A dental staff that is well educated, personable, and passionate about dentistry can elevate a practice and provide the best possible care to patients. But that alone isn’t enough for a practice to thrive. Practice owners and dentists also need to foster a healthy work environment to get the best from their team.
Of course, this takes work and is easier said than done — which is why it can sometimes fall by the wayside when doctors are busy running day-to-day operations. However, taking the time to define and establish a positive work culture can pay big dividends in the long run.
Morale is crucial in any workplace. The dental practice is no different. Every member of the team works hard to provide the best patient care. For example, a dental assistant’s responsibilities include helping the dentist during procedures, preparing instruments and exam rooms, and implementing infection control protocols to keep patients and co-workers safe. The work doesn’t stop outside the office, either. A strong dental team is always learning, whether it’s pursuing continuing education courses and certifications or attending conferences and workshops.
For all this work, the dental staff deserves to feel valued and recognized — something that isn’t always the case in dental offices. Appreciation can be shown through competitive compensation and benefits, as well as smaller tokens of gratitude such as buying lunch for the team to celebrate a job well done. Even simple thank-yous can go a long way. When the staff feels valued, it improves everyone’s morale, job satisfaction, and productivity.
“When recognition is given, it sends a message that you value your dental assistants and the contributions they make to create a successful practice,” explains Angela. “In return, assistants develop a sense of security, feel valued, and stay motivated.”
Read more: Why dental assistants deserve respect
Recruitment and retention
People want to stay at jobs when they feel appreciated and respected. When morale and job satisfaction are high in the dental office, team members are more likely to stick around.
Unfortunately, turnover is something dental practices have struggled with in recent years as they continue to face staffing shortages. While there are many factors at play, including dissatisfaction with pay and work-life balance, many dental professionals have left their offices because they did not feel valued. According to DANB’s Dental Assistants Salary and Satisfaction survey, 62% of dental assistants who have changed jobs in the last two years cited lack of appreciation at their previous practice as a primary reason.
“Our office would probably have less turnover if they valued employees more,” shares one dental assistant.
Conversely, employees who feel appreciated often have a sense of loyalty to their dental practice and aspire to put their best foot forward to help it succeed.
“If we are happy and appreciated, we will bend over backwards because most of us really do love the job,” says another dental assistant.
With a positive team culture in place, trust between team members improves and it’s easier for the staff to communicate. This, in turn, improves the whole team’s efficiency. When the front and back office are on the same page, the schedule stays on track, appointments go smoothly, and patients receive a quality experience.
Strong communication also ensures everyone understands expectations, such as infection control protocols, and lets them feel heard and respected — whether they’re giving feedback, raising awareness about an issue in the office during a morning huddle, or presenting a new idea.
“A solid team that can communicate and have a good time always makes the day better,” says Sharlotte, a dental assistant.
“There needs to be trust and communication in the dental office,” explains Kat. “I have been so lucky to have that since day one!”
Ultimately, staff members aren’t the only ones who benefit from a strong dental office culture. When a dental team has high morale and strong communication, it helps patients, too. They’ll be more comfortable, get their questions answered, better understand the treatment plan or procedure, and feel a sense of empathy and kindness from the dental staff. All of this builds loyalty and helps the dental office retain patients — especially when they know they’ll see the same friendly faces at their next appointment.
“Patients can feel the great workflow,” explains Michele. “The best compliment we can get is, ‘You work so well together.’”