Episode 170: Training a High-Performance Dental Team

“I just don’t have time to train my team.” I hear this all the time, but that’s like a pro football team never taking time to practice.

If you want to produce at the highest levels in dentistry, you’ve got to have a team that is amazingly trained and trained the way YOU want things to be done. So today, let’s look at some strategies for training your team:

  • Overall training strategy
  • What to expect from training days
  • Tips on training each role in the office


Hi, this is Dr. Bruce Baird with the Productive Dentist Podcast and today, I wanted to talk about, because I get this question all the time is, is how do you train your team? I mean, how do you get your team trained? And I look at that question and I get it kind of across the board, how do you train your front office? How do you train your treatment coordinators, office managers across the board?  How do you do the training? And the thing that I think is important is, you know because people I hear all the time, I just don’t have time to train and we’re so busy.

Well, that would be a lot like a football team never having time to practice or a golfer on the pro tour, never having time to go hit balls and to me, if you want to produce at the highest levels in dentistry, you’ve got to have a team and you’ve got to have a team that is amazingly trained, and not just trained but trained the way you want things to be done. I hear it also all the time, you know, I hired this person, is the way I was early in my career, I hired this person to do a job and be a treatment, you know, coordinator or you know, just to assist in dentistry and they’ve got experience, but they don’t know what they’re doing. Well, they don’t know what they’re doing because every dentist is different. Every dentist works differently. “Oh, I hired somebody to do my accounts receivable”. Well, okay but do you really know what they’re doing and so that’s, you know, some of those areas is where coaching can really come in and play a major role but you have to be the leader, you have to be in charge, you’re the one who has to determine what it is that you want them doing. Otherwise, you’re going to spend your career just like I did my first 15 years, which is disappointing because people weren’t doing what I thought they should be doing and what I found out was it’s because I never told them what I expected. So let’s start out first, I mean, let’s look at the overall office and saying how are we going to do training for our entire office, we like to have a team meeting, once a month, a couple of hours. Early on in, in my transition into training my team, it wasn’t unusual for us to do a half day or even a full day and what happens is, as you get team members that have been there for 10 years, 15 years, where you can start to back that off because your training has been accomplished.

Now you’re, you’re looking at fine-tuning your team, you’re looking at doing those little small things, but initially, I would say, you know, what is you know, a half a day a month to train team on what you want, what you want them to be doing and another area would be how do I train a treatment coordinator? You know, I had four treatment coordinator, coordinators who worked with me and if we ever had somebody which I kept three, one for 30 years, one for 21, one for 10, but whenever we hired a new person, I wanted them to train them, they know how I wanted things done. So I wanted them to train them. I want them to give them the heads up on what it is that we do in the practice every day and because if they’re not happy with that new hire, then their productivity goes down.

Why? Because they’re so worried about that other person, so I put the responsibility on them. So how do I train my treatment coordinators, for instance, my chairside assistant? Well, each day, you know, as we go through the day, I would make notes of things that I needed to help them with. It may be showing them exactly what a provisional restoration should look like and when I say exactly, you make the provisional, you take the scan, you do, when we do a lot of ceramic restorations so we didn’t have a lot of tamps but when we’re doing a full mouth rehab where we built 8, 10, 12, 14 units or provisionals.

I want those still to look a certain way and I want to make sure that my team knows exactly how that how that’s supposed to look, I want those margins polished, I want the entire restorations polished to a high finish so that the patient’s not pedaling with their time on it all the time and driving them crazy and, and so I would show them, I would polish it, I would get out the different components that I use to polish that provisional, how I checked the bite, how I looked at all those things.

Ideally, I wanted to have some anterior guidance in those to describe the posteriors but you know, every case is different and so I would visit and talk and show and I’d spend time in the laboratory. So your appointment times are going to be a little longer when you’re training, but you want to train this and you want to do it. Let’s say, I’m talking about Gay for instance, one of my assistants I have been with me forever. When I first started training her when she came from Walmart, you know, she didn’t know anything about In fact, I would almost rather hire somebody that doesn’t know anything, and then train them on what I want and do it, you know, do it that way but I would, I would show her and then I would come in and check the provisional and so when I checked the provisions, I’d look at it and I’d say, “Okay, let’s take those out. Let’s take a look,” and we’d go into to the lab and let me just show you a couple of areas. In other words, embrasures, I want those embrasures open, why I want them to be cleaned. I want those tissues to be able to heal better. So I would actually go through the process, show them, you know, show Gay, how do I separate between the teeth without separating the teeth and because I want that color of tissue to be up there and I don’t want it to be pushed out of the way, how many times have you been putting a crown on tissues way up, pushed up, because the provisional wasn’t right, or the temp wasn’t right.

So I would show Gay that, I would show some of that and then I would trust but verify, I would check it and I would check it every time for a while. Until, finally, you’re feeling very confident about Gay and she’s doing them daily, just the way you want them. Then go back six months and just happened to check again, why you want to make sure they’re still doing that and so those are things that, you know, you trust, but verify, I train, and I train over and over and over again until I am sure that they know exactly what it is that I’m expecting from them for that, for instance provision.  An impression, you know, what is that impression? What is now what does that scan supposed to look like?

You know, and we train, train, train on what that scan should look like until they’re doing scans until they’re doing a much better job than I am. Why? Because that’s what I want. I want to train them to do dentistry the way, the way I wanted to have it done in my own mouth. What about, what about an occlusal guard, you know? Do you sit in there and grind on the occlusal guard to get it to where the bite is where you want it? Well, yeah, you many dentists do many dentists do their own provisionals many pack around cord, many do, you know, they’re anal retentive, and they want to do everything themselves. Well, they’re not going to be very productive, I can just tell you that they’re going to feel good about themselves, that’s fine.

But as far as your team, you know, they’d really rather do something besides just suck spit all day, you know, they love to be a part of the mission, part of making a person smile great and so my way of looking at it was I, I want them to be a part of that team. And so with, as far as an occlusal guard, I show them exactly how I want that, very light context, more in the anterior so I’m getting this deprogramming of the musculature is in the face, shutting off those masters, and that’s going to help that patient in the future, what you don’t want to do is just throw a mouth guard to say, “Where?” You know, because, you know, it needs to do the things that you have planned for it to do. You know, so I would train my team exactly, then I would say, “When you get the bite adjusted, let me come take a look,” and I would look at it. “So well let me, let me just show you that this Larry way back in the back, round number two, and number 15. Those really fire the Masters, if you’re hitting here, I don’t really want that to be touching,” and so we would go through that process. Let’s talk about you know, doing financial arrangements with patients. I want this to be something that was standard. This is what we train, this is how we do it, and what we did is we have a sheet that has our financial arrangements on it. You know, number one is cash discount.

Number two, if you have great credit, you can use third-party financing, three, if you have great checking history, that’s where compassionate finance would come in. So the patient, I would just say, you know, and I would train my team, to say, “Bob, I’m going to go in sterilization I’ve got, I’m going to get a couple of things ready, but I’d like for you, these are our financial arrangements that we have for the treatment plan, they’ve already gone over and said, it’s going to be 14,000, or whatever it is. If a patient says, okay, 14, that’s less than I thought it was going to be okay, great. You still want to hand them that form, that form is going to have their option, their discount for paying cash, and it’s all filled out in an Excel spreadsheet, that tells them exactly what their portion would be after insurance or their portion, after discount,” and so the patients appreciate that, because it’s not about sitting there going, “Okay, we expect this, we expect that,” these are just our options that we have in our office and so the patient can look at it and say, “You know what, I’d really like to do some monthly payments.” Okay, great. We’ve got some, you know, and you have others who say, I don’t ever want to do these monthly payments. Well, what does that mean? Well, many times it means they have bad credit and that’s where compassionate finance can come in, you said, “Well, you know, we have a lot of patients that have been in the same boat, but with is compassionate finance, with a down payment, and looks like your insurance will cover the down payment, or with a down payment of say, 15 $100, we could get all your work done in a single visit.”

So we’re driving that conversation towards comprehensive treatment planning. Now, I love that and I, you know, I’d love having somebody hand me, these are my options. So that’s how we train that office manager? How do I train an office manager? Call them a controller, again, you know, whether it be putting all of my data and all the stuff in QuickBooks, but I have to look at those QuickBooks on a regular basis. So I would look at him a couple of times a week and I would look for anything that stood out to me maybe a bill that hadn’t been paid or bills that were being paid. You know, these are, these are things that I’m looking at very carefully but I’m also working with my office manager, you know, a lot of times, that’s an overwhelming position, they get interrupted all day long, they get interrupted, you know, just anytime there’s a call that’s above, you know, the front desk level of authority, because you haven’t given them any authority, they end up calling the office manager or the office manager back there trying to be the controller, running that part of the business. I call it MBWA, managed by walking around and, but, but they also have emails to answer. They have lots of things that they’re doing. So what I do is I structurally set them up. I said, “I don’t want you to take calls from anybody, for this time from, eight to 12 or eight to 10 on Mondays and Wednesdays, you know doing your emails, do your emails, in your responses from 10 to noon, set up your bill pays, do your bill pays, how long does it actually take?” Well, probably an hour but when you’re interrupted 25 times, it’s very frustrating for that office manager. So how do I do that I set up their business so that it runs as efficiently as it possibly can for them. They enjoy their job much more, and they know what to expect from you. So these are just, you know, a few of the things but what I will tell you is it’s absolutely paramount that you train your team the way you want it done otherwise, you’re going to spend your career frustrated. I have great buddy who says you know, I just can’t hire anybody that can sell dentistry. I said, “Well until you can sell dentistry, you’re not really going to find anybody that can sell dentistry.” So so those are the things that I look at on a day-to-day basis in the practice. I hope this has been helpful. I look forward to, look forward to next week. Thank you.

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