the end, interviewers want to know dental assistants are willing to work long hours, constantly standing on their FEET, and meet the overall expectations required of them.  When answering this question, it’s ESSENTIAL to talk about your previous job experience, especially those that required high physical demands. If possible, you can also share a time when you overcame sore feet or fatigue while working in a comparable environment. With that said,

In your answer, speak about other activities like your regular exercise schedule and nutritious eating habits. Both WILL add value to your answer!

“Meeting the high physical demands of this job will NOT be an issue for me. I have worked a few jobs in high school and college that required me to be on my feet all day. One was at a fast-food restaurant that was also extremely fast-paced. The other was a fine dining restaurant where I was on my feet and in charge of deliveries, sometimes lifting heavy boxes. Both these jobs required long shift work, and sometimes I would have one (1) single break throughout the day. I believe the pace of working at a dental office WILL NOT be a problem at all and WILL be more manageable than my previous jobs. I am sure that I will have no problem meeting the demands required. Through my experience, I have found ways to help me meet the demands, like investing in a comfortable pair of shoes. When your feet are happy, generally you are, too.”


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Final Thoughts

The most effective interviews, especially for a dental assistant, aren’t scripted or memorized. We recommend doing your BEST to guide the interview more as a discussion than a Q&A session. If the interviewer has mentioned something you would like to know more about, ask them when it’s your chance to ask questions towards the end of the interview. With that said,

If you have any additional questions or comments about our dental assistant questions and answers guide, please leave them in the comment box below!

Additional Resources

How to Become a Dental Hygienist – A Complete Guide
How To Become A Dental Lab Technician – A Complete Guide
Dental Hygienist (NBDHE) Practice Tests

 

 

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