Dental Articles

The Problem with Dental Education: The Secret Ingredient They Don’t Teach You!

My Dental Education Was Lacking
If you are reading this article, I would like to take the time to share what I feel are the failures of the Dental Education system. This includes Dental School, Dental Assistant Training, and Dental Hygiene School. Nowhere in the standard Dental Education curriculum (or in the process of choosing candidates for these higher education facilities) do they give you the information on what it takes to successfully develop a team and run a dental practice.

Our Dental Education taught us many things: we learned how to make a denture, how to prepare a tooth for a crown, and in my case, even how to take a practical on gold foil…if you can believe it! Dental Hygienists learn how to perfect the removal of calculus and Dental Assistants learn how to mix a creamy rubber bowl of alginate. Nowhere during the course of a Dental Education are students taught the intricacies of teamwork, business, or managing their own business.

The closest I got to being equipped to run a dental practice was when an operative instructor told me, “If you think dental school is hard, wait until you get out and start your own practice.” That same instructor eventually left dentistry and became a stockbroker.

When I reflect on the interview process for my Dental Education candidacy, I recall how they emphasized the importance of my GPA, my Dental Admissions Test scores, where I had volunteered my time and what articles I had recently read on dentistry. At this dental school, we had to take the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. This test is intended to discover if the candidate has any mental health issues. But there were no tests to determine the level of leadership this candidate may or may not possess.

Nowhere before, during, or after my Dental Education were we coached on the skills that make a great business owner. And I am just going to put it out there: a business will only be successful if you have the skills to lead it to success.

What’s the Secret Ingredient You Don’t Learn from a Dental Education?
So, what was missing from my educational experience? Leadership. My story is simple: I just didn’t have the skills necessary to successfully lead a team and run a business.

Don’t get me wrong, I was an excellent dentist. In fact, one of the leading specialists in my area said I was one of the top two dentists in our large metropolitan area. This same specialist took me out to lunch one day to discuss something that had been on my mind. I wanted to change the name of my Dental Practice from my name to something a little more indicative of what we produced at our office. She suggested Beautiful Dentistry, and so it was. 

But, as good as I was at producing beautiful smiles, I was a terrible boss and leader. I made every mistake possible. I did nothing to advance the skills of my employees, patients undoubtedly sensed the negative office culture, and I could not figure out how to make things better. The worst part was: I didn’t know what I didn’t know; I had zero leadership skills (among other issues) and didn’t realize that the problem was me.

A report issued by The Leadership Encounter at the Lead Like Jesus conference reports:

  • Only 14% of CEO’s have the leadership talent they need to grow their business.
  • 15% of candidates state they turned down job offers due to a negative work culture.
  • 83% of employers agree that it is crucial to develop their employees’ skills,  
    and only 5% of corporations implement these improvements (21+Inspiring Leadership Statistics, 2020).

How Can Lack of Leadership Affect Your Dental Practice?
I can still picture the Temporary Hygienist who stood in my office and balled me out for having no systems in my practice. I had problems with the Board that always boiled down to my inappropriate or insufficient documentation, I overspent on new tools before paying off prior debt, I was not appreciating my staff, and one day I even had the entire staff come to me threatening mutiny if I did not fire my office manager. Here’s a valuable lesson from Perry Belcher: whenever you hang on to a poor-performing employee, you chance losing your best performers.

Irrespective of the important things my Dental Education left out, I knew I could still be a successful leader if I put in the work. I sold my practice and made a list of every problem and issue I had dealt with in my years of running the business. Then I set out to improve on every single issue, one by one.  I read books and studied, sought out mentors, took courses on documentation and risk management and vowed I was going to become one of the best Dental Practice Leaders on the planet.

A few years later, I found myself working as an associate, and the practice owner started inviting me to meetings with himself and the office manager. Then I noticed: he was listening to me and implementing my suggestions. I noted his documentation lacked completeness, leaving him open to Board complaints and legal risk. He had me train him and his entire team on better documentation to prevent risk. 

During that training, I learned he had some very unhappy employees who told me how unappreciated they felt. After bringing this up to the business owner, he told me he showed his appreciation by giving them higher than average salaries. I responded with how surprised he would be to learn that money is not the first thing employees want, it’s appreciation and respect. 

A few days later a huge box of 15 bouquets arrived at the office with envelopes attached to each bouquet. He had hand-written a note of appreciation attached to each bouquet. Mine read “Dr. Marynak ~ Thank you for everything you’ve taught me.”

In the same report created by Lead Like Jesus, it is stated that:

  • 70% of employees in the US are unhappy in their jobs due to negative management.
  • 79% of employees will quit their job due to a lack of appreciation from leaders.
    (21+Inspiring Leadership Statistics, 2020)

A few years later I was working at another Healthcare Clinic. At a staff meeting, I presented the need for a more efficient clinic. I explained that the team and I were going to reorganize the clinical systems, and in doing so would enable us to treat more patients. We were so successful, it led to our being able to redesign the clinic floor plan for more efficient delivery of treatment.

I helped one Dental Practice develop and implement a system to improve front-to-back communication regarding completed treatment, future visits, and ideal time allotments. One would think that in 2021 all Dental Practices would have this simple system nailed down, but you would be surprised at the poor or inefficient systems I have seen in Practices all over the country.

It does not matter if you are a Dental Assistant, Dental Hygienist, Dental Office Manager, or the Dental Practice Owner, I have seen great leadership skills in all professions of dentistry. Regardless of the team roles in your office, your practice success will stagnate if you do not have someone in the practice who can lead your Dental Team. 

What Now?!
I’m here to help you learn what your Dental Education failed to teach: successful leadership in the Dental Industry. Just by streamlining your systems, improving your communication, implementing proper documentation, or simply showing your staff a little appreciation, it is possible to turn a stagnant Dental Practice into a thriving and successful business! You might just need a little help identifying the problems.

There are hundreds of issues that face Dental Practice owners every day. If I didn’t experience it personally in my own business, I’ve probably seen it in another practice where I’ve either worked or consulted. I have made it my goal to learn how to lead a team through each crisis and onto greater things. 

I am offering a new service to my Dental Staffing clients. First, we will start with a consultation call, at absolutely no charge or obligation to you or your Dental Practice. You don’t even have to tell me your name or where you work! Describe your difficulties, and I will start looking for solutions. If your problem is something I can’t solve on my own, I’ll find someone who can! My years of experience in this industry and my personal connections keep me dialed in with some of the best leaders of the Dental Industry. Don’t hesitate: if you’re a Dental Professional that feels like you’re barely holding your head above water, I’ve been there. 

 

~
“Personal and organizational effectiveness
is proportionate to
the strength of leadership.”
-John C. Maxwell