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Keeping a Healthy Work Environment in a Dental Practice


Maintaining a healthy and nontoxic work environment in your dental practice is key to keeping employees and patients coming back.

Keeping a Healthy Work Environment in a Dental Practice. Photo courtesy of Andrey Popov/stock.adobe.com.

Keeping a Healthy Work Environment in a Dental Practice. Photo courtesy of Andrey Popov/stock.adobe.com.

Are you amazed at how many dentists seem to be retiring? Some applicants reveal that they have fewer and fewer patients to work on. Where did the patients go? Did they decide to give up on their oral health after the COVID-19 lockdown? Is it possible that fear is still keeping them away? There could be a host of reasons why this is happening, but it is a common theme I am hearing repeatedly while recruiting for my dental clients.

When dental practices are bought, a certain percentage of the patients do not return. I was one of them. My dentist sold his practice, because he thought his office building was going to be bought by a hospital system. He found a young dentist and got out quickly when he left in January. It is April and I still have never received a letter saying he was retiring and introducing the new dentist. The new dentist was not strategic. They spent a lot of money to buy the practice, which includes the patients, and there was zero communication with these patients. I do not think the practice is worth as much without the patients. Why would I want to go to the new guy? Think about it. Just because a dentist has bought the practice, it is not a ringing endorsement that they are any good. It just means that they have the financial ability to buy a practice.

What happens in a dental practice truly impacts patients in ways that you can’t always calculate. For example, with the turnover issue—if you cannot keep staff, is there a correlation between this and patients jumping ship? It may have nothing to do with the practice, but turnover impacts patient care. There can be legitimate reasons for the departures, but it does not matter to the patient. These are people they trust who are leaving them. To them, a loss is a loss.

Let us not forget the practices where employees are unhappy working there. You know what I am talking about. Some places have an unhealthy work environment. I am not being sarcastic. Colleagues can throw you under the bus, and people take their stress out on each other. And the pressure can be unrelenting. Did you go into this profession to cut corners and provide shabby care? No, we went into it to help keep people healthy. Yet, depending on where you work, it might be difficult to follow your ideals.

So, what are you supposed to do? That is the million-dollar question.

Look at the culture of your practice.

  • Do people like each other?
  • Are they respectful of each other?
  • Do they hate being there and let everyone know that?
  • Do patients need to be informed of changes in the practice?
  • Do staff gossip in front of patients or have blurred boundaries?

I am not trying to be negative here, but I’m throwing out something to think about. We always hear about corporate culture being so important. Even though we do not often talk about a practice as being corporate, each one does have a culture.

What does this mean for you? Look at what role you are playing in your practice. Are you negative or someone with a cheerful outlook? Are you happy working there? Those are the things that matter, at least to me. Just remember this: It is a business, but it is run by people for people. You need to not just “wow” your patients, but also take care of your staff. If not, you too may find your work drying up.

Share with me at diana2@discussdirectives.com what your thoughts are on the culture in the practice you work in.

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