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Dear Tiffany ... a letter from the ADAA.

Recently I received an e-mail from a dental assistant named Tiffany. She expressed concerns common to many in our profession and I tried to answer her questions not just with an explanation, but with a course for action. I hope you'll take a moment to read our correspondence (from Tiffany, an edited abstract) and I'd like to hear from you and what you think about the subject.


I have been a Dental Assistant for 10 years now and am still wondering why hygienists get higher salaries than assistants. Of course, some doctors pay their assistants well, but I believe the majority feel they could get somebody "off the street" for lower wages, so why pay for a title such as CDA or RDA?

From my experience, most doctors don't seem to care whether an assistant is an RDA or CDA. I came out of an assisting program seriously considering completing the requirements for both. But in reality, every doctor I came in contact with just didn't seem concerned.

Many hygienists have confided in me that they believe assistants should make more than hygienists considering the endless products we come in contact with and learning how to use them, the number of different procedures we handle and the questions that patients ask. My boss once told me "It's all about politics." I didn't like that answer. Why not equal pay? In my area the going rate for an experienced assistant is about $15-20 per hour and for a hygienist $26-35. Thanks for listening.--Tiffany

Dear Tiffany,

Since I don't know your last name I can't tell whether you are a member of ADAA. But I can tell you that the dentist who said "it's politics" is somewhat correct. Hygienists are licensed and registered in every state and therefore represent a body of people who vote and can affect politics and influence the people who draft the dental practice rules.

If the dentist has no choice but to conduct the procedure him/herself or delegate it to a hygienist, naturally the hygienist is in a better position to demand a decent salary because he or she must be trained formally and licensed or registered. It is not in the dentist's economic self interest to perform these procedures personally.

Since assistants in most states can be hired and trained by the dentists and then delegated to do so many different things, the dentist is more empowered to offer the lowest pay in return for this work. If assistants were licensed and registered, dentists would only be able to draw from a pool of qualified applicants. The wages paid to these applicants would, no doubt, be more on a par with an educated professional. Where assistants have lobbied for registration or licensing, dental associations have fought with larger lobbying budgets than most dental assisting groups could ever develop. In some states where licensing and registration exist, dental associations work to have these statutes repealed ... while at the same time complaining about the shortage of dental assistants. Small wonder.

What can you do? Well, ADAA's state components fight for legislation that will benefit the professional status of the assistant and ensure better patient care and a professional salary structure. If you're not a member of ADAA, I strongly suggest that you should be. Why? Because we are the only group in America that consistently works to develop and recognize professionalism in dental assisting. When dental assistants unite and speak with one voice demanding professional recognition, then the mundane things that make life more enjoyable like a living wage and employee benefits will fall into line.--K.M.
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Title Annotation:President's Page; American Dental Assistants Association
Author:Mosley, Kay
Publication:The Dental Assistant
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Previous Article:ADAA annual awards for members.
Next Article:Osteoradionecrosis, oral health and dental treatment.

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