Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2018 02 Dental Front Office Staff 1

Thursday Troubleshooter: Office manager's 'nagging' causes dental assistants' tension

Feb. 15, 2018
This dental office manager would like to get all the dental assistants on the same page when it comes to how they do things in the office. She's developing a manual, but will it really help?

Nearly everyone has problems and concerns on the job, and sometimes you're just too close to a situation to solve something yourself. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will examine the issues and provide guidance. Send questions to [email protected].


QUESTION: I’m the practice’s front office manager and I’m currently working on a manual for the dental assistants. Do many offices have a manual? I feel like the assistants in our office are all doing things their own ways. I feel disrespected because I’m constantly repeating myself and reminding them how to do things, and this causes a lot of tension. Do you have any suggestions about how I can handle the situation?

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, founder of Front Office Rocks:
I think that documenting how things should be done is an excellent idea. Having clear documentation will not only help when you’re training new employees, but you’ll also have something to refer to if things start to drop off over time. But, I’ve also found that when you take the time to write down something, many times, by the time you finish it, something changes in the office and it becomes outdated.

Therefore, I’ve started recommending that you take pictures or shoot a video to document how things should be done. There are two reasons for this: 1) It’s very easy these days because our cameras are right on our phones. Take a picture of how things should be set up, or a video of how to do a certain procedure, and then save it somewhere so that employees can refer to it. 2) Pictures and videos are easier to understand than something that’s in writing, and many people learn better visually.

Good luck!

ANSWER FROM KEVIN HENRY, cofounder of IgniteDA:
This is one of the most common complaints I hear from dental practices—dental assistants do things in different ways because it’s the way they were taught. Some assistants are on-the-job trained, some attended school, some were trained by a dentist, some by another assistant, and still others learned what they could from the internet.

As frustrated as you might be, trust me, the assistants are also frustrated. They’re trying to get through their days and juggle their myriad of tasks. Most of the time they’re trying to do everything they can to make the business run as smoothly as possible, and sometimes that means taking matters into their own hands to make sure things are organized and ready for the next patient.

The bottom line, however, is that your dental practice is a business and your employees need guidelines on how to do things. Your dental practice is no different than Starbucks. Can you imagine walking into a Starbucks and having all of the baristas prepare coffee a different way? It would be chaos! The same thing sounds like it's happening in your practice. This is why there has to be an iron-clad resolution so that everyone does things the same way.

If an assistant can't see the value in uniformity, or explain that how he or she does something brings more value to the business, then the person either needs to change or leave, it's that simple. Every employee must perform tasks that are the most beneficial to the bottom line of the practice. Otherwise, the business won’t run optimally. No one employee is bigger than the business.

That being said, try to listen to the assistants about why they’re doing things differently. Perhaps there is a time savings you don't know about, or a better way to handle patients that you aren’t aware of. Listen and work together as a group to find the best way to run the business. It may be your way. It may be their way. It's not about who is right or wrong. It's about everyone working together and in a uniform way to make the business hum.


Can dental practice charge interest for patients who take months to pay?
Insurance companies ‘downcode’ and confuse dental practice
Dental hygienist tired of handling majority of difficult patients


Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to [email protected] for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their problems on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.

For the most current dental headlines, click here.

About the Author

Team Troubleshooter

This weekly column on DentistryIQ features questions from everyday people who work in dental practices, who have issues they would like addressed by the experts. Those who regularly take the time to answer questions include Rebecca Boartfield, Patti DiGangi, Dr. Chris Salierno, Laura Hatch, Karen Daw, Jill Townsend, Lisa Marie Spradley, Shelley Renee, Judy Kay Mausolf, Robin Morrison, Paul Edwards ... and the list is growing.

Send your question or issue for an expert to address to [email protected].. You'll be glad you did.