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The right dental team has a huge impact on a practice

March 1, 2008
Being a practicing dentist as well as a dental consultant, I know exactly where dentists are coming from when they tell me about their daily challenges.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

Being a practicing dentist as well as a dental consultant, I know exactly where dentists are coming from when they tell me about their daily challenges. I routinely hear about all kinds of problems they experience. All the dentists I talk to want to know how to get more new patients, how to properly market their practice, how to be faster and more efficient clinically, how to reduce their overhead, how to motivate more patients to do bigger treatment plans, and a host of other issues that are constantly on the minds of general dentists.

Dentists will spend all kinds of money on books, tapes, dental consultants, marketing programs, newsletters, and many other things they think may improve a particular part of their practice. The dentists who look for these solutions are always, as I like to say, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” They often overlook the most obvious and impactful piece of the practice: their dental team that they work with every single day.

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Having a great dental team will significantly improve all aspects of a dental practice immediately and for the long term. Having a great dental team solves so many of the issues and challenges that face dentists every single day.

Do you want more patients? Your dental team should be asking everybody they know if they need a dentist, and should ask every single patient that comes through the door about referring their families and friends to the practice. Do you want to market your practice more efficiently? Having great dental team members who carry your message with them into every treatment room will accomplish that. Do you want to motivate patients to more comprehensive dentistry and more elective dental procedures?

A great dental team will take the time to plant seeds in patients’ minds about what dentistry can accomplish. They are the most effective communication you could possibly have.

The team makes the difference

I’m always amazed that dentists will spend thousands of dollars on computerized education systems that describe dental procedures, when a talented dental assistant can do the same thing with a human and personal touch. That doesn’t mean that digital education materials aren’t useful. But if your dental team members are poor communicators and you buy an educational piece of equipment, then what you now have is a dental team with poor communication skills and an expensive computer. Why not spend that money to motivate and improve the morale and communication skills of your team so that everybody can talk to patients more easily and with more leadership?

Do you want to reduce your overhead? A great dental team will help you accomplish this by streamlining so many of the inefficient processes that occur in daily dental practice, and will help the dentist accomplish dental treatment much faster, easier, and better. Do you want to improve your cash flow and accounts receivable? A great dental team is the road to success in every dental office in every single aspect you could imagine.

I see dentists wasting their time and money on all kinds of gadgets, toys, scams, and supposed “systems for success,” when they should spend their time and energy developing and motivating their valued staff members. Every time I give a lecture, I can see immediately who are the more successful dentists just by looking at the audience in the first two minutes of the lecture.

The most successful dentists I know and that I see at my lectures are the ones who have their dental team members sitting right next to them. If you as a dentist go to a lecture and want to learn about something new or want to institute some kind of a new system, and you go to the lecture alone and then come back to the office, your staff members will not have your same enthusiasm or initial level of interest.

You then have to force the new idea down their throats, which makes them resentful. Success in this scenario will be limited, but more likely will not happen. This frustrates me because I know the solution is so simple.

Appreciation ranks high

Look at your dental team members as the valued partners in success that they are. Staff appreciation is one of the most overlooked, inexpensive, and easiest ways to develop a great dental team. It may surprise you to know that in many major studies in employee relations, money is not the most important factor to employees. Number one is staff appreciation, and number two is having a pleasant place in which to work. Dental team members who realize they are fulfilling a mission to improve people’s lives through excellent oral health feel a great sense of purpose.

You could pay a dental assistant $100 per hour, but if he or she is miserable in the work environment, your office will never be successful. You could pay your front desk team members $100 per hour, but if you have never invested in having them develop the necessary skills to talk to patients, your office will not be successful. If you pay your dental hygienist $100 per hour and she is just a “cleaning lady” with no communication skills, your office will never reach its full potential.

Ultimately, dentistry is a people business. To be sucessful you have to love people, or hire people who love people. If you hire people who love people, your office will become a different place. The people in your office who stress themselves, you, and your patients are the reasons there is stress in dentistry. Hiring the right staff is the first step on the road to a happy office.

The next step includes working with your team members and constantly training them and yourself in better clinical dentistry, better communications, and achieving goals together.

Stop wasting your time and money on all the schemes and shortcuts out there that you think may improve your office. Hire, develop, and motivate a great dental team by learning leadership skills, and build your office from the inside out. It doesn’t help you at all to get 100 new patients per month if your team members do not have the ability or interest to properly build relationships with your patients.

As the dentist, you typically spend 30, 40 or 50 hours per week in your dental practice — it is as easy to be happy there as it is to be miserable. Life is too short to spend time being miserable.

If your dental office loves to work with people, that alone will solve so many of the issues that have frustrated you throughout your career. When we consult with dental offices and turn their team members around to make them great and sincere communicators, the office becomes a stress-free, high-producing, low-overhead, fun place. It’s amazing what a little appreciation and respect can do in motivating and building a great dental team. It is the straightest road to dental practice success.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a practicing general dentist in Bay Village, Ohio, and an internationally known lecturer, author, and dental consultant. He works closely with dental manufacturers as a clinical researcher in developing new products and techniques. His group dental practice has maintained a 45 percent overhead since 1988. Contact Dr. Malcmacher at (440) 892-1810 or via e-mail at [email protected] can see his lecture schedule at, where you can also sign up for Dr. Malcmacher’s monthly practice-management teleconferences and his free monthly e-newsletter.

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