How to build a dental team

How to Build a Dental Team

Every dentist I know would like to have a cohesive team where everyone gets along and performance is high. But figuring out how to achieve this can be a real challenge. I recently read a great book that tackles this touchy-feely topic and provides real structure for taking ideas and implementing them. The book is “The Truth about Employee Engagement” by Patrick Lencioni.

Written as a fable, we meet Brian, a semi-retired CEO who has enjoyed financial success in large part due to his ability to build a team. Brian takes his team-building skills to a small, nearly failed pizza joint and distills his experience into three easy-to-follow steps:

  1. Stop anonymity – People need to be known personally to feel fulfilled at work
  2. Stop irrelevance – Everyone needs to know that their work matters to another person or group – and this has to be communicated effectively
  3. Start measurement – People need to be able to measure their progress/accomplishments to feel fulfilled

Let’s take each of these ideas and apply them to dentistry.

Stop Anonymity

For busy practices, it can be easy to just focus on clocking in, seeing patients and going home, but to build a strong team it’s critical to set up your team to get to know each other personally. This requires some time – maybe a lunch meeting where people can share about themselves or an evening/weekend event to allow team members to interact outside the office. To be intentional about team-building, managers can schedule time for their staff on a quarterly basis. This could be as simple as celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries or planning a secret santa program every December.

Stop Irrelevance

If you ask each person on your staff to whom their work matters – they’ll probably say “the patients”! But beyond the obvious, talk with your team to identify other customers they serve. For example, a manager that creates a holiday schedule and clears it with the doctor is actually serving the entire team, the whole staff are her customers. Another example is the assistant preparing a case for the lab, obviously the lab is her customer. The team will realize that often they are actually serving each other as internal customers – and by helping each person see the value they provide, the team grows stronger.

Start Measurement

I love that helping each team member to measure her work has the double benefit of strengthening the team and improving the practice! This is a great opportunity to look at the major systems in a dental practice – and then assign them to different team members as makes sense. For our office manager, establishing a tracking system for aging and outstanding claims recognizes the accomplishment of getting the team paid for the work they do. And, when this aging isn’t managed effectively, helps everyone support the manager spending more time away from the front desk to focus on calling patients and insurance carriers to get caught up. For our hygienists, having each one note the number of hours open at day end alongside her individual net production could be a couple great statistics to monitor. And, for our assistants, we can have them be responsible for making unscheduled treatment follow up calls.

Here’s an example of the tracking you can set up for your hygienists using Dentrix Ascend. Have each hygienist run their day sheet at end of day and ask them to highlight their Estimated Net Production. Based on each hygienist’s compensation, you can set a goal for net production – and now each hygienist can measure her achievement to goal each day.

Sample of day sheet to show net production

Day Sheet


















To build a successful team, we can follow three steps in our dental practices: Get to know each other personally, Help people understand the value of their work and Measure individual contributions. Thanks to the book, “The Truth About Employee Engagement” dentists can use this fable as a friendly way to introduce these concepts into their practice. One of the best things about this book is the tie-in of measurement to  team-building. I’m a big believer in statistical tracking to monitor results of the major systems in a dental practice already, and to know that this helps build a team as well as build profitability makes this approach even better.


Check out my Free Resources

If you’re managing a dental practice and want organized systems for easier dental staff training, then check out my Collections System and how to Set Up a Recall System. Once these internal systems are in place, you may want to focus on marketing with a system for New Patient Referral Tracking and handling patient complaints.

And, if you’re interested in a comprehensive approach to run your dental practice and train your team, visit Dental Staff Training Levels.

AUTHOR: Jill Nesbitt
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