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November/December 2020
Volume 41, Issue 10

Six Productivity Mistakes That Can Hinder a Dental Practice

Carrie Webber

As dental practices get back to actually practicing, many dentists may be feeling the physical and mental stresses of the trying circumstances brought on by the coronavirus crisis. Coping with the demands of re-establishing the practice can be extremely draining, leaving dentists with very little time and energy for practice development or personal health and well-being. These conditions can be detrimental to one's level of leadership and overall practice performance. This article outlines six productivity and energy "zappers" that may be causing harm to both the practitioner and practice and steps leaders can take to eradicate them.

Lack of delegation. Needing to control or be present in the work of every process in the practice will leave dentists exhausted, limited by time and capacity, and plateaued in practice growth and development. Determining what areas, as business author Chuck Blakeman says, are the "highest and best use of your time"1 will allow dentists to identify tasks and responsibilities that can be delegated to another team member who ultimately can develop the skill or has the potential to execute on their behalf. Dentists should do what only they are capable of doing, and delegate the rest.

To facilitate delegation, dentists should: prioritize their list of responsibilities from highest priority to lowest; determine team members who can be trained and delegated to carry out lower-priority tasks; train and set team members up for success, establishing expectations; review and refine the new responsibility together with the team member, being available to "coach" them through it; and, finally, let go of the task and truly delegate it.

Interruptions. A lack of clear processes, systems, and expectations within a team can lead to ongoing interruptions throughout the dentist's day. Having to answer one-off questions from team members repeatedly may be a sign of a system glitch or uncertainty in a procedure/process. Taking the time to review that particular procedure or process, work together to build team members' confidence in the area at hand, and establish consistency within the systems of the practice can reduce confusion.

Failure to maximize each clinical team member's role. Depending on the state in which the practice is located, clinical team members may be able to do more to support the dentist clinically than perhaps they are being allowed to do. From preparing crowns in a CAD/CAM unit to prepping patients for care, clinical team members should be utilized to the highest level the state allows so that the dentist's schedule can be freed up to maximize his or her skill set.

Single-tooth dentistry. Piece-meal treatment planning can hinder productivity. Productivity can be enhanced by actually seeing fewer patients in a day, doing more dentistry per patient when and where appropriate, and seeing the patient for fewer appointments. This approach helps maximize the capabilities of a minimally sized, high-performing team.

Inability to close cases. Your practice's patient family may have more dentistry diagnosed and waiting to be done than could ever be completed in the next several years. If there are patients delaying treatment or saying they'll think about it with no intentions of scheduling that appointment, the team has missed the mark on at least one of the following pillars in what the author calls the patient-practice partnership: trust, need, urgency, value. To build these strong pillars into your patient relationship for increased acceptance of care, the team must refine its communication skills and elevate the tools it has available to help educate patients regarding the proposed care and find a path forward that comfortably allows them to receive the treatment.

Toxicity in the team. If a dental practice has team members that are negative, cause drama among the team, or are otherwise problematic, this will cause leaders to remain in a drained energy state and practices to stay stuck where they are. To overcome this toxicity, practice leaders need to set the standard of expectations among the team, then reflect this standard through their own actions and behaviors. They then must expect team members to uphold this standard by holding them accountable to that which has been set forth.

The process of eliminating toxicity in the team will require clear communication, quick action to course-correct any less-than-acceptable behavior, and, finally, swift decision-making should those disseminating the toxicity refuse to change. One toxic team member does more harm than a superstar team member can do good, according to a Harvard Business School study.2 It is critical for leaders to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation.

Reviewing and addressing these six energy "zappers" can help dentists be more energized, productive, and able to build a stronger, healthier, happier workplace for themselves and their team.

About the Author

Carrie Webber
Co-Owner, The Jameson Group (, a dental management, marketing, and hygiene coaching firm


1. Blakeman C. Everybody Should Play the Business Owner's Game, Not Just Owners. Chuck Blakeman website. April 21, 2015. Accessed September 9, 2020.

2. Housman M, Minor D. Toxic Workers. Harvard Business School; 2015. Working Paper 16-057. September 9, 2020.

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