Leadership 101 for Dentists and Dental Practice Heads


What does it mean to be a leader?

It doesn’t have anything to do with job titles, seniority, or a workplace hierarchy. It is not all about influence either, though that may be an important part of it.

Leadership is the ability to influence those around you in a way that inspires them to maximize the effort needed to achieve a goal.

When it comes to leadership for dentists, this may require that practice heads, management, or the dentist themselves motivate their team to reach practice goals and their own professional goals.

Why You Should Be a Leader in the Dental Setting

Leading your team may help ensure you provide your patients with optimal care, have a good reputation within the community, and earn a profit.

However, proper leading may not just help your business and patients. It may also help your team to thrive professionally in two ways.

Improved Workplace Culture and Environment

Good leadership may help produce happy employees. Your team may be less likely to feel frustrated when they come into work because they may know exactly what is expected of them. They may know that the environment is fair and inclusive. They may know that you have high standards and expect the same from them and every single one of their co-workers.

Fostering this type of environment may help cut down on workplace stress and frustration. It may help reduce turnover rates. Your team may look forward to coming to work instead of dreading it.

Professional Advancement

Many assistants have aspirations beyond chairside dental assisting. They may want to get an advanced degree so they can potentially get a job teaching in the future. Others may want to train in expanded functions or go back to school so they can become a hygienist or even a dentist.

A good leader should foster these dreams. They should encourage and support their team members. As an added employment perk, some leaders may even contribute to the funds needed for their team to achieve their goals.

Some dentists avoid encouraging employee career advancement, fearful that it may mean they will lose amazing employees and may lead to a high turnover rate. The opposite is more likely to be true. Employees may want to stay with someone supportive and encouraging for as long as possible. Plus, you may help someone who has career ambitions to be committed to their patients and the work they do – their passion. They probably want to provide patients with the best possible care. 

Leadership for Dentists: How to Hone Your Leadership Skills

The following steps may help you develop into a leader that can run your practice efficiently and successfully. If you need more tips, you can find multiple classes, online resources, and books about expanding your leadership skills

1. Improve and Encourage Communication

One of the keys to great communication is listening. Observe what’s going on around you with your employees and your patients. When someone talks to you, focus on what they’re saying. Tune into the nuances of conversation, such as their facial expressions and body language. When people know that you’re truly listening to them, they may be more likely to open up to you. The more open communication there is, the more trust there may be between all members of the team.

2. Manage Your Emotions

Working in a dental office may be stressful, no matter what your specialty. Stress may lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout. In turn, those emotions may lead to a short fuse. If you get angry or are easily irritable and snap at those around you, you may not create an environment that fosters trust.

We may have some bad days, but if negative emotions are becoming the norm for you, it might be time to start implementing some emotion management strategies. Working out or meditation may all contribute to better emotion management.

When you have more control over your emotions, you may start to feel better physically. The more positive and energized you are, the more your team may be, too.

3. Encourage Your Team to Share Ideas

You should have regular meetings with your team to discuss office policies, any issues that arise, new dental treatments, and even things like your hygiene recare and marketing plans.

During these sessions, make sure your team knows that their ideas are welcome. Hearing different perspectives may help shed new light on issues and help you to solve them more rapidly.

Besides that, your team may feel like they’re playing an active role in the success of the practice. There is nothing like the feeling of being heard and appreciated.

4. Build Trust

Your employees should know you have their back. Showing genuine interest in their wellbeing may show that you care for them and that you’re willing to support and even protect them if necessary. You may show your team that your personal interests will never surpass the needs and goals of your practice, patients, and employees.

You may build trust by:
  • Making yourself available for questions
  • Getting to know your employees
  • Making sure you’re consistent and fair in your actions (like rewards, promotions, raises)
  • Involving team members in important practice decisions
  • Recognize and praise the contributions of each member of your team

Leadership Involves Taking Practical Steps to Protect Your Team and Practice

Another way to show leadership is for dentists to invest in protecting their practice. One way to do this is with dentist malpractice insurance.

Malpractice insurance for dentists may cover your small business if you ever face a lawsuit or substantial fines.

You should be the leader your team needs you to be. Take steps to protect them, as well as your practice, and encourage them to strive for excellence. Doing so may help you provide your patients with exceptional care.

Learn more about dental professional liability insurance options. Get a free quote.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows 20% of small businesses don’t last 12 months, and 50% of them won’t make it to their fifth year. This article outlines some tips for new dental offices to help you defy these statistics and succeed.

While at dental school, you were trained to become a dental practitioner. How to actually run your dental office was likely not in the curriculum. Yet, you have more than the usual challenges new business owners face due to the uniqueness of the dental industry and the responsibilities that come with dentistry.

Here are some tips to help you when contemplating the next steps for your new dental practice.

3 Key Tips For New Dental Offices

While you need not attend business school for business success, implementing the following key aspects can help you lay a sound foundation and build a thriving dental practice.

1. Create a Business Plan

While studying, you followed a structured blueprint that provided guidance and highlighted the steps to become a dentist.

A business plan lays out your goals and purpose in a similar way. It outlines the core aspects of your business for easy reference and guidance. It can also help you make adjustments or determine specifics such as employee numbers, the type of practice you want to build, and expansion plans.

Without sufficient planning, you could get side-tracked or make costly business decisions. Besides helping you build and scale your practice, a successful business plan helps you maintain focus—even when challenges and distractions arise.

If you haven’t already, create a business plan. Use it for reference purposes and update it whenever your goals and needs change.

2. Understand Business Principles for Dental Office Success

To run a new dental practice successfully, learn business principles regarding leadership, operations, funding, marketing, service delivery, and profit generation. For example, running a successful practice requires awareness of how funding, finance, and budgets affect profits, cash flow, a nd operating expenses. With such knowledge, you can lead and manage people and your business effectively. This includes payroll, premises (e.g., rent or mortgage, fixed costs, and overheads), equipment, and professional advisors for your accounting, legal, and insurance needs.

  • Get licensed and registered: You must obtain relevant licenses and register with appropriate bodies. For example, you need a dental license from your state dental board to practice. Ensure all oral healthcare professionals in your practice have valid licenses. Also, to write prescriptions for controlled substances, you must register with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration for your DEA Registration Number.

Join your state’s dental industry association and consider joining a national dental profession association. You’ll find them useful as you operate and grow your practice. They offer resources, training, and even facilitate connections with other dentists.

Visit your state business website for guidance, or find a short course or book on building a successful dental practice.

  • Develop effective leadership skills: A thriving business needs great leadership. You must lead and communicate with employees and contractors effectively and encourage excellent customer service. Take leadership courses or workshops to learn how to find team members that align with your vision, build strong relationships, and maintain a healthy work environment.
  • Adopt effective marketing strategies: Promoting your practice is essential, even if you took over an existing business and retained its clients.

Find room in your budget to market your practice and services effectively. Learn different marketing strategies and aim to choose up to three most suited to your requirements. For example, you might focus your marketing efforts on internet marketing (e.g., search engine optimization and social media), newsletters, and referrals.

3. Seek Specialist Advice

Specialists can help you avoid jeopardizing your business, losing your business license, liability for a legal violation or malpractice, and more.

For example, as tax benefits vary according to business structure, specialist advice can help you make an informed decision on whether to set up as a sole practitioner or a partnership. You must also file federal, state, and local taxes. As filing requirements vary by business structure and locality, localized specialist business knowledge is valuable for addressing your specific requirements.

Evidently, each business entity has its pros and cons; a dental specialist in each of the following areas can advise best practice based on your specific needs:

  • Specialist legal knowledge: Apart from having an appropriate business structure, you and your staff must be legally compliant. For example, you must follow privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Check your state bar association’s directory or ask trusted dental practitioners or mentors in your network to recommend specialist dental lawyers who have helped them achieve great results.
  • Specialist accounting and financial advice: You must manage business records properly to be compliant and stay up to date with tax, payroll, and other relevant laws and regulations. Get recommendations of dental CPAs from successful dental practice owners. Additionally, financial advisors help you plan and understand financing opportunities for your practice and avoid unwanted financial situations. To increase profits and manage debt, seek recommendations from a financial advisor.
  • Specialist professional insurance coverage: Understand the different insurance types. Professional liability insurance, for instance, provides malpractice protection for patients’ claims against medical professionals.  Other dental practice insurance plans include Business Owners Policy, Workers’ Compensation, Cyber Liability, Commercial Property and Liability, Employment Practices Liability Insurance, and Specialty Coverage.


Fundamental Next Steps For New Dental Office Owners

Comprehensive coverage can lessen the already challenging experience of running a dental practice. Have peace of mind by getting adequate protection to keep you from losing money, time, a ruined reputation in the community, or even your business.

Aon provides liability insurance for healthcare professionals, including dental practitioners and dental practices.

Get a quote on for our professional liability and other dental practice insurance protections for your business.