I received an email from a dentist who wanted to know what to do about an assistant who kept making treatment planning and treatment progress suggestions/comments that were not appropriate. I called the dentist to determine if the dentist was overreacting or if the staff member was indeed out of bounds.
In this case, the dentist was right. The staff member was young and inexperienced. She kept making treatment suggestions that were not reasonable and kept saying she was seeing things in the mouth during treatment that were not present. She was causing confusion and apprehension for the patients. I told him he needed to talk to his assistant about HOW to appropriately make suggestions/comments but remember that she was only making suggestions out of enthusiasm and wanting to do a good job.
On the opposite side of this conversation, when I was a young dentist, I had a very experienced lead assistant who had previously been the head of the DAU department at UCLA. She knew as much about treatment planning, materials, labs, etc. as the majority of dentists. Her input to me was extremely valuable to me in the moment and in building my skills for my career. I actively encouraged her to professionally discuss anything she noticed or suggested. She was 100% professional and my patients felt surrounded by a friendly and expert team.
It is a fine line for staff to walk. Staff want to make appropriate treatment suggestions, make sure you are seeing everything and to be involved but this can crossover into being over aggressive and cause confusion for the patients.
The real trick is that the suggestions/comments need to be made in a professional manner. The staff member cannot sound like they are finding fault in the dentist’s treatment plan or treatment itself – rather the staff is adding additional ideas or perspectives. The patient wants a supportive and collegial dentist staff relationship. They want to know that all the various options are being given to them. They want to see that the dentist is self-assured and surrounds themselves with bright and interested staff members.
Dr. Corey Gold
President – Advanced Continuing Education Systems
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