What is 1 thing missing in Dentistry Today?

March 13, 2024

The One Thing Missing in Dentistry Today!

There are many aspects we can all agree are missing in dentistry today. However, from my perspective, having worked with dental teams daily, I can clearly see that onboarding, training, and nurturing for your team is sorely lacking. Let's refer to it simply as "training".

How do I know? Well, I constantly hear phrases like, "They don't even know how to put on a rubber dam" or "How many times do I need to say that I use plain cetonest?" or my personal favorite, "I just need a dental assistant who can get the work done." What does this mean?

Each dental practice is unique, with its own methods and procedures. This is the one area where I'd agree that every practice differs. Some have morning huddles, some do not. Some use the radio, while others do not. Some have checklists and established systems, while others do not. Even how a doctor prefers to communicate with the dental assistant varies, often overlooked in the hope that the assistant will simply understand the doctor's intentions.

Last year, in 2023, I proposed an idea to my friend, Dr. Bryan Stimmler: Tiered Growth for Dental Assistants. What if we could evaluate the skills and adaptability of a dental assistant to a specific practice through questions and personality assessments to determine their level?

Let's review the levels and their focuses:

  • Sterilization Tech:
    • Understanding instruments
    • Familiarity with small equipment
    • Internal terminology
    • Listening skills and note-taking
    • Basic assisting on procedures
  • Aspiring DA:
    • Learning practice procedures
    • Mastering setups and room breakdown
    • Understanding HIPPA/OSHA regulations
    • Assisting the doctor effectively
    • Schedule management
  • Senior DA:
    • Adjusting removables
    • Taking X-rays
    • Placing topical anesthetics
    • Proper positioning during procedures
    • Patient seating and final impressions
  • Clinical Dental Lead:
    • Morning huddle preparation
    • Taking X-rays independently
    • Mentoring junior assistants
    • Assisting with high-level surgical procedures
  • Admin/Business Dental Lead:
    • Managing supplies and inventory
    • Coordinating between front and back offices
    • Supervising back office personnel
    • Handling equipment and repairs
    • Expertise in practice management software

Just imagine, you have a clear on boarding process to actually evaluate a new candidate or evaluate your entire back office team to see the gaps. So every practice will need to have a sterilization tech and most likely you will be hiring for this position all the time, because it’s the easiest position to promote to the next level. Then you have a DA who is gaining skills related to basic procedures or learning advanced procedures, such as Endo or Oral Surgery, or Ortho. This assistant will most likely be joining the doctors at the continuing education and order supplies needed for these procedures. Next level is where the fork happens, you might have an assistant who is really good with people and can manage the back of the office (hence promotion to Admin/Business Lead or a person can be really into clinical and be excited about learning new things, like Veneers or Full Month Rehab (hence Clinical Dental Lead) who can help other assistants grow in tier clinical capabilities. 

This structure provides a clear path for growth, enabling talent retention and encouraging dental assistants to expand their skills beyond their comfort zone.

What are your thoughts? Do you see this being implemented?

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