News |6 min read

How to Improve Dental Team Communication

Debbie Evans, DAADOM with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

One thing that any manager of a dental office knows is that a successful practice starts and ends with great communication within your entire dental team.

Communication leads to better teamwork, more productivity, and increased morale.

A dental practice will grow only if team members believe that they are an integral part of the office’s success, are respected, and are valued for their contributions.

They want to know that they can communicate and that they are heard!

Here are a few guidelines to open up the lines of communication between everyone in the office, from the dentists, practice manager, dental assistants, hygienists, and the business team.

Communication in the morning huddle

Start every morning off with a huddle, fifteen minutes maximum. Everyone should be in attendance as this is a fresh start to the day.

This is where daily expectations are discussed, as well as special needs and requests of various patients or changes to the schedule.

Always end your morning huddle on a high note. You might mention something positive about the day before or give someone a shout-out for something special they did.

Ending on a positive note ensures that your team will be ready to make it a productive and rewarding day!

Communication within each department

Regardless of your dental practice size, it’s vital for each department to hold a meeting once a month.

Make these meetings a priority by blocking time on the schedule during lunch, at the end of the day, or for the business team, first thing in the morning after all of the patients have checked in.

We have binders that we made up for each department:

  • Hygiene
  • Assistant
  • Business
  • Doctor/Management

Each binder is divided into sections and consists of meeting notes, handouts, and anything that each department would like to keep together in one easily accessible area.

Before the meeting, any member from that department can write down a topic or concern that they would like to discuss. The dentists or the practice manager might have something they would like to address with the department as well, and these concerns can be put on the agenda.

Since these meetings discuss what’s pertinent to each department, they typically don’t need to be discussed at the full staff meeting. This method allows everyone to have a voice during the discussion since it’s a smaller group.

A solution is usually made on each talking point, and we go on to the next item on the list. Sometimes the dentist sits in on these meetings, especially the dental assistant and hygiene meetings.

We have found that these departmental meetings have opened up our lines of communication within each department. Everyone knows that we can talk openly with each other and makes sure that everyone is on the same page.

Since we started holding these meetings, there has been a big shift in the way people talk to one another, allowing the office environment to be more open and honest.

The doctors and I schedule monthly meetings just like each department does, and they’re typically held at the end of the day after the staff leaves. I have a list that I make throughout the month of items that need to be addressed.

These meetings have made a huge impact on the way the doctors and I communicate with each other. When we have to make important decisions, it’s nice to have their full attention without patients scheduled.

Granted, it takes time and energy to do this, but these meetings are critical, and it has helped me communicate better with my doctors. I know that this step has helped our practice thrive.

Communication with the entire staff

We schedule mandatory staff meetings for the entire team once every six weeks, which take place Tuesday mornings from 7:00 am to 9:00 am.

These meetings have proven to be so valuable for our team that we have pre-blocked them on the schedule as far as two years in advance.

If we don’t proactively reserve that time, then we would never have a staff meeting.

At these staff meetings, we always buy the team breakfast and have a few minutes of just talking with each other or doing an ice breaker to start things off.

Team meeting ice breaker idea

Last meeting, we passed around a roll of toilet paper and had everyone take some paper off of the roll. Well, what they didn’t know was that for every square of toilet paper they took, they had to tell everyone one thing about themselves.

While some people were shy, others were not, and this proved to be quite an entertaining way to start a meeting.

Meeting agenda

Our staff meeting agenda is generated from topics that staff members, doctors included, write down in a notebook that is kept in my office.

Anyone is able to write something down or make a suggestion, but the rule is that if you’re the one to write it, you’re the one to discuss it at the meeting. This unwritten rule has proved to work very well, and almost everyone is open to discussing their topic publicly.

We all work as a team and resolve all of the different discussion points that need to be addressed. Our team knows that our doctors are open to listening to their concerns and are willing to accept what the majority has decided. Granted, they have the last say in each matter, but the fact that our team knows that they’re heard means everything to them.

The forms of communication can be different for any office. These examples are things that we do to communicate within our office effectively.

If you want your team members to function at a high level, contribute to the success of the practice, become accomplished at their work, accept responsibility for important aspects of the practice, and develop initiative or drive, you need to develop a good fundamental communication plan.

Remember that everyone is a member of your team and that every voice should be heard!


Meet the Author

Debbie Evans in black and white jacketDebbie has worked in the dental industry for almost 30 years and has served as the practice administrator for Wainright & Wassel, DDS… This text opens a new tab to the practice’s website… in Raleigh, NC since 2005.

Debbie is a proud lifetime AADOM member and serves as co-president of the AADOM Triangle Chapter… This text opens a new tab to the chapter’s website…, which is the largest chapter in the country and named “Chapter of the Year” for three years.

In 2020, Debbie received her Mastership and was awarded Practice Administrator of the Year. In 2021, she was inducted as an AADOM Diplomate.

 

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