Great things happen with a little, or a lot, of dental team cooperation

When the dental team works together, great things happen. This practice administrator works closely with all team members, and recommends that her peers do the same.

Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2019 04 Teamwork 1
Someone recently asked me, “What is the one thing dental teams should do to help their practice and patients thrive?” It took me a while to answer because there are so many things that make up a great dental team. But I eventually came to the conclusion that if I could choose one thing, it would be cooperation.

The definition of cooperation is the process of working together toward the same end. It’s the “one team, one dream” philosophy, where everyone pitches in to make good things happen. If someone needs help or something needs to get done, no person on the team thinks, “That’s not my job.” Why? Because everyone believes they’re part of the team, they’re in it together, and it’s everyone’s job to guarantee happy, healthy patients.

Let’s cooperate with each other

The key to cooperation among team members is communication. Of course, no practice is perfect, but every day means taking a few extra seconds to effectively communicate with each other and patients.

Communication takes many forms. A good example is the hand-off. As a team, mine wants patients to feel a sense of continuity because this fosters trust. We don’t like the terms front office and back office because they imply a division in the practice. Instead, we use administrative team and clinical team. Our administrative team does a great job communicating with our clinical team all of the information patients share with us. It’s not just the responsibility of the person who answers the phone or welcomes the patient. Everyone works hard to connect with patients because they share different things with different team members. We all work together to notate in patient records any key information that will enhance the patient experience and clinical outcomes.

We also use verbal communication skills to add clarity and reinforce information. Our clinical team never asks patients why they’re in the office that day. They know because it’s been communicated to them through the patient file and when we introduce patients to the dental assistant. We use the same type of communication process as patients check out. At our practice, patients are escorted to checkout by the assistant hygienist, who shares details about the care provided that day. This ensures that what happened in the clinical area is accurately reflected in the computer records.

Let’s cooperate with patients

The other aspect of cooperation in the dental office is between the team and patients. Together we work toward the same goal—good oral health. Patients have different clinical journeys, but we want them to know we’re with them every step of the way and will do what we can to help them meet their goals. Sometimes that means working flexible hours so patients can juggle work and family. Or it can be working together to customize a financial solution that optimizes patient benefits.

One such financial solution is CareCredit, where patients can make arrangements to pay their portion of the bill without stressing their family budget. Or, as an education-focused practice, we take the time to educate patients to whatever level of detail they prefer. Our doctor-owner taught at the local university, so education is part of our culture.

When we’re all working together, cooperating and communicating, the relational and clinical outcomes are very positive. It makes the whole team feel good when patients share how pleased they are with our practice via social media and in response to the patient surveys we send through Solutionreach. It is valuable to get this type of consistent feedback and it validates what we spend so much time doing—providing great patient care. It also enables the team to celebrate strengths and work together to fix any areas that may need improvement.

To me, the one thing a dental team can do to help the practice thrive is to be exactly that—a team. I encourage you to start a conversation the next time your teams gets together. That conversation might lead you to some great ideas that can make both your practice and patients healthier.

Jenny Reid has been in dentistry for 20 years. For the last 17 years she has been the practice administrator for Keystone Dentistry, a general, implant, and cosmetic dental practice in Belton, Missouri. Her goal as practice administrator is to create systems that allow the practice to flow smoothly, provide a positive work experience for coworkers, and an excellent experience for patients. She has been a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers since 2006 and loves to network with others in the dental field. She also consults area dental practices, assisting them in developing systems and navigating through insurance billing and coding. Reid is an active member of her dental community and holds a position on a Board that oversees a nonprofit dental clinic for Medicaid and low income children, the only one of its kind in the county. She also volunteers at elementary schools for dental screenings.


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Jenny Reid collaborates with CareCredit to develop educational materials for the dental industry.

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