From Dental Assistant to Dentist: One Dentist’s Journey


From Dental Assistant to Dentist: One Dentist’s Journey

By Dr. Lisa Alamarales, Dentist at Lee Dental Care

The Start of My Journey: Dental Assisting During College Revealed My Path

My decision to pursue a career in dentistry began with my desire to contribute to the healthcare sector. As a college student, I contemplated becoming a medical doctor, nurse, or physician assistant. However, when I assumed the role of a Dental Assistant (DA) my professional path crystallized.

Dentistry’s multifaceted appeal, encompassing scientific rigor, hands-on clinical experiences, and the immediate gratification of alleviating patient discomfort and enhancing smiles, resonated with my aspirations. My job as a Dental Assistant was the catalyst for embarking on the long and arduous path to dental school.

Building a Solid Foundation: My Experience as a DA at Lee Dental Care

Before I joined Lee Dental care, I was a DA in a similarly sized dental practice. Although I was a college student juggling work and school, I still wanted the best possible foundation in clinical practice, so I was open to the opportunity to join a busy, successful office. Lee Dental Care appealed to me because of its impeccable organization, sophisticated system of operational efficiency, and unwavering commitment to providing an exceptional patient experience.

What struck me most profoundly, however, was the cohesive teamwork and the creation of a positive work environment. At Lee Dental Care, the unity of purpose was palpable, as every member of the team operated in synergy to ensure optimal patient care and satisfaction.

Combining a full-time academic schedule with work was a formidable task at times. I pursued my academic studies from Monday to Wednesday and worked at Lee Dental Care part-time from Thursday to Saturday. This period of my life entailed numerous late nights and work-filled weekends. In fact, completing my bachelor’s degree required six years due to the challenge of aligning class schedules with my work commitments. Yet, I have no regrets because these sacrifices strengthened my resolve and deepened my appreciation for my future career.

In my role at Lee Dental Care, I learned that DAs are the backbone of the dental office. I loved interacting with patients and helping them throughout their treatment. I learned so much about patient care, dental workflow, and dentistry in general. All these experiences played a crucial role during my dental school years and now as a graduated dentist. Working as a DA was one of the best decisions I made in my life.

When it was time to leave Lee Dental Care to pursue Dental School full-time, I had several patients who encouraged me to continue my education and were very supportive while I was applying to dental school. I was fortunate to have Dr. Paul as a great example and inspiration for me as I embarked on the journey to become a dentist. He is the star of the show – a great leader, clinician, and a genuine, caring person. He has set an example for me to aspire to as a dental professional. His support and mentorship have been invaluable to me in my professional development and my academic career.

The Dental School Years: How My Experience as a DA Helped

As I embarked on my dental school program, the benefit of my experience as a DA quickly became apparent. I came into dental school already knowing about dental procedures, dental materials, dental office workflow, and most importantly patient management and care. I felt like everything made sense. I already knew the general procedures and now I was just learning the science behind it, the details and how to put everything together.

 When we started clinics and patient care, my experience as a DA gave me a distinct advantage over most of my classmates. I was already very familiar and comfortable with patient management while most of my classmates were interacting with patients for the very first time.

Coming Home: Returning to Lee Dental Care as Dr. Almarales

When I graduated, I feel my expectations were shaped by my years as a DA. In that role I was able to closely observe the reality of the dentist’s day-to-day work life, so I already knew what to expect. The transition from Dental Assistant to dentist has been marked by personal and professional growth. My confidence as a dentist has flourished, owing to the invaluable experiences garnered during my tenure as a DA.

When it was time to consider jobs, Lee Dental Care was my first choice, and I am grateful to Dr. Paul for making that goal a reality. I knew from my prior experience that the work environment is amazing. Despite Lee Dental Care being a large, busy office, everyone works together to provide the best possible care for our patients, which is very important to me. I value organization and excellence in patient care.

Lee Dental Care’s commitment to excellence in patient care and the systems they’ve put in place to enable success in that endeavor align with my professional values and my personal goals for the atmosphere in which I want to spend my days. Dr. Paul continues to serve as an excellent mentor and under his leadership the doctors work together to share experiences and help each other and our patients.

On a more personal level, reuniting with former teammates and patients has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my start as a dentist. The sense of homecoming, working alongside former colleagues who have grown within the organization, and providing care to patients whom I once assisted as a DA, have been profoundly gratifying experiences. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of providing care as a dentist to one of my old patients whom I saw on her first visit to LDC while I was a DA. She travels from out of state to see us every year. 

Returning to the practice where I spent years as a Dental Assistant has led to immense fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment as I begin this new chapter of my life. My commitment to continued learning and skill enhancement remains unwavering, as I endeavor to provide the highest standard of care to my patients.

The Dental Assistant as Dentist: Recognizing the Unsung Heroes of the Dental Office

Because of my prior experience as a DA, I am acutely aware of the challenges and demands of the role. This knowledge informs my approach to team dynamics, enabling me to provide more empathetic and precise guidance to our Dental Assistants.

All too often new Dentists face a learning curve when it comes to recognizing the crucial role of the DA. Because of my experience, I hold in high regard the role that Dental Assistants play in the dental office. I feel fortunate that I entered my career as a Dentist already knowing that DAs form the bedrock of efficient operations and patient satisfaction.

My advice to fellow Dental Assistants contemplating a similar trajectory is to let your belief in yourself be unwavering. With dedicated effort and a genuine passion for dentistry, you can meet the challenges presented by this demanding journey. The path may be difficult at times, but the destination is profoundly rewarding for those who persevere. As I continue to grow in my professional life, I am committed to supporting anyone who seeks to advance their career in dentistry.