Managing a dental team as a new dentist

Through: Jennifer Murphy, DDS, FAGD

So you graduated from dental school, got your DDS or DMD degree and got your license. Now you are a doctor.

You’ve started your first job, but the staff don’t seem to see you as a leader in the office. You may even feel that they know more than you do, even if you think you are supposed to be the doctor.

Spoiler alert: this is all completely normal!

How to Manage Like a New Dentist

You’ve spent the last 4+ years of your life focused on becoming a dentist, and dental school tells you you’re prepared for anything. But once you get out of those walls and into the real world of dentistry, it’s a whole different story.

You may have no idea how this all works in practice. Again, that’s all completely normal!

It can be difficult to get into an established office and be seen as the leader when you are a new doc.

And again, this is all completely normal!

I hope you understand my point. Everything you experience and feel is normal. Everyone enters the practice with varying levels of trust and expectations.

8 tips for a new dental assistant

I would like to give you some tips and advice on how to be seen as a leader, even if you are the ‘new doctor’.

1. Pretend Until You Make It

We have all heard this phrase and I believe it is true to some extent in the world as a new dentist.

As Amy Cuddy said in her TED talk you can watch here“our body changes our mind, our mind changes our behavior, and our behavior changes our results.”

Her talk is about the idea that our body positioning affects how we feel. You may have heard of a power pose – sounds crazy – but if you take a minute to stand like Superman or Wonder Woman before giving a lecture, or perhaps performing a difficult procedure, you will change your mind. biochemistry and feel more confident!

2. Do things inside and outside of dentistry to build your confidence.

Find something that you enjoy and that challenges you.

For me, I started running and racing triathlons. Not only was it a great outlet for stress, but it was also a way to challenge myself, get in good physical shape and build my confidence, which translated into confidence as a dentist.

3. Find a mentor

Having a person or people to talk to about all things dentistry and life outside of dentistry is so important.

Find someone you trust and admire and ask them to be your mentor. This question would make most people’s day from what I found. I think you’d be surprised how much support there is if you just ask.

This mentor can give you support and encouragement, which is invaluable. I recommend building your own team as the world of dentistry is very difficult to do on your own whether that be a mentor, counselor, therapist, coach or a combination of those.

4. Don’t be a people pleaser

This is so ordinary from what I’ve seen as a dentist. That is one of the reasons why we chose this profession.

However, if you don’t control it, trying to make everyone happy will make you miserable. And remember, you can’t please everyone!

5. Have limits

As a new and most likely young dentist, you will find that the staff are similar or close to you in age. It can be challenging to have those boundaries between your professional role as a doctor/boss and friendships. It is possible to do, but it may take some difficult conversations along with having boundaries at work.

6. Communicate

Be clear. Be direct. Do not avoid conflict. Develop good communication skills.

Be open and honest with your team. Listen. Hold regular meetings to communicate – both ways – informing them but also encouraging their ideas.

Also set clear expectations. Often the staff does not even know what is expected of them.

For example, I once went into an office and the assistants didn’t keep my mirror clean while working on the upper jaw. Later I learned that the previous doctor hadn’t prepared with water, and they didn’t even know they had to!

Hard to believe, but it was true. After learning this and discussing it with them, they knew what to do and kept my mirror clear.

If you set clear expectations, the team should know what to do and do it. They shouldn’t need micromanaging, but they do need accountability. Hold your team accountable.

7. Manage emotions

Attitude is everything.

Sometimes as a dentist you have to be an actor/actress. However you feel, it’s important to put on a smile for staff and patients, at least during working hours.

Set a good example. Yes, you are the doctor, but be humble. Nobody likes a dictator.

8. Four wins

Appreciate your team. Get to know them, but again, boundaries.

The office you enter should also help you with this. For example, the office I recently joined held staff meetings prior to my joining where they went through the verbiage the staff should be using and “talking to me”. This immediately helped the staff welcome, accept and respect me.

Leadership as a new dentist

As a new dentist it is sometimes a tough road, but leading an existing team is possible. You can learn to lead even as a beginner.

Leadership is a skill you can learn. The sooner you start working on these leadership skills, the better your life as a dentist will be!

And when you start implementing these actions, such as clear communication, setting boundaries and expectations, holding meetings, and holding the team accountable, you begin to build trust with your team. Building trust is the cornerstone of any relationship, but especially as a new dentist to be able to lead your team.

Jennifer Murphy

dr. Jennifer Murphy graduated in 2006 with a doctorate in dentistry from Ohio State University. She is in good standing with the American Dental Association, North Carolina Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. dr. Murphy received her Fellowship from the Academy of General Dentistry in 2021. In addition to practicing general dentistry, she is also a practice coach for Benco Dental.

Next: Your first dental assistant contract

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