Practice success is directly tied to the quality, skill level, and efficiency of the orthodontic team. Here are three tips to build a world-class team.

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

Almost every orthodontist would agree that the quality of the orthodontic team has a direct effect on the ability of the practice to grow. And in business, either you are growing or you are declining.

We are entering an era where the variety of orthodontic practices is increasing in regard to the number of referrals, starts and revenue that they are achieving. If we were to look back at orthodontic practice production 20 years ago, the bell curve would be tall and narrow. Most practices were much closer to the center of the curve as a group. Today that curve is flatter and wider, which means that we are seeing a fragmentation and greater variety of orthodontic practice performance. This should not come as a surprise. Orthodontic practices are experiencing more competition from both traditional and nontraditional service delivery models than ever before. A trend I believe will continue.

One way that orthodontists can protect the practice from the impact of increased competition and the challenges to practice growth that come with it is to build and keep a wonderful team.

How do you build a high-quality orthodontic team?

Orthodontics more than any other type of dental practice lends itself to world-class performance based on the quality, skill level, and efficiency of the orthodontic team. This is because orthodontics is a volume-based business and in a high-volume business the team managing that volume becomes exponentially more important. Here are some recommendations that will allow you to build a world-class team.

Treat your team like customers.

A new philosophy from Levin Group is to actually view your team members as customers. You want your customers to feel welcomed and included. This entails developing a strategic customer service plan to ensure an ongoing high-level positive relationship between the practice and the customer. Orthodontic practices should take the time to map out an annual customer service plan for team members. What will be done weekly, monthly and annually to bring the team together, develop skills, create cooperation and camaraderie, and continue to reinforce the benefit of working in this particular practice.

Be on alert with the old guard and the new guard.

Many orthodontic practices, if not the majority, are now facing a blended staff with long-term team members and a record rate of new hires. This does not always work out well as some practices begin to develop an old guard versus new guard mentality. It doesn’t start that way, but the old guard begins to resent the new guard as not being experienced or having ideas that do not fit the practice. The new guard often has the exact opposite sense, that the old guard is complacent, stodgy and unwilling to change.

It is the responsibility of the practice leaders, typically the orthodontist, to ensure that the old guard and the new come together. One of the best strategies to accomplish this is to assign an old guard mentor to every new guard hire. When the old guard mentor becomes responsible for the orientation, indoctrination, and ongoing support for 6 months of a new guard hire, it tends to break down barriers. Even if the new guard hire is tremendously experienced, it still makes sense to have a mentor—with an understanding that the new guard hire can ask the mentor anything at any time. It is also important for the old guard mentor to understand that a major part of the role is to help integrate the new guard hire with the rest of the team and accelerate the feeling of acceptance.

Recognize that training is now part of the practice responsibility.

For the most part, a larger portion of the training an orthodontic staff receives is on-the-job training. Larger businesses have training and education departments. General Electric has an entire facility that rivals many colleges and universities where employees are sent for programs and courses to enhance their expertise. While creating a training university is beyond the scope of the orthodontic practice, regular training for team members is essential. Training can be accessed in many ways today. Live seminars, online webinars, sales representatives, etc. With the right training everyone can learn to perform faster and better in the orthodontic practice.

Speed is important because orthodontics is a volume-based business. The faster the speed of team members, the higher the volume of the practice, leading to higher production, profit and income.

The goal of building a world class orthodontic team has not changed. It may be more challenging as new hires are joining orthodontic practices at a higher rate than ever before. However, taking the right steps to keep moving toward a world-class team will allow orthodontic practices to perform as well or better than ever before.OP

Adding a New Team Member

There is a staffing shortage in dentistry and orthodontics specifically. The shortage will not be going away anytime soon, and it’s related to the staffing and employment shortage nationally. One of the major goals of every orthodontic practice should be to attract the right candidates, and then maintain high levels of staff longevity. The best way to do that: Make sure new team members are onboarded with a systemic strategy. So, once you’ve assigned your new hire a mentor, here are some suggestions to build that connection.

Meet with the new hire once a week for the first 6 weeks. A new hire is not automatically a perfect fit. Schedule a 10-minute meeting every week between the new person and the office manager or orthodontist just to chat and see how things are going. This is not a performance review or a complaint session. It is a check-in to see how the new hire is feeling and what they might be experiencing. It will also show the new hire that the practice leadership cares enough to meet with them and help to ensure that they have selected the right position.

Work with the new hire on three goals. Levin Group has always recommended that every team member has three goals for the year. It would be unfair to ask a new hire to have goals from the first day they enter the practice. However, after about 90 days it is a good idea to identify three goals with the new team member that will help her also to become part of the practice. Teams with goals do better.

Encourage the new hire to gradually speak up. New hires are often hesitant to speak up because they are new. However, if this person has experience, it is important to give them an opportunity to give feedback about how they view their job and the practice. You want to do this carefully, so it doesn’t come across as arrogance to other team members, but it is always beneficial to hear what someone with “fresh eyes” has to say.

Roger Levin

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the CEO and founder of Levin Group, a leading practice management consulting firm that has worked with over 30,000 practices to increase production. A recognized expert on orthodontic practice management and marketing, he has written 67 books and over 4,000 articles and regularly presents seminars in the U.S. and around the world. To contact Levin or to join the 40,000 dental professionals who receive his Practice Production Tip of the Day, visit or email [email protected].