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Hiring dental staff? Here's what not to do

March 23, 2022
Sometimes the best way to formulate a strategy is by first thinking about what not to do. Here are examples of common mistakes dentists make when hiring staff for their practice.

Having a team that’s really good at what they do and happy with their jobs energizes dentists. Leaders know they can count on their team to produce for them because they are consistently engaged on the job and feel motivated to work. By contrast, the moment they’re unhappy or don’t feel sufficiently valued is the moment dental leaders should dread. Not only is there the financial pain point of potentially losing an employee and paying the high cost to replace them, but there is also the emotional worry of losing faith among the rest of the team, leading to a tense working environment that negatively affects productivity.

It’s important to nail your hiring strategy to ease retention worries and spare your budget. It isn’t easy to replace team members, especially positions such as dental associates or administrative managers. Dental leaders must know how to successfully integrate new hires into their offices so that they are an asset to the team rather than a detriment. These are the main dental hiring mistakes that dentists must avoid if they want their practice to reach new heights.

Expecting too much, too quickly

As much as you want new hires to hit the ground running, you don’t want to overwhelm them from the moment they enter the office.

Even the most experienced hygienists, assistants, managers, or associates will lose their way if they’re unsure about your processes or work culture. Your job description will help explain the processes and culture, but seeing it for themselves is what matters most. Giving new hires too much to think about from the beginning will leave them feeling uncomfortable. Allow new employees the opportunity to acclimate to your practice and build camaraderie with the dental team so they can successfully adjust.

On the other hand, dental leaders need to ensure they don’t give their new hires too much freedom around the office. Offer clear expectations of the role in question from the start so they know what they have control over and understand what decisions they don’t have the authority to make. Even if the person is a dental temp or permanent employee with a lot of experience to count on, what worked for that employee at a previous dental practice may not work with you. Put some checks and balances in place to establish standards that every employee must reach to achieve peak productivity. Streamlining responsibilities makes tracking progress easier for leaders and staff alike.

Failing to get new hire buy-in

Being upfront with candidates saves you from onboarding headaches. It makes it easier to integrate new hires into your practice, helping them adjust to major aspects of day-to-day operations such as clinical skills and patient care philosophies. If the new person you hire isn’t fully comfortable with your dental practice’s clinical and patient care approaches, despite meeting the requirements you’re seeking, that person isn’t the best fit for your practice. Job seekers are clear about their desire for employers to be transparent about their processes, work culture, and other important aspects of their day-to-day operations.1 Before bringing prospective hires into your dental practice, elements such as treatment planning and management style should be discussed upfront.

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If there are a few disagreements about treatment planning, patient care, or management style, but you sense that they’ll be easy to negotiate, it’s good to have a closed-door meeting to outline the pain points and come to a reasonable compromise. By doing this, there’s less worry that the new employee will be rejected by dental team members and patients alike and more confidence that you’ve made a good hire.2

Doing the bare minimum when recruiting

It’s easy to focus on dental job boards when recruiting, but a quality dental leader goes above and beyond to attract top-quality talent. It’s crucial to seek talent on brand-appropriate mediums to attract the right match for your practice.

For example, if you’re a pediatric dentist, you may want to consider using social media more in your recruiting approach. Advertising job vacancies via geographically targeted Facebook and Instagram ads are good bets.

Building a formidable dental team based on gut instincts is a risky strategy. You can’t make key staffing decisions strictly based on a whim. Implement an ironclad hiring process that successfully balances various factors, including what you’re looking for as a leader, what your candidates want, and what your patients expect.

Hiring is not an exact science, but refining your process by taking heed of these key mistakes will make it much more seamless  for your practice.  

Editor's note: This article appeared in the March 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here. 


  1. Turczynski B. 2021 HR statistics: job search, hiring, recruiting, and interviews. Zety. Updated January 18, 2022. https://zety.com/blog/hr-statistics
  2. DeVries A. Six key steps to hiring the right person for the job. TempStars. November 17, 2020. https://www.tempstars.com/six-key-steps-to-hiring-the-right-person-for-the-job/
About the Author

James Younger, DDS

James Younger, DDS, graduated from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry in 1999. Since then, he’s been in private practice providing a full scope of care, including implants and bone/sinus grafting. In April 2015, James was inspired to improve hygiene temping through modern mobile technology, and founded TempStars. TempStars now makes it fast and stress free for dental offices to find a good hygienist, and allows hygienists to live busy, flexible, empowered professional lives.

Updated February, 8, 2022

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