What Do You Want?

Preparing for appropriate compensation

One of the topics that I see recurring on a regular basis in many social media forums is that of dental team compensation. It’s a subject that seems to show up more often than any other.

Questions such as “what do you pay your dental assistant?” to “when do you give increases?” While these inquiries are important, I find that the one major addition to the hiring process is simply going back to an area that should be obvious–yet so many simply skip it. Few prepare for this, the most important facet of the hiring process.

How many are aware of their market?

The range of salaries for the various positions?

How many have even an idea as to how much the position they are wanting to fill is worth?

I have some concrete protocols in place for my clients, but before we can even move forward with the process, I ask that they not only check their budget, but also conduct some due diligence related to their specific market. I’m not sure how we all drifted off from these very basic standard guidelines, but somehow we often count on the job candidate to set the standards.

Compensation based on what the job candidate made in their past position, what they “want” to make or what they “need” to make is not only a completely illogical approach, but one that will typically result in major problems down the road.

In preparation for hire, consider some valuable diligence so that YOU set the stage.

What’s your budget?

What does the job entail?

Are they the only business office employee, clinical assistant or hygienist in the practice? Working alone can require more responsibilities and could affect salary.

Are there specific certifications required?

Are you asking this employee to participate out of the traditional 8-5 4 day/week schedule? Yes, this can warrant additional compensation in some cases.

I work with my clients on touching many points prior to making the final hire, but if you consider applying one of the above parameters, I can assure you that you will be ahead of the curve. Heck, you may even find that you are much more successful onboarding new employees and experience a lot less costly turnover.

Do You Hire for the Person Within or the Outside “Packaging”?

Talent may not be “visible”

I fear that we are seeing more and more superficial rationale when it comes to building a dental team. I find it so disturbing when a client paints a picture of the team member they envision and the first words they mention are that they should “look good”, which means what exactly?

While I would agree that taking care of one’s self from the hygienic standpoint as well as a professional presence is important, I don’t believe that we need to be seeking out potential beauty contest winners.

To me, it’s much more about professionalism, dedication, the ability to take direction, to work well with others, to think before they speak, and of course to not flood the office culture with unnecessary dialog or disrespectful banter. While presenting a healthy “look” would make sense in that we are in the healthcare field, I will never support refusing to offer a great employee a position based on some level of perceived physical attractiveness.

Are they neat? Are they well-spoken? Are they talented and skilled? Have they proven to you that they are perfectly qualified to manage the job that was offered to them? If all this fits then it’s not about them, it’s about you!

I realize that this is a touchy subject, but I’m at a point where I felt it was important to bring my concerns out into the open in the hopes that it will bring to light some very shallow thinking and stimulate some healthy assessment when situations of this nature are presented.

Don’t pass up an ideal team member based on superficial values. Many very special qualities are not visible to the naked eye.

Approval Addiction


Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Needing to be Accepted

“Doctor, did you see the temporary crown I fabricated for Mrs. Jones? Didn’t it come out beautiful?”, said Suzie the dental assistant.

“Doctor, Mr. White has finally agreed to have the all on four that I’ve been talking to him about for years”, said Joanie the hygienist.

“Doctor, I filled that open appointment today after calling 10 different patients”, chimed Margret the business administrator.

While all these scenarios are examples of what we all are trained to do in our given positions, we often feel the need to reiterate the fact that we accomplished something we want “celebrated”.  Why is this so prevalent in our industry?  Why do we require lots of kudos and on-going recognition?

It’s due to the condition many of us suffer from known as “Approval Addiction”.

This also applies to the dentist that is uncomfortable to let a patient know that they have probably cracked a tooth that will require attention, but instead says “We’ll just watch it” rather than act now to alleviate future issues.

And what about the “Let’s make a Deal” style of dentistry?  This is when the patient tries to negotiate a lower fee AND the doctor agrees! Why? Because they want acceptance, they want to not be the bearer of bad news and they want the patient to like them, so lowering the fee to please the patient is the way to go.  No, not really.  When we are not pro-active and handle an obvious problem immediately things generally get worse and then where are we? This doesn’t even include the fact that one patient could tell another patient that they got a reduction on their fee, then the new patient expects the same treatment.  Could this be the pre-curser to “barter” Dentistry?

I’m guilty of this too and I’m here to come clean.  Although my fee is per hour, I am known to conveniently omit a few hours here and there, and will very often extend courtesies for no legitimate reason.  I know I should practice what I preach and I’m trying to get better at this.  I do have to justify my value on a regular basis and have deep introspective conversations with myself every now and then. But I’m definitely improving and making great strides daily.

If all of my fellow dental professionals would just become more aware of their own personal behaviors, perhaps we can all improve, thus relieving some of the unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves.

What will they REALLY remember?

It’s more about the impression that you leave them with than any clinical impression you may take.


The average patient knows nothing about dental technology, even if it is explained to them. No doubt they are probably pleased to know that digital radiography, for example, has really improved the safety factor when x-rays are required, which may cause them to think about it for a moment or two and then not give it a second thought.

Much of this is not all that vital to the average patient, and sad to say, they really don’t care; as we see almost daily when we work to educate our patients. The constant seems to be how they feel while they are in your practice, after treatment, whether you and the team show them care and attention, and of course perhaps what others say about their smile. And this is basically it!

They have no idea about symmetry, shades, esthetics, recession and contours; but what they do know is how they feel and how their smile looks to them. So if it is pleasing to their eyes and they have no pain, all is well in their world. Oh, except for perhaps the patient that felt the shade should be a bit whiter, kind of like a “Chicklet”, but ultimately agreed with you and your team in the end, seeing the natural looking result when you held up the mirror. My educated guess might be that it was one or more well-spoken, devoted team members that very cautiously and kindly pointed this out. It’s those special team members that tend to create a wonderful rapport with our patients, don’t they?

Patients can easily see that you are there to help them when they require it, and that you support them if they need some additional assistance. Take the patient that needed an emergency root canal or the time that their son got hit in the mouth during a basketball tournament. These are things they know. They are totally lost though when it comes to asepsis, OSHA Compliance, HIPPA Compliance, the newest advances in Dental Technology, and what it means when their doctor has DMD MDS MAGD FADI FAACD FACE at the end of his/her name, although it does appear impressive to some patients.
Here are some of the things that they DO know for sure: If they are respected and treated well, the practice environment is neat and orderly, the magazines are current and in good taste, they are taken on time for their appointments, the fees are fair and their questions are answered to their satisfaction, and of course if an emergency arises that they are accommodated quickly.
But the very most important thing that all patients look for is the type of environment created by the positive energy and mutual respect that they observe and experience when they visit your practice. They would expect that the kindness would go directly to them, their families and all the other patients that walk through your door.

But what about the interaction between the individual team member(s) and the doctor(s)? What they are evaluating is critical to their ongoing patient loyalty and why they are so happy to spend time with you in your practice. For them, seeing that the team works harmoniously together and are clearly sharing responsibilities openly and willingly is a memorable message and one that puts them at ease, adding to the “trust” factor. This will carry over in many ways and are forever imbedded in their memory. This message is a valuable one and will be spread to their family and friends when asked “who do you recommend for dental care”?