Top 5 Ways to Improve the Culture of Your Practice

Workplace culture: it’s one of those terms that seems vague, but actually plays an incredibly important role in the job satisfaction and work experiences of dental practice employees.

Where a workplace culture is healthy and vibrant employees enjoy coming to work, are friendly with their colleagues and rally around each other in trying times to face challenges together. A toxic workplace culture, on the other hand, makes employees feel isolated and belittled and saps productivity.

Workplace culture is especially important in the healthcare industry. Workers at a dental clinic are under a lot of stress even at the best of times, so maintaining good teamwork is essential for the effective delivery of patient care and their positive perception.

Even for offices that don’t suffer from passive aggressiveness and team sabotage, hallmarks of a toxic workplace, it is still worth considering whether your clinic could be more effective if employees felt better integrated and more supported. And, the good news about workplace environments, as Glenn Rolfsen explains in this TEDx video, is that they can be changed:

If you believe your dental clinic culture could be improved, and you want to explore some practical ways of doing so, here are five strategies that I have found to work well.

1. Foster a Culture of Appreciation

Everyone likes to feel their work has been noticed and appreciated and you might be surprised to learn just how much negativity comes from workers who believe their contributions are not being recognized. 

Encouraging your employees to become more appreciative of each other starts at the top, so the best way to foster a culture of appreciation is to intentionally make a point of regularly thanking every member of your staff. Something as small as a cheerful “thanks!” after being handed a folder, when repeated daily, can go a long way.

2. Break Down Workplace Silos

Nothing encourages a distrustful workplace like silos, and in a dental clinic, the problem can become prevalent especially between employees working in the front end of operations and those working in the clinical area.

Workplace silos form when particular departments or sectors do not wish to share information with other departments or sectors. Many employees become frustrated with their company when they identify issues, but can’t do anything about it because the problem starts in another department. Using dental practice management software that integrates administrative and clinical functions well can facilitate better communication between team members.   

3. Invest in Better Communications

Simply having good software tools at your disposal isn’t enough: making sure your employees have been trained to use them effectively is an important step toward ensuring your workplace is more interconnected and your workers more communicative with each other. 

A team that doesn’t communicate well will quickly become a team that won’t communicate at all so it is important to make sure that channels to help employees collaborate and share information with each other are open and accessible.

Holding regular team meetings that give front and back end staff opportunities to talk about what is working and what isn’t is a good way to ensure that negative feelings can be processed in healthy ways, rather than festering into resentment.

Of course, this means that as a leader you will have to make the time to train your staff.

Peter Capelli, the director of The Wharton Schools Center for Human Resources, notes that companies are interested more than ever in workers they don’t have to educate. But his research also proved that when employers don’t put aside the time to train young workers on new software, workflow will suffer.

4. Reward Worker Efficiency

In order for a dental clinic to run well, you need to devote time to problem solve with your team. It is a good practice to present different scenarios and ask team members to collectively recommend the appropriate course of action. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and is equipped to handle different and difficult situations as they arise. This won’t just make for more effective patient care, but will also make employees feel more like members of a team. 

As I have written before making sure you have a good team is vital and keeping the team engaged is just as important. Rewarding your workers for looking ahead and using their own critical thinking skills to make operations run more efficiently is a great way to build employee loyalty and a healthy workplace at the same time.

5. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is one of those terms used so frequently that its now a cliché. “Yes, of course,” you want to say, “I know that being a workaholic isn’t healthy. I take time for self-care and I encourage my employees to do the same.”

Management attitudes – and especially perceived management attitudes – toward work-life balance has a major impact on your overall workplace culture.

Do more than just let your employees know that they can take time off when they need to; concretely foster work-life balance by discouraging working after hours or on weekends when it isn’t absolutely necessary.

A healthy workplace culture is one of those things that can be difficult to define but it is one that is immediately recognizable.

Patients notice when workers are happy and feel supported and making your workers feel valued and appreciated will pay off in other ways as well. Employees that really feel part of a team are much more likely to cheerfully go the extra mile for the clinic.

How a Well-Designed Website Can Help Your Dental Practice Thrive

Someone has just moved to a new city and is suddenly experiencing tooth pain that won’t go away. They need to find a new dental clinic, but how do they go about finding one and what criteria do they use?

If they’re like me, the first thing they’ll do is a quick Google search to see what dentistry options are out there. After checking out the websites of a few nearby clinics, they’ll probably book an appointment with the one that looks the most promising.

Once they’ve had a check up and are in the dental practice system, they’ll probably keep going back to this dentist by default unless they are truly unhappy with their service. This means that the clinic they selected online won a new client simply by having an accessible web presence.

Therefore, if you run a dental practice, designing an attractive website needs to be one of your top priorities. Here are a few ways that proper web design can turn digital visitors into real-life patients:

Design: Why it Matters

Making things look good online takes a lot of work and for the practically-minded healthcare professional it can all seem like a lot of extra effort. As long as you have all the necessary information on your website, why should things like videos or search engine results matter?

The truth is that good web design has a profound impact on establishing the trustworthiness and legitimacy of your clinic. A website that is able to quickly establish the credibility of your business through solid organization and attractive visual cues will dramatically improve the chances that increased web traffic will translate into new patients.

Content: How Much is Too Much?

This leads us to another frequently asked question – What kind of content and information should you put up on your website?

While there is no one-size-fits all web design solution, it is important to remember what kinds of information potential patients will be seeking. This includes service hours and location, but also any special services your practice offers.

It’s also important to balance different kinds of content. First time visitors to your website may be put off by large blocks of dense text, so try to incorporate visuals, diagrams, embedded videos and bullet point lists to keep things visually interesting.

Statistics show that engagement tools like video dramatically increase the amount of time users will stay on your site – and increase the likelihood that they will become patients.

In my own experience interacting with patients and clients interested in dental practice management online, creating a website that allows viewers to connect immediately with what is distinct about your service will help win their attention while providing them with the information they need to make an informed decision. This includes portraying a practice personality.

For example, if your practice name is ABC Dental, it is important to let prospective patients know who is behind the name. Make sure to provide detailed profiles of your dentists and at least some background on the rest of the dental team. The way you describe your dental team may have some influence on whether potential patients ultimately decide to check your practice out so give them a good impression of your services!

SEO Ranking: How Do I Get People to Notice My Site?

Setting up a great website is only the first step to attracting traffic. If you want to increase your number of visitors, you need to ensure that your site comes up on the first page of Google search results (try to remember the last time you went to the second page of Google!).

This isn’t always easy, especially if you aren’t regularly updating content. Before hiring a company that specializes in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you can take some initial steps toward increasing your Google rankings yourself by including more external links on your web pages and starting a clinic blog that will help you increase the amount of content you are posting – each of which make your site more likely to appear higher in a Google search.

Savvy business owners will also rely on a user-friendly web platform such as WordPress that allows you to easily curate what’s known as meta-data (a secondary language that you post behind the scenes) to heighten the ranking potential of your webpages.

Hidden keywords as well as special titles and descriptions can help your site climb the search engine results page, bringing more users to your site. The science behind it all is easy to learn and articles like this one will help you become SEO-literate in no time.

In summary, think about your clinic site as a way to make a good first digital impression on potential patients. With solid design, awesome content and a strategy to increase your Google rankings, your website can become a serious business booster!

The Importance of Cross-Training

A lot of different skill sets are needed to make a dental clinic run smoothly, and successful clinics are usually ones where all of these skill sets work together to provide the best possible patient experience.

Administrative staff book appointments, handle patient intake and receive payments. Dental Assistants sterilize instruments, prepare treatment rooms and assist the dentist with procedures. Hygienists handle routine dental care and refer suspected conditions to the dentist. The dentist naturally focused on diagnoses, treatment planning and performing the required treatments. With each person playing their own role as required, patient care and processing appears seamless and efficient.

But what happens when these systems break down? Illness, staff turnover, or a sudden crisis can throw even the most carefully scheduled day into chaos, creating bottlenecks and reducing your clinic’s efficiency.

In my time working in the dental industry, I’ve heard from many dental practice owners about how frustrating and dangerous this can be. If staffing problems put your personnel in the position of needing to operate equipment, use software, or perform tasks they are unfamiliar with or haven’t been trained on, you run the risk of breaking established workflows and that can cause costly downtime.

This is why cross-training is important. If your receptionists, assistants, and hygienists are provided with the fundamental information that will allow them to step into each others’ roles in a crisis, your clinic will be much more viable in the long run. Here’s why.

Cross-Training Makes Your Clinic More Resilient

Intelligent scheduling is central to a smoothly operating dental clinic, but as the saying goes, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and a good schedule is nothing if you don’t have a plan B in the case of emergencies.

Let’s say one of your receptionists calls in sick and you can’t find a replacement: does the rest of your staff know how to answer the phones, use the appointment scheduling software and handle integrated payment card processing? Have they been trained on patient intake?

In situations like these, the first thing to suffer is often patient experience. Having your staff scrambling to process payments and book appointments is a bad look for any dental clinic, and if these problems persist you will be lucky if bookings remain stable.

Cross-training ensures that in the case of emergencies, your staff has the resilience to step into roles that are not part of their regular jobs. The day might still be stressful, but if your staff knows how to pinch-hit for their colleagues, you can save it from becoming a nightmare.

A Cross-Trained Team is a More Cohesive One

One of the biggest problems any highly specialized workplace faces is siloization. You know how your job works and the daily challenges that are involved in doing it, but you don’t necessarily know much about the problems the rest of the team is facing. They in turn don’t always understand why you need things to be done in just the right way.

When a team lacks cohesion, it can cause problems down the line. If your administrative staff doesn’t understand just how involved a process preparing a treatment room for a patient is, they might place unrealistic demands on assistants and hygienists. If hygienists don’t understand how the dental software works, they can create huge problems for the administrative team.

Cross-Training Makes Clinics More Efficient

In the world of dental management software, we have come to realize that cross-training helps workplaces run more smoothly even when there isn’t a crisis.

Having an entire team understand how to locate patient files and book appointments using the practice management software, for example, improves workflow by making it significantly easier for hygienists, assistants, and dentists to find information they need without going through administrative staff.

Not only can assistants and hygienists make bookings when they need to, they will also be able to retrieve bookings, and can add relevant information themselves.

And as the following video explains, cross-training staff can also be good for your bottom line in other ways:

Given how much sense cross-training makes, why isn’t it standard across the industry? Unfortunately, the biggest reason is simply the time investment required to make a cross-training program work.

Doing cross-training properly means taking time out of an already busy schedule to teach your staff how to do jobs that are not their own, and given how busy most clinics are, this can be a hard sell. But there are some straightforward, easy-to-follow ways to accomplish this goal.

When cross-training for assistants:

  • Make notes on how to check patients in and out, either manually or digitally
  • For more complicated scheduling software, plan ‘field trips’ and have admin train other staff one hour per month
  • Have a document handy noting what reports need to be run on which days and what calls need to be made and when

Remember that the most effective time for cross-training is when you can fit it in – whenever there’s a break in the chaos of your clinic’s day-to-day, you have your window.

Clinics that take this extra step quickly find that training pays dividends by making everyone’s work easier – and by giving your team the tools it needs to pull together and thrive even when key members are missing. This is why, if you haven’t already done so, you should make cross-training a key priority for your clinic in 2019.

Considering New Dental Software? Tips On Getting The Best Fit!

Whether you’re choosing dental practice management software for the first time or looking to replace your current system, it may seem like a daunting task. There are many choices and at the end of the process how do you know you’ve made the right choice until well after implementation?  And, if you’re tempted to skip the necessary due diligence, be aware that:

  • It is one of the most important practice decisions you will make
  • It has a huge impact on the ability to run an efficient and profitable practice
  • The cost of a bad decision can be substantial in more than just the cash outlay
  • It is more than just a purchase – it is about establishing a long-term and trusting relationship with a vendor
  • There is no one best system for every practice – the key is to find the system that best meets your goals, objectives and future growth plans

Let’s keep it simple to start. By looking at just four main decision criteria, you will be well on your way to narrowing your choices and significantly increasing the probability of finding the best solution for your practice. Consider these important factors: 


  • Track Record/Years in business: A vendor’s length of time in business tells you a lot about their stability, customer loyalty and ability to adapt to changes in technology to meet customer expectations over an extended period.       
  • Integrity – track record of trustworthiness: Check with colleagues about their experiences dealing with their dental software vendor and ask whether expectations are meet in a timely fashion.   
  • Scope of resources: Vendors with a large staff have the resources for new product development and comprehensive customer support whereas smaller vendors are typically spread thin in these areas.
  • Number of customers: Software vendors with large customer bases have the financial resources to invest in product development and the capacity to gather a wide range of user feedback that informs development decisions. Smaller/newer vendors are more likely to spend their limited resources attracting new customers.
  • Customer retention rate/satisfaction rating: A vendor’s customer retention rate is a good reflection of overall customer satisfaction. Contact multiple practices to get an overall feel of their level of satisfaction of the software they are using.
  • Positive reviews and number of referrals: Check out dental software reviews but be wary that many reviews are “sponsored” or “planted” and therefore are not likely to be completely objective. 

Software Application

  • Scope (breadth) and Quality (depth) of features: It is easy to get caught in the feature comparison trap and simply conclude that the solution with the most features is the best for your office. It is wise to focus on the features you need and evaluate how well they actually work.      
  • Ease of Use and Workflows: For high priority functions, determine how many steps each takes, whether the workflows are intuitive and whether the net results meet your expectations.
  • Degree of Integrations offered: Dental software vendors typically offer a number of third-party applications that have varying degrees of integration that can contribute to increased administrative and clinical efficiency. They include imaging software, accounting software, payment card processing, reputation (review) management, and advanced reporting/productivity tools. Determine which ones are important to you and how well they integrate with the dental software.

Support/Value-added Services

  • Consistency and quality of upgrades: Updates should consist of improvements to existing features as well as new functionality rather than simply “bug” fixes.
  • Training: Look for a vendor that has the resources to offer a variety of training methods including onsite, classroom and webinar based, and what training materials are available such as tutorials and videos. The number and experience level of trainers on staff is also a good indication of the quality of training your team will receive.
  • Customer support: Ask for audited customer support statistics and determine whether the support department is sufficiently staffed with enough qualified people to support the size of the customer base. Check out the type of support plans offered and the scope of service hours (24/7/365 is ideal) to see whether they meet your requirements. 
  • Customer engagement/Patient Portal: Review the vendor’s customer newsletters, blogs, eBooks, training materials, etc. to gauge how informed they will keep you if you become a customer. Ask whether they offer a customer portal.  


  • System platform: Most dental practice management systems are local server based where the dental practice management software and patient data both reside on site at the dental practice. However, due to data security advantages, cloud-based dental systems are starting to appear on the market. For these systems, practice data resides on cloud servers where it is kept protected from cyberattacks, break-ins and natural disasters. Vendors who provide platform choices give you the most flexibility.
  • Cloud backup services: If you choose a local server solution, be sure that they offer a cloud-based backup service so backups are not stored on-site and subject to undue risk. 
  • Role based data/function access: For added security look for dental software that can enable data and function restrictions based on user-defined roles.  
  • Audit Trails/Privacy Compliance:  The dental software should also include the functionality to report on changes in data including edited or deleted financial records as well as comply with regulatory body requirements such as CASL

Final Thoughts

  • Make a software short list and see each one in “live” action
  • Evaluate features based on ease of use, intuitiveness, workflow adaptability and functional depth
  • Compare long-term costs – not just up-front costs when evaluating return on investment
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of vendor track record and customer support
  • Choose a software vendor with the intent of developing a long-term relationship
  • Remember – lack of due diligence during the process of making an original software purchase is the main reason that dental offices wind up unsatisfied – and then have to go looking for new solutions

Top 6 Ways Your Dental Clinic Can Cater to Millennials

Much has been written about the ways the Millennial generation is re-shaping the market for everything from taxicabs to diamond rings. But will this generation’s tastes and preferences really affect dental clinics? After all, everyone needs to have their teeth cleaned, right?

While dental clinics do offer a timeless service, I’ve heard a lot of concern from some clinics that are struggling to reach out to younger patients. Millennials approach healthcare in different ways than their parents did, so if you want your dental practice to continue to grow, it is important to find ways to connect with this segment of the market.

Millennials approach healthcare in different ways than their parents did, so if you want your dental practice to continue to grow, it is important to find ways to connect with this segment of the market.

Here are a few ways you can make your clinic more Millennial-friendly:

1. Invest in a Good Website

In order to attract Millennials as patients, you have to connect with them. Unlike their parents, Millennials much prefer being able to explore a dental clinic’s website before they get in touch to book an appointment, so make sure your clinic is searchable online and has an easy-to-navigate website.

And reaching Millennials isn’t just about creating a new public face for your clinic, it also requires a re-imagining of how to explain what services you offer and how you differentiate your practice from others.

2. Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Millennials are natural born web surfers. In fact, because they are so Internet savvy, the digitally-minded Millennial generation relies on very specific keyword searches to locate the products and services they want.

In layman’s terms, SEO is the practice of encouraging Google’s ranking system to place your business higher than your competition in a Google search based on industry terms.

When a Millennial searches for ‘Dentist Toronto’ for example, Google displays links to the web pages it thinks are relevant and authoritative – which is measured mostly by analysing the number and quality of links from other web pages back to yours. Simply put, a person searching for services within your industry is more likely to find your homepage the more frequently other reliable web pages (including other pages on your own site!) are linking back to it.

Once they find your site, remember that Millennials want a variety of engaging content that is informative and emotive. Research shows most Millennial purchasing decisions are based on an emotional connection rather than a logical one. Furthermore, your site’s content should not be preachy, overly long or boring – if it is you’ll lose their interest. So, try to offer vibrant, fun content rather than a lecture on dental hygiene!

3. Update Your Social Media Marketing

As the following video explains, successfully marketing to Millennials requires different strategies and a different emphasis compared to marketing to Baby Boomers.

If you want to reach this segment of the population, simply tweaking your current advertising strategy will not be enough: you need to target Millennials specifically, and the best way to do that is by increasing your social media presence and strategically using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

When it comes to reaching the under-forty market, no marketing tool is going to be quite as effective as social media, and paid social media marketing campaigns can be a huge boon to dental clinics that are trying to reach new patients.

4. Expand Your Digital Services

It’s also a good idea to make the scheduling, appointment confirmation and billing experiences as seamless as possible. Millennials like to request visits and confirm appointments online rather than in-person and they will prefer that bills and statements be available from a patient portal. Using practice management software with these capabilities makes it easy for dental offices to meet these expectations.

5. Recognize the Challenges They Face

As the American Dental Association has noted, only thirty percent of Millennials report having gone to the dentist in the past year, which is seven points below the national average. There are several factors driving this trend, but one of the most significant is the fact that Millennials are often not insured at the same rate as previous generations.

In order to attract (and more importantly, keep) Millennials as patients, you need to understand that broader economic forces are making it harder for them to afford regular care, and be sympathetic to this fact.

As Gary Radz noted in a piece he wrote for Dental Economics, Millennials aren’t kids anymore: as they begin to enter middle age and raise families of their own, they are becoming a key demographic for all healthcare-related businesses. And, the reality is that if you want to reach this growing market you need to do so on Millennials’ terms.

6. Don’t Expect Them to Pick Up the Phone

One of the key challenges for healthcare businesses today is figuring out how to adjust service to varying customer expectations. Older patients tend to prefer phone calls and paper, whereas younger patients prefer text and email attachments.

Attracting Millennials while keeping your older patients happy means tailoring service to individual customer preferences, which is why we’ve designed the ABELDent platform to make customization easy, so you can keep detailed notes on how each patient prefers to be contacted.

Millennials are the first generation of digital natives, so earning their trust and meeting them on their turf will require investing in new marketing strategies and new software. If you want to make your clinic more appealing to this audience, check out ABELDent’s dental management software to learn how it can help you achieve that goal.

Why You Should Work Harder to Manage Your Dental Clinic Reviews

When it comes to choosing a dental clinic, patients have a lot of options. Even people who don’t live in a large city probably have at least a few clinics within easy travelling distance, and this means that patients are in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of different dental service providers before making their choice. Increasingly, they are relying on reviews written by other patients to help them make an informed decision.

Reviews have always been important, but websites like Yelp have made it easier than ever before for ordinary people to critique the services they use, which in turn has made consumer reviews an essential part of all kinds of industries.

According to recent data, ninety percent of consumers consult reviews before trying a new product or service, and a recent survey conducted by Search Engine Land suggests that a whopping 72% of consumers place as much value on online reviews as they do on recommendations from friends and family.

Many of the dental clinic operators I talk to have expressed concern about this aspect of business marketing – you can roll out a new advertising campaign, and invest money in digital and social media advertising, but how do you make sure that your clinic is getting positive patient reviews?

While there is no way to guarantee that you only get good reviews, as I have discussed before on this blog, there are a few things you can do to improve your odds. Here are three strategies that can help your clinic cultivate and manage online reviews most effectively.

Make it Easy

While most people consult online reviews before they visit a service provider, the number who actually post a comment themselves is significantly lower – and unfortunately, people are more likely to leave a review if they have had a negative experience compared to if they have had a positive one.

This means that you need to make it as easy as possible for people to leave reviews (especially positive ones), as this will increase the likelihood that people who had a pleasant experience will be moved to comment.

Reviews not only build your clinic’s credibility, but they also pave the way for new customers to find you online, which is why it pays to invest in software that can help you manage and encourage patient engagement.

The right review management platform will provide your practice with a simple, straightforward, and unobtrusive way to ask and remind your customers to leave a review on the sites that matter most to you.

This type of software allows you to not only amplify the voice of the patients who love what you do, but also offers you a way to reach unhappy patients in an effort to improve their overall brand experience.

Best of all, review management software will allow you to monitor your reviews and share the best ones on your site and on social media.

Ensure the Best Possible Service Experience

Naturally, if you want positive reviews from your patients, you’ll need to give them something to be positive about! This isn’t the first time I’ve written about the important role a good receptionist can play in making patients feel welcome and valued, but they are also ideally positioned to encourage your patients to share their experience online.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure your receptionists are encouraging patients to write reviews and provide public feedback about their experience with your clinic.

Good service isn’t only about reception, of course, and another good way to make sure your patients leave your clinic with a smile on their face is by using cutting edge dental management software to facilitate a smooth experience booking appointments and receiving notifications. A dental management platform designed to meet these needs can also help you remind patients that they have the option to review once they’ve gotten home.

Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Reviews

In a blog post for, Toby Nwazor distinguishes between bad reviews and negative reviews. If a patient leaves a positive but vague comment like “the service was good,” this doesn’t really provide potential patients with any helpful information about your dental clinic.

A negative review that criticizes specific aspects of your service, on the other hand, can be extremely helpful insofar as it tells you where you need to improve.

Even the best clinics will get negative feedback from time to time, but the important thing is to not run away from the criticism. Instead, use it to improve your service, and take the opportunity to engage constructively with your patients.

In terms of spreading the word about the superior service your clinic provides, good reviews have become the new coin of the realm. But if you really want to increase the number of positive reviews you are getting, you need to increase the number of reviews you’re getting, period.

Making it easy for people to review your clinic and responding constructively to negative feedback are practical strategies you can implement today to help increase patient engagement.

Engaging Staff Make for Engaged Patients: Spotlight on the Dental Assistant

We’ve been talking a lot on this blog lately about big picture ideas and how mission statements and value propositions contribute to the success of your dental practice. Today I want to remind readers that it really is people that keep a practice running and, with a focus on the key role of the dental assistant, explore how finding the right person for the job can increase practice production and improve workflows.

There are those outside the industry who don’t understand the many facets of this position – even some clinicians may not always appreciate the complexity of the role and the multi-dimensional value that the right dental assistant brings to any practice. So, I’m putting a spotlight on this often-undervalued position to show how the right dental assistant will keep your patients engaged and your business growing.

Look for Well-Rounded Staff Members
To perform at the essential level, dental assistants must be well-versed in anatomy and physiology, dental radiography, oral microbiology, and preventative and emergency care. And, they must be skilled at:

  • Preparing treatment rooms with tray set-ups and equipment while keeping a sterile environment
  • Seating and preparing patients in the treatment room
  • Checking blood pressure
  • Taking and processing radiographs (including a keen understanding of the safety protocols surrounding radiation exposure)
  • Preparing materials for dental impressions and other procedures
  • Assisting the dentist at the chairside during procedures
  • Sterilizing instruments according to proper protocols and maintaining equipment

When you are looking for your next dental assistant, be sure that they not only have the hard skills listed above but that they also have soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, strong attention to detail, and compassion for the patient. These are skills they can’t teach in dental college and you need to be sure that your new hire will bring them to the job.

Communication Skills Matter
While dental assistants need to know about all the typical dental procedures you perform, it’s their ability to communicate with patients about how the practice will help with the state of patients’ oral health that makes the dental assistant an important pillar of your practice.

Dental assistants are one of the members of the dental health team that help guide patients through the process of comprehending, accepting and then eventually completing treatment – all of this takes the ability to speak well and know when to listen.

Assistants need to take down pertinent patient histories, learn from patients the specifics of their oral health care routines and explain how treatments will be beneficial to their unique situation.

Attention to Detail is Key
Being a detail-oriented worker is another key trait for dental assistants. In order to complete treatments requiring many steps, dental assistants must carefully pay attention to each step in the treatment protocol and focus on assisting the dentist at the right times to maintain a fluid workflow.

Proactive thinking and attention to detail means that patients get the level of treatment they deserve.

Compassion Counts
Fear of the dentist’s chair is the second most common fear in the Western world and your clinic will be catering to people with this fear week in and week out. Nobody wants to think about it but when a patient starts to cry in the dental chair because they are terrified of their dentist, a dental assistant’s compassion can be the key to comforting them.

Form a Bond
The best moment to connect and engage with patients and form a bond with them is throughout stages of the appointment queue. Every dental assistant should have training on how to approach a patient, how to make them feel comfortable and how to acknowledge and help them overcome any fear they may have of the procedures to be performed.

Engaging in small, light conversations can be a great ice-breaker as long as staff are careful not to be too intrusive or pushy. Often, a calm demeanour and pleasant approach are enough to do the job.

Maintain Patients Bonds Between Appointments
For small dental offices it is quite common for dental assistants to do double duty in that they may also be responsible for tasks such as booking appointments and patient post treatment follow up. In these cases, the dental assistant will need additional skills that include how to use the basic functions of your dental practice management system. In particular, the dental assistant will need to know how to schedule appointments, update patient files and locate patients that require follow up.

Performing these extended duties is also a great way for dental assistants to stay on top of patients’ health and demonstrate that the person who assisted with their treatment in the operatory is continuing to take an active interest in their well being. This can forge bonds that lead to lifetime patients.

These days, taking patient engagement to the next tier requires having your entire dental staff on board – working as a cohesive whole. Team-wide, high-level communication skills come with practice, but once implemented, the patient experience can really skyrocket – especially when each office administrator, hygienist, dentist and in this case the dental assistant, operates beyond their basic training.

Remember this and watch your practice grow.