Dental Assistant and Secretary Training

Here I will share with you a new strategy for dental staff training that almost no one is using.

The goal of this new concept is simple.

The goal is to help you . . .

  • Create a well-trained staff that you enjoy working with each day
  • Motivate your staff to take their skills to improve your practice
  • Set up a logical approach to staff compensation
  • Save you time by providing detailed training for all staff members
  • Reduce your stress level by surrounding yourself with a strong staff

Most dentists say that their biggest stress is managing and training their staff. They prefer to hire staff with dental experience to try to avoid training issues, but often these experienced staff come with bad habits. Especially as staff size grows and dentists continue to practice in groups, problems begin to show up – you can’t have your long term secretary follow one method of scheduling while the new secretary schedules like she did in her old office. Now, add 1 or 2 more secretaries plus an after school high school helper and mistakes are guaranteed unless you have an organized training approach.

On top of this, most dentists feel sunk when their experienced secretary quits – suddenly they realize that no one else knows how to do what this secretary knew! So, these dentists quickly hire a new secretary so that the exiting secretary has at least 1 week to train her replacement everything she’s learned over the last few years!

As if this weren’t bad enough, without an organized training approach, it is also hard for the dentist to know how the staff are performing their duties. If the dentist wants to make a change in how a task is handled – he may successfully retrain one secretary, but those ideas will probably be lost once that person either forgets or leaves.

Finally, except for the chairside assistant, it’s impossible for dentists to know which staff are actually performing well. The old adage about the ‘squeaky wheel’ is very true, so how can a dentist know who deserves a raise – and by how much?

Most dentists try to solve this problem by treating all staff the same. They base their pay rate on clinical certifications (x-ray license, CDA, etc.) and then they expect staff to train each other using a verbal system. They figure if they pay their staff well, then the staff should “just do their job”.

Following this standard approach leads to a myriad of problems:

  1. You are at the mercy of staff turnover.
  2. You are forced to endure repeated mistakes because each dental staff person has a different background.
  3. When you try to meet with a staff person to tell them how to do a task correctly, they cry and tell you how mean you are – and this skyrockets your stress level!
  4. If you stop training your staff, you begin to do ‘everything’ yourself and your efficiency drops and your frustration level increases.

Bottom line is: it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep patients happy and coming into your practice regularly, and certainly more difficult to manage your stress level and manage your practice overall.

Does that mean that you should just give up on having a well-trained staff and hope everything just works itself out? Of course not!

What it means is that YOU must adapt as practice challenges arise. As problems and staff mistakes occur throughout your day, don’t just ignore them and hope they go away. Don’t give up on having a well-trained staff. Instead, start to think about how each of these problems could be addressed by using an organized staff training approach. By taking responsibility to address the problem . . . you can continue to move forward.

Considering this new approach is a step forward.

OK, so let’s get to it.

What we’re going to look at is how to use a system to train dental staff.

This system allows you to hire based on intelligence, enthusiasm and personality – and then train the dental skills. With an organized, logical career advancement and training program, you can hire the right person that is already excited about developing her career in health care and then you can easily train her for the necessary tasks. This system works for dental assistants, secretaries and even hygienists.

To give you a feel for the career advancement for a dental secretary – here are the highlights of what is included in our secretary levels:

Secretary/Office Manager Levels

Level 1 – Entry level front desk tasks:  Learn phone skills, Basic scheduling in Dentrix, Checking out a patient at the front desk, HIPAA guidelines,

Level 2 – Working confidently at the front desk: Learn how to fill the schedule: monthly & yearly recall call lists, broken appointment list, ASAP list, dental insurance, handling emergencies, entering treatment plans, running the huddle

Level 3 – Manages the front desk: Learn how to follow up on unscheduled treatment, responsible for managing the broken appointment system, handles collections and write-offs, enters new insurance plans

Level 4 – Accepts more administrative responsibility: Learn how to run reactivation program, generates monthly recall cards, Makes financial arrangements, Runs insurance remaining letter program, More insurance training

Level 5 – Even more responsibility: Learn how to manage a collection system, manages schedules, runs referral marketing program, oversees inventory

Level 6-9 Senior level administrative staff

Here are the highlights of what is included in our dental assistant levels:

Dental Assistant Levels

Level 1 – Entry level cleaning and sterilization: Cleaning and sterilization training, stocking rooms, follows daily, weekly, monthly duties, seating/dismissing patients, learn tray setups, work with nitrous oxide, learns to suction

Level 2 – Assisting chairside: Assists for all GP procedures, handles lab cases, takes blood pressure, runs on time, maintains instruments

Level 3 – Runs second column: Achieves x-ray license, screens emergencies, makes temporary crowns, takes impressions, makes adjustments to appliances, works with diagnodent

Level 4 – Accepts more clinical responsibility: Learns preventive care coaching to do children’s cleanings, makes whitening trays, mouthguards, learns assisted hygiene, Achieves coronal polishing license

Level 5 – Even more responsibility: Learns to work with TMJ splints, responsible for maintaining dental equipment, works with denture repairs, advanced shade selection, presents treatment plans

Level 6 – Begins EFDA program

Level 7 – Works as an EFDA


Here are the highlights of what is included in our dental hygienist levels:

Hygienist Levels

Level 1 – New hire (for experienced or recent graduates): Understanding the chart, learns preventive care coaching to do children’s cleanings, makes whitening trays, how to work with a new patient, receives anesthetic certificate

Level 2 – Gaining expertise: Successful with STM / perio program, learns assisted hygiene, receives unsupervised certification

Level 3-5 – Advanced skills: Continues to achieve higher goals for production and commitments, moves into leadership roles

Level 6 – Begins EFDA program

Level 7 – Works as an EFDA & Hygienist

And, because without people skills, dental staff can’t work well in a team, handle challenging patients or solve problems – here are the highlighted tasks in the general levels (designed for all staff to learn people skills):

General Levels

Level 1 – Entry level: Reads employee manual, Follows OSHA safety program, dresses professionally, Reads “Somebody loves you Mr. Hatch”, gets along with staff

Level 2 – Beginner staff: Understands all dental procedures and can explain to patients, charting and Dentrix basics, Reads “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, goes through new patient comprehensive exam, learns problem solving approach

Level 3 – Well-trained staff: Understands the business side of dentistry, Doesn’t tolerate poor performance, Reads “How to Gain Control of your Time and Life” and “See You at the Top”, Understands dental insurance, learns decision making approach

Level 4 – Beginning leadership staff: Interviews new staff candidates, helps train new hires, learns total quality management concepts, teamwork training, helps plan staff events & recognition, Reads 4 books

Level 5 – Team Leaders: Delegates effectively, becomes team leader, responsible for orientation of new hires, controls personal stress

Level 6-9 – Senior staff

You can see that this dental staff training program covers nearly every task that needs accomplished in a dental practice. By using levels of training, a new hire can begin at level 1 and learn each task to quickly become a valuable member of your staff. The consistency of this approach virtually guarantees that your staff follows the same protocols and works in an efficient manner. This approach is a great way to bring an experienced staff together so that everyone gets on the same page – by beginning at level 1, the entire team can confirm how they handle the basic tasks in the practice – again, increasing efficiency and teamwork.

If you are ready to enjoy a smooth day in your practice were well-trained staff know exactly what their jobs are and they do them well, so you can focus on your clinical dentistry, then your next step is to begin your 7-day free trial of our dental staff training program. Once you sign up, you will receive a link along with your ID and password to access all level 1 materials. You can watch the videos and read through every task in the dental secretary, assistant and general levels (hygienist levels to be added soon).

To see the foundation for a well-trained dental staff person laid out through the level 1 materials and get started with a unique dental staff training approach that lowers your stress level and increases your team’s skills, then click this link to begin your 7-day free trial:

You will receive a link, ID and password to access all level 1 materials – each task in secretary, assistant and general level 1 as well as the associated videos. I encourage you to read through these tasks to discover the detail and background provided on each subject. Your staff will understand not just what to do, but why it is important – written in a style that inspires them to learn new tasks and make a difference in the lives of the patients they serve, as well as the dentist they work for!

You worked hard to get through dental school and you’re working hard every day to provide quality care for your patients. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to come to work each morning knowing that you’re surrounded by a team that handles their tasks well so that the day sails smoothly and productively, problems are solved by the staff without always needing to interrupt you and everyone can enjoy their time together? Our dental staff training program is unique in dentistry – never before has a comprehensive approach like this been available – and at an amazingly low price. What would it be worth to train a new hire dental assistant just so she can assist you at the chair? How many times have you explained what an amalgam was? How many times have you been disappointed at the “experienced” assistant from Dr. So & So’s office that couldn’t even explain the value of a comprehensive exam to a new patient?

Let’s estimate you and your staff spend the first full week (call it 32 hours) of a new hire’s hours with hands-on training. After that, let’s say you spend just 2 hours/week on her training for the first month. We know we’ll continue to spend some time correcting and training staff after an initial orientation period – so let’s conservatively estimate another 1 hour/week for the rest of her 90 days. Adding up the first week + 2 hours/week for the month + 1 hour/week for the next 2 months = 48 hours of training. How much of this 48 hours does the dentist spend? How much does your experienced staff spend? Let’s follow the 80/20 rule and say that the dentist spends only 20% of this training time – that’s about 10 hours of your time. Leaving your top assistant to spend the other 38 hours in training with the new hire.

Looking at the expense involved just in your first 90 days worth of training:

  • 10 hours dentist time – valued at $200/hr
  • 38 hours experienced assistant time – valued at $15/hr
  • 48 hours new hire time – valued at $10/hr

The total value of this training time comes up to $3,050. Now, we all know that the training is never finished after 90 days, so you can see this is a ridiculously conservative estimate for dental staff training cost. Now, consider that the average career life for a dental staff person is 3-5 years and multiply this $3,050 by each team member every 5 years!

What would it be worth to you to have a dental staff training program that offers career advancement so that staff stay? And, not only do they stay, but they learn more advanced skills so they can help increase the productivity of the practice – and earn their increased salary! What would it be worth to make sure that when you invest in staff training time, that you are efficient and consistent – have you ever forgotten to review one piece of the training with a new hire – only to discover just at the wrong moment that she doesn’t know what to do? When that mistake occurs with a new patient who ends up not returning, what is that worth?

We know the value of this amazingly-detailed dental staff training program. We understand how it can be used as the structure for training, career advancement and job description for each staff member. We know we could charge many thousands of dollars for something this comprehensive.

But we don’t.

We have worked with this approach in our practice for over 30 years and we know how successful it is. And we want to share it. We want dentists to be able to use these tasks to more easily train staff so they can provide high quality care to their patients. We want to make the business-side of dentistry just that much easier to handle – because we’ve been in your shoes. We know what it feels like to pay down school debt, provide the highest level clinical care possible and become a small business manager – all at the same time! So, we want to make the dental staff training program inexpensive and easy.

The easy part comes from all this training being available online. No need to print hundreds of pages or download hours of podcasts. Just receive an ID and Password to access the training materials on your computer, iPad or phone. The inexpensive part comes from providing this training on a subscription basis at just $50/month. For $50/month you can train your entire staff through all the level 1 material. If you have a hygienist, 2 assistants and 2 secretaries then this works out to 5 total staff and that’s only $10/month to train each one!

To begin your 7 day free trial now:

I look forward to helping you develop your staff skills as you take control of your practice!

All the best,                                                                                                                                              Jill
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