Problems At Work

Troubleshooter: Got problems? Too bad—the dentist won’t listen

April 26, 2022
This team member has brought numerous problems to the owner's attention, only to be ignored. She's worried the office will fail. How can she get change to happen?

We're bringing back Troubleshooter, your place to ask a confidential question about whatever's bugging you on the job. Do you have a problem or concern at work? Share it with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will provide guidance. Send questions to [email protected].

QUESTION: The owner of our dental office does not work in this office and owns seven other DSOs. He hired an office manager with no dental background for this office. This has been a huge problem for our production, collections, morale, and paychecks. Our one-doctor practice has one office manager, two assistants, and three hygienists. 

Three hygienists are too many because none of them ever have a full schedule of patients that actually show up. On any given day they may see a total of four patients. One hygienist refuses to make overdue recall appointments or unscheduled treatment calls and sits around on her cell phone.

The front desk person lets patients walk out the door without paying and has no clue how to make insurance aging calls or patient collection calls. She also shows no compassion, is very aggressive, and has turned away several patients. She refuses to do anything that is “above her paygrade." One of the dental assistants worries only about ordering snacks for the office online during down time and is overall very lazy.

The owner/dentist has been made aware of many of these issues and disregards them. Part of the problem is the current hiring shortage, and he seems to want to hang on to the warm bodies in this office. In my opinion, we’re doomed for complete destruction. There is real potential for this office and location. How do I make the owner/dentist acknowledge and address these issues? 

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I admire you for caring about the success of the practice. You have a good understanding about the areas of concern, and I feel your frustration because I've been there.

You cannot "make" anyone see an issue they’re unwilling to see. I would advise you to take care of yourself. Can you be happy in this practice? What would that look like for you? It took me decades to realize that I cannot care about the practice more than the dentist/owner/leader. Once I came to terms with that, change happened, but it just didn't happen on my timeline.  

Having said that, I believe there is a way to be proactive and get the owner's attention. Dentists make evidence-based decisions every day. If you set up a situation where he can receive an evidence-based tactical analytics report that shows practice opportunities and profits leaks, he might listen. Dentists understand that numbers don't lie.

Dental analytics companies can prepare a complimentary analytics report for your office. I’d be happy to share my recommendation with you. When the owner is shown in black and white how the practice can improve, and sees the opportunities and profit leaks, this will be hard to ignore. 

As far as practice culture, that is a leadership issue. Perhaps once the dentist becomes invested in the practice's success, forward momentum will be the catalyst for focusing on team culture. Good luck!

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. All inquiries will be answered anonymously here on DIQ.