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Front Office vs. Back Office: How to Unite Your Dental Team

Take a moment to put yourself in the following scenario.

You wake up in the morning with a feeling of dread about going to work.

First thing when you walk into the office, you’re greeted by an environment that is negative, dull, or just feels like an energy suck. You spend the day trying to just get your job done and avoid interacting with co-workers as much as possible. You’re continually looking at the clock to figure out how many more hours before you can leave. Every single day you find yourself having to do extra to pick up the workload of others who don’t do their part. All day, every day, it feels like you are on an isolated island, all on your own and with no one there to help you. You’re exhausted at the end of the day after spending every moment faking a smile when a patient walks in and trying hide how much you dislike this office and everyone who works here.

Pretty terrible, right? Now let’s imagine a very different scenario…

Waking up excited to get to work in the morning.

Driving into work excited about the day ahead and the patients you will see. Arriving at the office with a big smile on your face, feeling truly welcomed by other co-workers and your boss. Meeting with your team at the beginning of the day to develop a plan of how to make the day run as smoothly as possible, with everyone actively looking for areas of teamwork to help one another out. Staying happily busy throughout the day, knowing that you are there to help others out and you know they have your back, too. Feeling that you are working effectively and efficiently in your role, not only because of your own abilities but also because of superstar work by your co-workers. Greeting patients with a happy, energetic smile and making them feel that they are in the best dental office in town. Finishing the day as a team, leaving no one behind and going home feeling accomplished.

Which kind of day would you rather have on a regular basis? Does the second scenario seem like an impossible dream?

In fact, it really is possible to have an office that runs like the second scenario, but it cannot be just one person who makes this happen. It takes effort and buy-in from the entire team.

The first step in getting a change like this to happen is to take down the “us vs. them” walls and start thinking of everyone in the office as part of the same amazing team.

In most dental offices, there is an obvious division of hygienists against dental assistants, front office vs. back office, or team vs. doctor. This culture of being against each other needs to stop. It’s bad for morale and productivity, it affects the quality of customer service your office can provide to patients, and ultimately it does not allow the ability to work as one big team. If there’s going to be an “us vs. them” happening in the dental office, it should be us as the entire office against the real things we should be fighting, which is dental decay, gum disease, insurance companies, and every other thing that stops our patients from getting the care that they need.

The second step to unite your front and back office teams is by teaching everyone specific ways they can work better together and support one another.

A dental office is going to run more efficiently and more enjoyably when the team realizes that each position plays an important role in the success of the entire team. An amazing dental team needs rock star front office employees, amazing dental assistants, superhero hygienists, and superstar dentists in order to pull together the best dental care possible for the patients. No single job is more important than another, and no one role works harder than any other role. The office can thrive long-term only if every individual person on the team is dedicated not just to their own success but to the success of the team as a whole. There are good and bad parts of all of the positions in the office, and as long as the team realizes they need one another, they can learn to work better together and always respect one another.

Finally, everyone on the team should continually look for ways they can step up their game, improve in their individual roles, make sure not to let others down, and watch for ways to help out whenever possible.

Any team is only as strong as the weakest team member. Everyone on your team needs to learn, grow, and improve on a regular basis to keep the team moving forward and to build a culture of trust. The team will be more united when they know they can trust and rely on one another. When everyone on the team can see that each team member is doing the best they are capable of and that all team members will be there to hold each other up, the team will become stronger and dedicated to staying united.

Remember the scenario about being excited to come to work every day, giving patients the best care possible in a great team environment, and going home at night feeling like the team has made a difference? That scenario really is possible when you are actively building a culture where the team works together throughout the day and every day. I will leave you with a quote that I love, which you can use to regularly remind your team about why this is so important:

“If you take out the team in teamwork, it’s just work. Now who wants that?” ― Matthew Woodring Stover

Related Dental Training Resources:

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.