Your Guide to Dental Practice Staff Training and Continuing Education

Dental team participating in a hands-on continuing education class

Do you invest in training your team?

Some dentists do, worrying that once their employees receive the training, they will start looking for higher-paying opportunities. Some may also worry that training can be a waste of time and money.

Many dentists have found the opposite to be true. It appears that the more training they provide, the more satisfied their team is and the better equipped they feel they are to serve patients’ needs.

Dental practice staff training may contribute similar results to your practice as well.


Dental Practice Staff Training: Office Policies and Procedures

Providing training for your team may have numerous benefits, including:
  • Better patient care
  • Reduced risk of mistakes/accidents
  • Improved work and patient flow
  • Higher revenue
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Lower employee turnover rate
Dental practice staff training may also result in greater job satisfaction for your team. A 2020 survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that a large portion of millennial employees list training and development as one of the most important job benefits an employer can offer. It is second only to the paycheck they earn.

What type of training might you provide to your team? Here are a few to consider.
 

Front Office Procedures

You might think your training and continuing education (CE) focus should be on your hygienist and assistants. However, your front office team might benefit from some training as well.

For instance, if you decide to update to a new practice or patient management software, your front office team might benefit from professional training instead of simply reading a manual.

Thankfully, software companies offer in-person training seminars or in-office training that may help make the transition a bit easier.

Other training ideas:
  • Insurance and coding practices
  • Practice management skills
  • Dental forms (privacy practices, patient consent forms, patient records)
  • HIPAA law compliance
  • Risk management

New Equipment, Products, and Techniques

With the advancements in technology, there is always something to learn. During your years in practice, you and your team might need to learn about:
 
  • Dental products (composites, cements, impression materials)
  • Equipment (dental lasers, CAD/CAM, digital x-rays)
  • Techniques (robotics in implant dentistry, new teeth whitening systems)

When you invest in new products, equipment, or techniques, they may come with instruction manuals or online tutorials for use. To go beyond that, you may attend workshops, classes, or have a company representative visit your office for in-person training.
 

Front and Back Office Policies

Your team may have an idea of how to assist you when taking care of patients based on previous training or experience. However, they would not know exactly what you want and expect from them without some extra training.

You can do this in a few different ways.
 
  • Employee handbook: Your employee handbook is likely one of the first things you might want to create before hiring your team. Included in the handbook are some of the basics about office policies, working hours, vacation, sick leave, and more. It can also contain information about the consequences of not adhering to office rules, including how to treat patients and co-workers.
 
  • Interactive training sessions with observation: There are a few ways you can train new assistants. You can have them start assisting you right away and train as you go, or have them observe a more experienced assistant work with you first. In either case, you can train them on your own or have the experienced assistant on hand to help the new assistant if the need arises.
 
  • Training exercises: Role-playing may be helpful in risk or emergency management situations. You can take this time to review with your team – sometimes with an outside expert from an entity like the fire department or the American Red Cross – how to respond when an emergency arises, such as who needs to call 9-1-1, who takes care of the patients, who clears the reception area if necessary, and more.
According to the ADA, each of these techniques – written materials, training exercises, or getting assistance from outside sources – are the main ways dentists train their teams.

Infographic showing the most common types of staff training options in dental practices.

Should You Consider Cross Training Your Team?

Cross training might be a good idea for every team but especially for those with limited staff.

Here is what cross training may look like.

Example: Your patient fails to arrive on time for their appointment, or they do not show up at all. If your chairside assistant has completed everything they need to do in the back office, they can then go up front and help with answering the phone, making appointment confirmation calls, and more. Similarly, if your hygienist’s patient does not show up, they can help in front or see if your back-office assistant needs help with anything (like sterilization).

Not only can this potentially allow you to see more patients and keep your office running efficiently, but it might also prove helpful when someone is sick. If one of your employees is out for a day or more, the rest of your team could pull together to cover for them and make sure all your patients are seen.
 

Improving Skills and Knowledge with Continuing Education

In many areas, dental assistants and hygienists are required to receive a certain number of continuing education units every two years to keep their license. You might want to consider paying for continuing education opportunities as part of your employment benefits package. Doing so may make potential employees more interested in accepting a job offer.

Additionally, providing continuing education for your team can ensure everyone stays up to date on the latest dental information and their CE requirements.

You can attend in-person workshops, watch webinars, or invest in online CE courses. Just make sure they count toward your CE units and are taught by accredited sources.
 

Spending Time and Money on Training – Is It Worth It?

When you choose to invest in your employees, you may very well be investing in your company’s success. Many small business owners list employee training as one of the most important investments they can make. It may be just as important as investing in the best dental products and dental professional liability insurance from a reputable dentist insurance company.

If you want to take an extra step toward ensuring the success of your practice, it may be wise to consider working dental practice staff training into your annual budget.

Get your free malpractice insurance quote today!