Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 01 Scalathumb12618

Teamwork: Are you an asset or a liability with dental team members?

Jan. 24, 2018
Carly Scala, RDH, has a funny way of talking about teamwork: You pitch in to help dental team members too.

By Carly Scala, RDH

Do you ever walk into your family physician’s office at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, fairly chipper, only to be greeted with one of those “looks?” Or have you ever called your OBGYN’s office and maybe asked too many questions about Mirena IUDs, then been hung up on? (They are all probably thinking, “Just Google it!”). You’re all probably thinking, “Doctors? We don’t even have health insurance!” That, my folks, is a session for another day. Today, I discuss your staff.

Okay, flip those scenarios and imagine your office. However much you don’t want to smile and be chipper that day, do you ever simply glare at someone when they walk up to you and say, “I’m with Dr. Smith today!” Probably not. I know I would never do that to a patient, client, or customer. Everyone deserves to be greeted with a smile and feel like they are about to receive optimum care.

Both of the offices I mentioned in the first paragraph were offices I disconnected with. The doctors were great. Very knowledgeable, kind, and considerate. But it wasn’t worth dealing with all of the unpleasant people just to get to them. They could have excelled at other aspects of their job, sure. By this one piece of patient interaction, I unlinked myself from this office. Think about yourself now. Think about your staff. Are you guys liabilities, or are you assets? Am I an asset? Is the doctor really only as good as his/her staff?

I did a 180, y’all

For awhile, I believed showing up and doing hygiene only was my job. This meant no clerical duties (working recalls) and no assistant duties (denture steps, no thanks…give me gingiva!) and that was OK. Then I became irritable when patients didn’t show up or my team got behind. That’s when it hit me: My team. I did a 180, y’all.

You must start with yourself when assessing your dental team. It’s not fair to judge your front office staff without assisting in their duties. It is the office’s work, and we all work in the same office. How can I expect them to help fill my 3 p.m. opening when I’m booked 8-2 if I don’t help them tomorrow with confirming patients in my downtime? How can I expect my DAs to throw some hygiene my way with their restorative patients if I don’t help keep sterilization in check? How can I expect my office manager to help patients find ways to pay for the care that they need if I did a poor job explaining their issues, and now they don’t find urgency in treating it?

One lapse in utilizing all of your skills can throw everything off-kilter for the entire day.

But it’s not my job to…

Think to yourself: Am I doing all I can to be a dental team player? I hear a lot of people say, “but it’s not my job to…,” and I get it. The last thing I want to do when I’m about to get to leave early is to take an FMX on a new patient. Will it help everyone get out on time, and not just me?

What you may find insignificant could have been a load off their back. If I have to stay late so a coworker can go to her child’s softball game, I do. I know she would do the same for me. I hear that phone ringing endlessly somedays and, while I think I’m a bit awkward on the phone, I know that with my cross-trained knowledge of everything in the office, I can help that patient while simultaneously helping my coworker (so she can finally get that insurance information in the computer!).

When you are a dental team player, your recommendations are taken more seriously. People will feel as if they can confide in you and ask you for advice. I compliment others on how they handle themselves in certain situations, and I also offer advice. I am extroverted, and maybe you aren’t, so you don’t have to necessarily feel comfortable giving advice. But give compliments where they are due. Show appreciation for the ones who help your days go by easier, and I am a firm believer that it will come back ten-fold.


Also by Scala

The right to ask for a raise: A hygienist's self-review can initiate a pay review


I pick an employee of the week and give them a $5 gift card to the nearest place we can grab a quick bite. They love it. Be a motivator.

So, maybe the doctor is as good as his unmotivated and unpleasant staff. Perhaps he is just as unpleasant.

The kicker here is that you should always be so good that others feed off of it. Every patient should feel special, because they are special. They entrusted you to care for them, address their health, and give them specific advice that pertains to your standard of care. How fortunate we are to do that, and how lucky a doctor is to have a staff like that. Just make sure you keep each other happy and in sight. The difference a hug or free coffee could make, if you only knew. (Thanks for that, by the way.)

Carly Scala, RDH, is a dental educator and sales rep, who specializes in dental hygiene clinical supplies and CE courses. In addition to this endeavor, Carly practices clinically in Parkersburg, WV and works as an editor/writer in hygiene publications remotely. Carly has been an ADHA member since graduating in 2014 and spends her free time dreaming of teeth and playing with her two chubby pugs.