Dental Articles

3 Key Qualities to Look for in Potential Dental Staff Members


Having the right team members in your office is undoubtedly one of the most crucial pieces to a successful dental practice. 

Without the right staff, dental offices will experience problems with patient retention, employee turnover, and monthly production numbers. And since dentistry is considered one of top ten most trusted and ethical lines of work in the U.S., it's more important than ever to have the right staff on board. Fortunately, dental offices can easily find qualified staff members through dental job boards and utilizing probationary positions. What are the most important ‘people’ qualities we’re looking for in a new team member?


#1 Respect

First and foremost, dental staff members should be respectful. Dental professionals should not only show respect for their patients, but the rest of the team as well. When it comes to working as a team and providing dental services, dental professionals applying for EFDA, dental hygiene, and dental office management positions, must demonstrate respect for one another.

Recently I did a "boots on the ground" project in Southern Oregon. In one of the offices I visited, the woman at the reception desk was working with what was obviously a new employee. She never looked up at me and when she finally turned towards me, without looking up, asked if I was “checking in?” Clearly, she demonstrated a lack of respect and she thought I was a patient!

She finally looked up at me whereby I smiled, extended my hand and give her my name. I handed her a gift and explained our staffing service and how we could train their dental team on the 3 key qualities necessary for patient retention and higher productivity. Clearly, she lacked respect for everyone who walks though their front door, especially patients, who she assumed I was!

#2 Compassion


When working in the dental industry, staff members need to be able to show compassion. Going to the dentist can often be scary and overwhelming for many people. Whether it be a dental assisting position, dental hygiene or the practice manager, to be compassionate and caring towards their patients is paramount. Taking the time to understand patients' fears and concerns is a major part of any dental job.


Whether it involves the cost, imagined pain or simply enduring an uncomfortable procedure, every employee must be able to understand the patient’s fear. Without the ability to demonstrate compassion, it’s easy to see how this inability would affect patient retention.

I recently fractured an onlay and it was so small, I just wanted a good filling to repair it. I ran across the street to a friend’s office, whose boss was known to be a great dentist. As her dentist was working on me, he shared that he had recently gone to the dentist and was reminded "how uncomfortable it was!"

#3 Cooperation

A key aspect of dental office jobs is being a great team player. Dental offices cannot run optimally without everyone being on the same page. From scheduling patient appointments to ordering the necessary supplies to providing the dental services needed, everyone within the office needs to work together. If a staff member is not a team player and doesn't know how to cooperate and work together, they won't be a good fit. When hiring, dental offices should look for potential staff members who can work well with others.

Scouting for these qualities should be the responsibility of the entire existing dental staff during the probationary period. The candidate need not know the team is looking and listening for these skills. In a ninety- day probationary period, it should be easy to determine whether these skills are present. During this period, a controlling personality, a cool demeanor, an ‘it’s all about me’ attitude or a tone of disrespect will come through.

I believe these are key qualities a dental office staff should look for in a candidate. I once worked with a dentist who told me “I can teach a monkey to assist me, I’m looking for stellar people skills.” Look for these qualities and use reputable dental hiring sites, and you’ll create a thriving practice.

No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.

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