Cross-Training Your Dental Team to Increase Productivity Within the Practice

Edineth Bonilla, CDA, RDA, FAADOM with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

Have you ever had a time where you had a patient in the waiting area ready to be seen and all of your dental assistants were occupied?

Have you ever been alone at the front desk covering the phones and your front desk receptionist was out to lunch?

What if the front desk team was trained on turning over a dental chair and walking a patient in efficiently and if your dental hygienists and dental assistants could properly pick up the phones and schedule an appointment successfully.

Wouldn’t that be amazing? It would be a lifesaver!

I am a firm believer in all team members being cross-trained.

My career in dentistry started off as being a dental assistant and then I transitioned into the practice manager role. Having a clinical background maximized my contribution to the practice.

It is super useful and insightful for the team to know some of the basics of each other’s roles.

Over time, I have found that this skill allows the team to pitch in and assist each other more effectively.

I highly recommend playing to your team member’s strengths when training on a new skill that was not part of the individual’s current role. This could include dental receptionist training or dental patient coordinator training.

As you begin to come up with your list of areas you would like to cross-train everyone in, I would find roles that are usually overwhelmed when a team member is out.

What the clinical team should be trained on:

  • Scheduling a patient appointment & phone etiquette
  • Common insurance or appointment related Q&As
  • Checking in/out a patient including collecting a copayment
  • Overview of where we keep envelopes, stamps, common front desk supplies, etc.

What the front desk team should be trained on:

  • Turning over a dental chair & setting up the room
  • Sterilization of instruments
  • Providing patients their goody bag and home care packet
  • Overview of where we keep dental supplies, emergency kits, dental equipment, etc.

Why cross-training works for dental offices

My office has had moments in which a team member will be out, and unfortunately, that team member was the only one who knew how to carry out a specific task.

You can imagine how hectic the day turned out to be.

Once I realized how much of a hiccup it created without a specific team member, I knew that the office would run smoother if I could train everyone else on the same tasks, like dental front desk training, to get us through the day.

After cross-training one of our team members, they actually considered the idea of transitioning roles.

She now floats between assisting the doctor, seating patients, taking x-rays, and works as a backup to assist us with the schedule, reports, insurance verification, etc.

In downtime, she will join us at the front desk and pick up the phones, schedule appointments, fill in the gaps in the schedule as needed.

A huge PRO was that she knew exactly who to call when we had last-minute openings.

Being a dental assistant in the clinical most of the day, she has an amazing memory and would assist with calling those patients that wanted to come sooner or needed urgent restorative care.

Cross-training the team has worked out amazing for our office, being that there are less than 10 of us in the practice.

All of our team members are flexible enough to conquer different tasks, which in turn has improved our overall productivity.

Meet the Author

Headshot of Edineth Bonilla, CDA, RDA, FAADOM

Edineth Bonilla’s career in dentistry began six years ago as an RDA and evolved from there.
Today, she is the practice manager at Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry.… Opens in a new window to Jersey City Pediatric Dentistry website…

She has been an AADOM member since 2018 and was inducted as a Fellow in 2020.
She loves all things dentistry, but when she isn’t at work, she likes to work on puzzles, play board games, cook, and spend time with her fiancé.


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