A Guide to Hiring Assistants for Your Dental Practice


Dental practice assistants are the face of your business, often serving as the first point of contact for patients. You want to select the staff for these positions carefully so your dental practice is well-represented.

The great news is that dentists can hire from a growing pool of talent in the years to come. The job outlook is positive for both dental hygienists (+6% growth through 2029, faster than average) and dental assistants (+7% growth through 2029, likewise faster than average).

However, you can’t expect the top talents to just land in your lap. Following best practices when you hire dental practice staff can help you find and retain qualified professionals to support your success.

How to Hire Dental Practice Staff

Hiring fitting dental practice assistants is just half of the battle. You also want to keep skilled employees, reducing turnover and minimizing your human resources burden. The below guide explains how to hire dental practice staff, covering the entire process from start to finish.

Write a Detailed Job Description

Clearly define the position you want to fill and what duties you expect the person who fills it to perform. The job description should outline responsibilities, requisite hard skills (e.g., familiarity with specific technology or software), and soft skills (e.g., good communication skills, team player).

Once you have your job description, you can define what criteria an applicant must meet to perform the job. You can then add further details to the description, such as educational requirements and necessary previous experience.

You also want to ensure your job listing stands out so you can attract the best talent. Provide sufficient details in terms of salary, benefits, office location, and position status. Without these details, many candidates may skip over your ad, causing you to lose out on potentially valuable workers.

Read Through Resumes with a Critical Eye

Carefully review resumes that come in after posting your job listing.

When reviewing resumes, have the relevant job description at hand. This allows you to quickly compare the resume to the requirements you outlined, ensuring a fact-based selection process.
Look out for potential red flags as you hire dental practice staff, such as gaps in employment history and job-hopping. While these things shouldn’t automatically eliminate an applicant from the running, you want clarity on these issues. For example, the answer to why someone has a gap on their resume could be as innocuous as taking time off to start a family.

Conduct Interviews and Pre-Employment Testing

Once you’ve narrowed down your stack of resumes to a handful of applicants, you can start the interview process. You may want to start with a phone or video interview. This allows you to get more details about basic facts like the individual’s compensation expectations and employment history (e.g., giving you a chance to ask about the aforementioned red flags).

If an essential point like compensation expectation doesn’t match up with what you’re prepared to offer, you can save yourself and the applicant time by skipping the in-person interview.
After the phone interview, you can narrow down the pool of applicants further and invite the remaining people into your office for an in-person interview. During the interview, ask open-ended questions (not yes/no questions) that invite detailed responses.

You can also take this opportunity to conduct pre-employment testing. For example, you may ask the candidate to demonstrate their proficiency with dental assistant technologies defined in the job listing. If you plan to conduct pre-employment testing, inform your candidates beforehand. This allows them to block off sufficient time in their schedule.

Verify Potential Employees’ Credentials Firsthand

You should verify any facts regarding potential employees’ education, employment history, licenses, or similar credentials before hiring dental practice staff. You can verify education credentials with the relevant university or college. Most educational institutions can confirm basic details, including dates of attendance and degree awarded.

You also want to verify employment history by following up with references the applicant provided. Talking to people who worked with the individual is an excellent way to confirm soft skills that can’t be proven on paper, such as teamwork and communication ability.

Finally, if the role you’re hiring for requires licensure, you want to make sure the applicant’s credentials are up to date and in good standing. For example, dental hygienists are licensed by the relevant state and must complete continuing education to maintain licensure. The American Dental Hygienists Association provides a list of state licensing authorities that you can consult for assistance.

Finally, you may consider running a background check for more comprehensive vetting. Note that most states have laws regarding background checks. For example, you may be obliged to inform potential employees of your intent to run a background check beforehand.

Support Your New Employee’s Success with Adequate Onboarding

Once you’ve chosen your new hire, help them integrate into your team and thrive. Provide them with any administrative forms they should complete (e.g., to get paid) before their first day so they don’t have to waste their first hours on the job doing paperwork.

Set up a defined training schedule that covers not only tools and technologies used but also policies. For example, you likely have protocols for the secure handling of sensitive patient data. You want to ensure new team members understand these guidelines.

Finally, if you have a multi-person team, arrange a time for everyone to know one another. Scheduling an informal team gathering outside of work hours can give your new dental practice staff the chance to get to know their coworkers better, supporting positive collaboration in the future.

Help Protect Your Employees with Dentist’s Advantage

As a dental practice owner, you can be held liable for your employees’ actions. That’s why you need to carefully vet and select candidates when you hire staff. This applies even to non-medical roles. Administrative personnel still have access to valuable patient data, from health records to personal identification and payment information. You want to be sure you can trust your team.

In case issues do arise, it’s good to be prepared. Business owner’s insurance can help protect you against potential legal claims brought against you, your staff, and your business. Dentist’s Advantage provides insurance for dental practice owners.

Get a quote.