Successful Team Communication

Team Meetings in the Dental Office

Is the highlight of your team meeting the doughnuts, or worse – venting with little hope of change? It’s time to shift the agenda!

Managing a dental practice is no easy feat. The daily demands of providing top-quality dental care are so much more than the actual treatment provided. Dentists must:

  • Communicate effectively with patients and staff
  • Ensure compliance is maintained with proper protocols
  • Monitor scheduling
  • Check on lab cases
  • Communicate with specialists
  • Oversee the business aspect of the practice

The list of responsibilities can feel daunting.

Team meetings should not be an added burden to an already difficult job. When structured properly, they can provide motivation, additional learning opportunities, brainstorming sessions, facilitate communication, and provide added enthusiasm that helps move practices forward. Start with setting and communicating clear objectives for your monthly meetings. This is a team-building event – don’t save up all the little things to discuss. Small items, such as “don’t forget chart notes need to be completed by the end of each day,” can be addressed quickly at morning huddles. The monthly team meeting is reserved for growth topics. It is a chance for everyone to hear the same information at the same time. The “no one ever told me” excuse is gone forever.

Create a meeting everyone looks forward to, try the following agenda.



Kudos (10 minutes)

Celebrate your success as a team! Inspire each other. Allow time for everyone to throw out a “kudos” for a team member who went the extra mile last month. Perhaps someone worked through a difficult communication with a patient that ended in smiles, or someone stayed late to help with a case that ran longer than expected or covered for a staff member who was out sick. Don’t miss an opportunity to pat someone on the back. Time for kudos will start the meeting on a positive note.


Follow-up (10 minutes)

Review the notes from the previous meeting and the assigned task list. Offer support to team members unable to complete their assigned task, find out why, and help them tackle it next time. Time for follow-up holds team members accountable.


New Business + Safety Meeting (20 minutes)

This time is reserved for staff members to bring up topics needing clarification, reminders to follow set protocols, and ask general questions. This should be a time for discussions that need more time than the morning huddle allows. (Hopefully, most of the quick questions and clarifications have taken place in the morning huddle.) Sadly, many practices don’t move past this section of their team meeting. A team meeting stuck here is impossible to make productive and engaging. It is critical to get through topics in this section and allow enough time for the next agenda item…growth topics.


Growth Topics (40 minutes)

The positivity doesn’t end with kudos – the bulk of the meeting is spent on growth topics. These topics are initiated by either the dentist, who has identified an area he/she would like to coach and teach, or by staff members who are requesting additional knowledge. Post the meeting agenda in a central location so staff members can add to it as topics come to mind. Need ideas?

  • Share the practice performance, are the numbers matching the growth goals? If not, brainstorm solutions.
  • Share what the dentist looks for in a panoramic or cone-beam image.
  • Share a case that was difficult or complicated and review the best protocols.
  • Review scripting and critical patient transitions from the clinic to the administration team and between the doctor and clinical staff. What needs to be handed off in front of the patient for enhanced case acceptance?
  • Improve patient interview skills and review open-ended vs. close-ended questions.

Once a growth topic is selected, don’t stray. Meetings go awry quickly when the train is derailed from the track. As side topics are introduced, add them to the list for an upcoming meeting and set the train back on track.


Closing Comments (10 minutes)

Wrap-up with the last 10 minutes of the meeting, create an action plan, and assign needed tasks to individual team members. Task assignment creates and further supports accountability.

Rotate the role of note-taking at meetings. Meeting notes should be posted in a central location.

Team meetings help the staff stay focused on what really matters to the doctor. They develop team synergy and create a sense of importance for their contribution to the work. Dental teams change lives; be proud of what you do, let your team meetings continue to further hone skills, and allow open communication to support patient care and practice goals!


To be clear – don’t forget the doughnuts!


Additional Growth Topic Examples


  • Divide into small groups and brainstorm how to differentiate your practice. Come back together, and share as a team.
  • Practice the transitions between the clinic and the front office to review what was completed and discuss the next steps. This should be done verbally in front of the patient as a “recap” and transition correct information to the front office team.
  • Practice the transitions between the hygienist and doctor to facilitate a co-diagnosis approach.
  • Review open-ended versus close-ended questions and why it’s important to use open-ended questions when talking with patients. Practice reframing close-ended questions – “How has that space on the lower-left impacted you?” versus “Does the space on the lower-left bother you?”
  • Review the practice vision and mission statement.
  • Create a “benefit for procedure grid” and fill in all the benefits of the most common treatment you offer. Everyone using the same language when discussing treatment creates consistency for the patient.
  • Set new yearly or quarterly goals for the practice and discuss how to implement changes to ensure success.
  • Review recare retention and systems to make sure you meet a 95% retention goal.
  • Review case acceptance rates for restorative treatment and practice consultative case presentation skills.
  • Identify opportunities to ask for referral requests and reviews for Google, Yelp, and HealthGrades. Scripting is available through the Practice Support Team.
  • Talk a walk through the practice from the “eyes of the patient” and note areas needing improvement. Everyone should carry a clipboard and make their own notes, come back as a team to review.
  • Review language skills so everyone can answer common questions from patients consistently. These might include “Are you a PPO provider with my plan?” and “Why won’t my insurance cover this?” Know how to answer honestly without turning a patient away when they are out-of-network.
  • Address verbal skills to discuss gum disease, the difference between a D1110 and D4910, and how to discuss the additional out-of-pocket expense a patient may encounter. Scripting is available through the Practice Support Team.



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