Episode 606: Dynamite Dental Assistants

dental assistants Nov 23, 2022

This is an episode dedicated to the dental assistants out there. Kiera and Tiff have both worked and loved working as dental assistants, sucking spit and all. They tease out what July 2023 will entail, methods provided by the Dental A-Team to perfect the cog in the wheel (aka those dental assistants) of practices — taking blood pressure and flipping rooms in under 5 minutes and keeping the patient happy chairside.

Take the time to make your dental assistant team dynamite. This episode previews just how you can do that.

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0:00:05.9 Kiera Dent: Hey everyone, welcome to the Dental A Team Podcast. I'm your host, Kiera Dent, and I had this crazy idea that maybe I could combine a doctor and a team member's perspective, because let's face it, dentistry can be a challenging profession with those two perspectives. I've been a dental assistant, treatment coordinator, scheduler, filler, office manager, regional manager, practice owner, and I have a team of traveling consultants where we have traveled over 165 different offices coaching teams. Yep, we don't just understand you, we are you. Our mission is to positively impact the world of dental, and I believe that this podcast is the greatest way I could help elevate teams, grow VIP experiences, reduce stress, and create A teams. Welcome to the Dental A Team Podcast.


0:00:51.6 KD: Hello, Dental A Team listeners. This is Kiera and the one and only Tiff. We are back today with Dynamite Dental Assistants, the theme in our 12 themes. We are on theme number seven of 12. Tiff, we're over halfway. How are you feeling about this Labor of Love patchwork quilt?

0:01:06.9 Tiff: I feel like we need that back again song, guess who's back? [chuckle] Like, that's what we need.

0:01:13.6 KD: Guess who's back? Shady's back.

0:01:15.5 Tiff: That's the line. [chuckle]

0:01:17.1 KD: Okay, I agree. We're back, Tiff. We are back to do Dynamite Dental Assistants.

0:01:20.9 Tiff: Da da da dem. [chuckle] These dental assistants need some attention. Here's the deal. We realized dental assistants do not get enough attention in life, and we wanted to dedicate an entire month to it. And I'm really excited for that, Kiera.

0:01:32.1 KD: I am too, because guess what? Tiff and I, we're going back to our roots of dental assistants. Tiff and I started, guys, we were dental assistants back in the day. And honestly, can someone please email me in? Do dental assistants get any attention in the world of dentistry? The answer is no. We get a suck spit, be spit upon, and we never get any attention. So, that's why we said Dynamite Dental Assistants. I think Tiff, again, named this theme. So guys, if you're loving the titles, you can just thank Spiffy Tiffy over there.

0:02:02.3 Tiff: Yeah, that's me. Kiera named me, I name all the months. [laughter]

0:02:07.2 KD: That name actually came from a podcast. It was one of my intros, and it just came out of me, and here we are. Many months later, Tiff's got a jacket on there. Who knows what else will happen today? But you know. So guys, as Tiff and I have been walking you through this, this is theme seven of 12. Remember, we're going through this. You should be rating each of these areas of your practice to see by the end of the year, which areas you really need help on for next year to make it a dynamite year. So Tiff, let's walk them through. What does it even mean? Like the dental assistant department. I mean, we suck spit and get paid for it. Like that's literally what dental assistants do. That is not trying to be condescending, guys. Dental assistants, I think, are hardworking individuals. I just like to make the joke. That used to be what I'd say. People are like, "What do you do for a living?" And I'd say "I suck spit," just because I thought it was funny. And I love shirts that say like, "Same spit, different day." Like, yeah, it's really true. [laughter]

0:03:04.9 Tiff: I know. I do have to say though, my favorite position because I've done almost all of them in the practice, I think all of us consultants have, my favorite position was actually dental assistant. I loved it. I loved the relationship that I got to have with my patients. And I liked feeling like I was a part of their happy experience and fixing their teeth. I got to be a part of that. And my relationship with my doctor was so strong because I spent all day next to him. Like we talked about life, we talked about patients, about business. We talked about everything all day. And I really felt the most fulfilled in my dental practice career as a dental assistant. It was literally my favorite spot. Kiera, do you feel the same or is that just me?

0:03:50.5 KD: No, 100%. Dental assisting was so fun. I think it's people... Okay, I've made this comment and I say all the time when I go to restaurants, I'm like, "Man, Jase, I just wish I loved people as much as servers do." Like they love to serve. They love to make your meal perfect. They love to just dote on you. And I've always said like, "Man, I just wish I loved people that much." Record scratch right here, like... I think being a dental assistant, you really, really love people, if you're a dental assistant. Our world is, as dental assistants, to serve our doctors. Like that was my greatest joy was to have the patient experience be amazing where they were leaving my operatory completely smiling and happy and having a great time. And my doctor to feel like it was not stressful, they didn't have to talk to me, I knew five steps ahead of what they wanted, even more so than what they thought that they wanted. Like, I knew exactly what they needed. So I really feel the dental assistant world is so fun. It's so fulfilling. It's so necessary. It's so overlooked, and really was, I think, one... I miss being a dental assistant. I miss making people laugh. I think my most shining moment as a dental assistant, this will forever be permeated in my brain, I was assisting. I've got a few of them. I had the girl who was terrified and she didn't want to do a bite reg, and I convinced her, it was like having blue peeps 'cause it was around Easter time.

0:05:18.0 Tiff: Oh my gosh, nobody's told me that. [chuckle]

0:05:19.5 KD: And ever since then, she loved me. I think that was just a fun time. Like, she would only come to the dentist to see me. But I truly think my most shining moment as a dental assistant was the time that I was... I've shared this before, guys, this was literally... Might be one of my top most embarrassing moments. I was doing cheek retractors on a patient to take ortho pictures, and so I was standing in front of the patient, looking them in the eyes, very authoritative dental assistant here. [laughter] And I said, "Okay, we're going to spread your cheeks and I'm going to take a picture." And I remember just looking at her mortified, and she lost it. And I was like, "Not that kind. We're just taking ortho pictures." I was beyond mortified, but I think that dental assistants really do allow to have some comedy relief, some comfort...

0:06:11.4 Tiff: Absolutely agree.

0:06:12.2 KD: And just to make, like to defuse all stressful situations with what we're doing for patients and for doctors and for teams.

0:06:18.9 Tiff: Yeah, I totally agree. Totally agree. I love that. So I think this month, we decided like we've got to dedicate time to dental assistants, because that was our favorite, and you guys deserve an entire month and you get July, which I have to say, it's my second favorite month of the year, because obviously, my first favorite is my own birthday, but July is my son's birthday, which makes me feel a little guilty saying that, but I'm going to be honest and truthful. [laughter] It's my second favorite month of the year. [chuckle]

0:06:45.5 KD: If you didn't know another fun fact about Tiff and Kiera is we do actually share the exact same birthday. That is not a joke. It was the first time we really met and we found out we truly had the same birthday. And I don't like sharing my birthday, nor does Tiff, but yet it's real fun to share with Tiff. 'Cause we're two peas in a pod. It's really odd, really awesome. I'm 90% sure we were twins in another life. So, here we are. [chuckle]

0:07:08.9 Tiff: I agree. [laughter] So my second favorite month of the year has been dedicated to our Dynamite Dental Assistants, which I love. And really what we tried to focus on here was really just figuring out, what are the areas that we could help save time by building efficiency? So what are the areas that make you a dynamite dental assistant? And if I were still chair side, what are the things that I would want to be really, really fantastic at? Because we know your time is limited, right? You've got time that you're stuck in the chair, first of all, right? Like you're stuck in the room with the patient and then you've got all these other things outside of the room that you're supposed to be taking care of. So how can we make that experience for you, as well as the patient, a dynamite one? How can we save time chair side or save time when it's just you and the patient or setting up prior? Like what can we do to make your lives more efficient, to bring that sense of ease in there? Because that's always our goal, is efficiency, ease, kind of making your life better while increasing productivity so that it's not increasing productivity and making your lives harder where you feel like you're spinning your wheels for nothing.

0:08:12.4 Tiff: We like to do the opposite. We like to make things more efficient, more productivity built-in, and at the end of the day, you're feeling a little bit better. So that's our goal here is really like timing yourself on different procedures, getting calibrated, making sure your rooms are set up the same. I walk into so many practices that it's like OP 1 is this way because it's Susie's OP, and OP 2 is this way because it's Joanna's OP. But then OP 3, that's Joe's space, so who knows what's going on over there? And as a provider, as a doctor, doctors go into those rooms. If I were by myself, I would have no idea what to do. So, the productivity goes down. Dental assistants, if you ever have to flip flop rooms, which I know like Susie and Joanna out there, we never change rooms, right? But guess what? Sometimes, it's going to happen. Sometimes, Susie's going to be sick and Joanna, you're going to be working out of two rooms. And if Susie's room is a mess to you, because it's not set up the same as yours, your productivity goes down, you're wasting brain power on things that could be made really, really simple if we just made things unified.

0:09:11.4 Tiff: So, are they unified? Are they intuitive? That's a huge thing that we miss. I think of my sister's kitchen, [chuckle] because she has like these little baby drawers in her apartment kitchen. We live in the same apartment complex. We have two different apartment styles. And my kitchen is beautiful. And it's like, I could do whatever I want in here. My sister's kitchen is literally just facing a different direction and all of her drawers are like shrunken. [chuckle] So, she complains all the time, because her silverware is all the way across the kitchen from where the plates are. And intuitively, you want to grab a plate, reach down, grab a fork. You want it to be right there together, next to each other. We don't think about those things necessarily. But when we're setting up our kitchen, we intuitively put things where they would make the most sense. I think of dental practices that way. Is your sterilization room set up intuitively? Like, can I reach my hand up? As soon as I take everything out of the shaker, and it's dry and I'm ready to bag it, can I reach my hand up from where I'm standing and grab those bags?

0:10:12.8 Tiff: Are they right there? Are they in a drawer underneath? Or do I have to take two steps to the right or the left, wasting some of that efficiency? So we really focused a lot on that, like intuitive setups, making sure that you're doing things ahead of time to create efficiency so that you're getting less stress in your day and you're getting some of your time back. That's always our goals.

0:10:35.3 KD: Hello, Dental A Team listeners. This is Kiera, and you guys, how was your 2022? I want you to look back and tell me, was it the year of years or was it a really hard year? Did you crush it or did it crush you? This is the time, guys, for end of year. Dental A Team Platinum is welcoming you where we will physically fly to your practice. We will come and we will elevate your dreams and make them into a reality. And guys, space is limited and prices are going up. This is not a sales pitch. This is not something where I'm trying to scare you into it. I'm just facing the reality of, inflation is here, flights are expensive, and I want to see as many people as we possibly can and serve as many as we can. So, if you want to be part of our elite group of people, there are limited spaces because our consultants can only see as many... We are taking on 10 new Platinum offices by the end of the year, and that's it. That's all we have space for. So, if you want to be one of the elite 10, come join us. Be a part of our top notch elite doctor community. Be a part of our office manager and hygiene and front office communities.

0:11:43.7 KD: Get your operations manual done and live the life that you've only been dreaming of today. Email me, [email protected] and make 2023 truly a year that's unforgettable. We are a complete tax write-off, and like I said, we are only taking 10 offices. So, don't get left behind. Be one of those 10, and I cannot wait to give you the biggest, warmest welcome to completely and utterly changing your life for good. Welcome to the Dental A Team. I can't wait for you to join us. [email protected] Cheers to 2023 and making you your best self yet. For sure. And I think also, dental assistants are always the tricky one, I think, for a practice to "grow and monitor," and to give things for them to do. It's like, well, hygienists are doing their production and doctors are doing their production and schedulers need to have a full schedule, and office managers need to make sure our overhead's there, and billers are collection. Like, what do our dental assistants do? I feel like they're the cog in the wheels that just makes everything keep spinning. But there's no set place for them.

0:12:50.6 KD: But I think that there are set places for them. And I think having them all be able to do... Could your assistants, if you've got multiple doctors, can every assistant interchange with every doctor? To Tiff's point, that efficiency, holy moly. I was thinking with Susie and Joanna's rooms, talk about the lack of efficiency that, I can't use multiple rooms 'cause I can't use it. That's a very inefficient practice and we're not able to give our patients the best care because we've chosen to do that. But if your assistants all, guys, standardize that sucker up. Think about it. Like, this is where corporate dentistry has us all beat. This is where McDonald's and Arby's and all those fast food chains have us beat, because what they've done well is systematize all these things to make it easy. I think the biggest frustration, this is like nails on a chalkboard, is when dental assistants are getting up because we don't have our room set up. Like, oh my gosh, for the love of everything, just have that dang room set up. But like, just do it. We do the same thing every single day. A filling does not hardly change. A crown prep does not hardly change. Like, you can have that set up perfectly. I love things in life that I can be 100% perfect on.

0:14:02.8 KD: And I feel like the dental assistant world can truly be 100% on 10-minute temps, 10-minute scans, being able to have our rooms 100% set up perfectly for every procedure, being able to take blood pressure on every single patient, being able to flip our rooms in under five minutes from when the patient leaves. Like, these are truly skills that can be mastered and perfected every single time. And so, I feel like really taking the time to make your dental assistant team dynamites. Can they do every procedure in the practice, or is it, "Oh my gosh, we've gotta call Tiff 'cause Kiera doesn't know how to scan?" Like, that's a reality that happens in practices, guys, right now. I probably would be your assistant who can't scan. I didn't have the scanning world. So that's something where you probably would be calling someone in. Not true. As a dental assistant, I would take ownership and I would learn that and become an A team player, because I don't want to be dragging my team down. So if you're an assistant who doesn't know how to do those things, that's on you, honey. That's on you to learn it, to grow. I didn't know how to flip a room that fast. I didn't know how to write notes and have them done before my doctor left the room. I didn't know how to make a temp. Oh gosh, like, let's go back to the day that Dr. Call... I hope he listens to the podcast, and if not, they'll just get to call Dr. Call.

0:15:19.2 Tiff: [chuckle] He totally does.

0:15:20.5 KD: One day, he was like, "Kiera, you do this?" And I was like, "I do. I know, it's shocking. Don't worry, you and I are both surprised." I remember shooting you in the eyeball. Thank heavens you had glasses on, because I blew air in an open socket, shot the poor man with blood straight into the loops. That was definitely a look over that patient's face that I will never forget. Over the day, he used to wear these gowns over the front of... He truly looked like a ghost. And if he still wears them, Dr. Call, I'm not trying to all be offensive. I just remember and it's very important that I share that detail because it was the day that I went to show him an impression, and I remember him very methodically scooching back from the patient's head, spinning like straight up Dracula. His cape went flying, walking down the hall and saying, "Kiera, I'm going to show you how to do an impression." Like he was so sick of me having bubbles in my impressions that we went down in the middle of a procedure and he sat there with me and showed me, he's like, "Kiera, you need to mix this like sour cream, and you need to pour it in... " Like, we had a full blown Dracula walking me down into the basement. I had to go learn how to do impressions.

0:16:31.0 KD: But do we take the time to train our assistants? You guys, I can pour the most beautiful impression, thanks to Dr. Call, that you have ever seen. I never get air bubbles, because I remember, it's sour cream. You gotta make sure it flows in really well. Use a little explore to pop all the bubbles and make it to where I can have perfect essix trays, perfect retainer trays. Scans are the same way, guys, like learning these things, but do we actually take the time to train up our assistant team to expect that of all of them? Or is it, "Oh man, Kiera's just the worst on freaking impressions. She's got bubbles all the time. Just ask Tiff to take that." That's so inefficient and that is not a dynamite dental assistant. That is called a broken dental assistant team. Like we cannot have our favorites that we call upon, we need to expect our whole assistant team to be just as good, if not better, than their teammate to where they can jump in, do all procedures, and we have those expectations laid out for them.

0:17:25.7 Tiff: Yep, I totally agree. I totally agree and I think that was one piece as a dental assistant that I was really, really diligent about, is if I had a dental assistant with me that couldn't do something, that continued to come ask me to do it, you know me, I was like "Listen, this is not okay. This is so inefficient. I can't keep leaving these rooms, so you're gonna watch me do it, I'm gonna watch you do it. We're gonna get on the same page." And then I would also have meetings monthly with the dental assisting team to make sure that we were calibrated. Like what new procedures were coming in? I know there was always... Oh my gosh, what was it called? Oh my gosh, I can't even think of what it was called. Actually, I woke up from a dream the other day and it was like popped into my head. [chuckle] It was so annoying and it was this stupid ribbon that doctor always wanted and it goes behind the teeth, and it holds them together and nobody ever knew where it was. And I would get calls on vacation, like, "Where is this... "

0:18:22.0 KD: Teflon tape?

0:18:23.3 Tiff: Yeah. [laughter] How many times have we seen that on implants? It's fine. [laughter] But the stupid thing, right? And it was like the one-off stuff that you don't use all the time, that one person knows where it is. I went wild with that stuff. I was like, "Listen, we have to get a meeting about these pieces, because I cannot be called for this perio... Whatever it was, that he probably still has, that nobody knows where it's at. It's probably still in the same place that I left it six years ago, but it's fine. [chuckle]

0:18:54.1 KD: Agreed.

0:18:56.4 Tiff: It's totally fine. But getting calibrated, getting all those pieces, that's what this month is all about. And just making sure our dental assistants feel the love, and they feel like, hey, we're looking out for you too. We've got your back. We've put all these parts and pieces into play for the rest of the team to find a reprieve in their day and to get more time back and to be able to dedicate more time to that patient experience. We've got your back too. And we've got some awesome ideas to help you get through it as well.

0:19:23.6 KD: So guys, let's have you rate it up. Dental assistants would be the equivalent of our office assistants in our company. And I would say right now, I'd get a 1.5. I'm giving us a 1.5 on it. And the reason why is we have brand new ones and I will be completely upfront that we have not expected them to be to the level of our team. And we've just kind of been coddling, like, "Oh, it's fine. Shelby can do it." So that is where we really truly do need to improve it to make it better. And for us, calibrating our office assistants. So for you guys, let's rate your dynamite dental assistants, not with how much you like them, because we know you love them. But how are they? Are they all calibrated for all procedures? Can they do scans in less than 10 minutes, every single one of them? Do they all know how to do every procedure in the practice? Are our rooms standardized? Do they not get up during procedures because we actually have it all set up? Do they have perfect handoffs? Do they have perfect... Oh, here's my favorite one.

0:20:22.6 KD: Tiff, we need to add this 'cause I'm not seeing it on there. Do they do perfect walkouts and perfect notes? Because they get missed all the time. Like, "Oh, I can't." I remember the days assistants would just come dump it in my lap and be like, "I wasn't able to set it complete." And I'm like, "I don't freaking know what you just did back there." Like, this is a bit of a problem 'cause now I've gotta go play hide and go seek and figure out what on earth you guys just hid, AKA did, and try and set it complete. So making sure that those pieces are there. So, rate it up, give yourself a number on your assistant team, where are they at? What's your number? And then be sure, guys, to follow up with us next week where Tiff and I are going to dive into our next theme of elevated hygiene. So Tiff, thanks for being on the show today. I super, super appreciate you giving back our dental assistant glory days and helping offices really ramp that up. So Tiff, thanks for being here today.

0:21:12.8 Tiff: Of course, thanks for having me.

0:21:14.5 KD: Absolutely. And for all of you guys, thanks for listening and I'll catch you next time on The Dental A Team Podcast.


0:21:22.4 KD: And that wraps it up for another episode of The Dental A Team Podcast. Thank you so much for listening, and we'll talk to you next time.




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