Every job has its frustrations. The important thing is to find solutions that can make staff happier and the workplace more fun, while increasing practice production.

By Roger P. Levin, DDS

Staffing has hit a crisis level in dentistry and orthodontics is no exception. In fact, orthodontics may be more affected because orthodontic assistants display higher skill levels for their particular jobs and accept far more delegation than the average dental assistant in the average general practice. This makes it even more important to have well-trained, motivated and happy team members.

In every job there are frustrations, and this article will examine three of the top frustrations of orthodontic staff. And along the way, help you increase practice production as well as the fun and happiness in the practice.

Frustration #1: Chaotic schedules

By nature, orthodontics has an unsteady schedule. Afternoons are typically busier than mornings. School holidays are busier than regular days. Summer vacation is busier than fall, winter, and spring. Although we would encourage orthodontic practices to have enough referrals to keep the entire year equally busy, it doesn’t typically work that way. The nature of fluctuation in busyness however is not the issue. Staff frustration arises from chaos and unpredictability. 

This is due to poorly designed schedules, front desk staff inability to effectively manage patients into the right appointments, lack of proper scripting, emergencies, late patients, no-shows, and harassed parents. All of these contribute to “blowing up” the schedule—one of the major frustrations of the orthodontic team. Oddly enough, this seems to rank ahead of even compensation.


Our suggestion here is to overhaul the orthodontics schedule. In most cases, it is not a matter of a slight redesign, but rather the building of a brand new, mathematically constructed schedule to hit annual production goals and build much more predictability into the schedule. Team members will then have a greater sense of how the day will flow with fewer chaotic exceptions.

Frustration #2: Compensation

Compensation is another frustration whether it is realistic or not. Staff compensation has risen over 10% since 2022 and will continue to rise over the next few years. The main reason for the rise in compensation is the staffing shortage. Labor shortages always produce higher compensation. It is also important to know that this higher level of compensation will not reverse. Once labor forces reach new levels of compensation there is almost no chance the compensation will reverse.


Our suggestion here is to help the staff understand their career pay. Where are they today, financially in regard to compensation, and where can they expect to be in one, five, or 10 years? Consider paying retention bonuses at one, three, five, 10, and 20 years with higher amounts paid for longer service. Although this may seem like a financial burden to the practice, it is actually extremely financially beneficial versus having elevated levels of turnover in the practice. Be sure to check regular compensation offers online and know that all staff members are well aware of what salaries and benefits are being offered by other practices in the area.

Frustration #3: Lack of teamwork

More and more team members are becoming frustrated when other team members are perceived not to be doing their job, pitching in, and completing tasks properly. This may have some validity as new team members with less experience have entered the orthodontic practice workforce and do not have the skills or experience yet to fully carry their weight. However, over time it is frustrating to team members when they have to compensate for others or feel that others are simply not willing to work as hard as they do.


The strategy we suggest for countering this frustration is to build and foster a culture of positivity where everyone feels that they want to help everyone else. It starts with leadership. Everyone must understand the practice mission and talk about it on a regular basis. Always point out when someone pitches in and thank them for what they have done. Recognize team members that go out of their way. Drive the message that teamwork is paramount in the practice.

Author Bio

Staff Frustration

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 levingroup.com or email [email protected].