The Secret Ingredient for A Successful Dental Team

By David J. Goodman, CPA, MST, Partner

Did you ever wonder why your beloved hometown professional baseball, football or basketball team would acquire great players who turned out to be underperformers? Many of these players became superstars with other teams. Was there something in the local water that caused this underperformance, or was something else going on?

A similar trend emerges in a different kind of field, the medical field. A research study published in the National Library of Medicine explored thousands of patient outcomes at multiple U.S. hospitals to determine the impact of nurse-physician teamwork[1]. The study found that surgical patients cared for in hospitals with better nurse-physician teamwork had significantly lower mortality rates.

It was teamwork that appears to have to contributed to success. Among teams, shared experience matters more than individual experience. The best groups aren’t necessarily the ones with the most stars but rather the teams that have collaborated in the past. The potential for becoming a superstar or top performer requires more than an individual effort.

In the current employment market, dental practices are struggling to find qualified team members. It seems that the perfect person to fill a role may not be the best choice. Perhaps, someone with experience might be the best fit. Hiring for experience may outweigh hiring for talent.

What can be done if the team is already in place? The cost and uncertainty of changing a member of the team may not solve performance issues.

Here are some recommendations to keep the team in place to enhance teamwork and performance:

  • If there is a member of the team who is consistently underperforming, this sends a message to the rest of the team. The message is that not working to optimal levels is acceptable in the practice. High-performing employees feel that there is no need to work at optimal levels if less than optimal is accepted. Consistently underperforming team members should be terminated immediately. The rest of the team can step up to assist until a replacement can be hired.

  • Reward employees for exceptional performance. Offering bonuses for expected behaviors usually does not create a high-functioning team. Rewards should be for individual or entire team contributions toward a goal. A dental assistant usually does not contribute to the practice achieving a collection goal. However, each team member should have incentive goals that contribute to the success of the practice.

  • If a team member requests a raise outside the annual compensation discussion, consider the results needed to pay for a raise. Increasing team wages without additional revenue results in the dentist working more or earning less.

  • Invest in the team. Offering training and education on a regular basis as individuals and as a team brings value to the practice, to the patients and to the team. Team members can appreciate investing in their skills when it is part of a practice culture of continuous improvement. Educating the team is a sign of caring and appreciation. Chronic underperformers need to be removed before investing in the team.

  • An important element of teamwork is also enjoying the office environment. There should be some element of fun.

We have just released our 2023 Edition of Dental Practice by the Numbers. We can share that our most profitable practices have a cohesive team, low employee turnover and a vision of what they want to accomplish every day.

Contact Us

If you would like a copy of Dental Practice by the Numbers, contact the partner in charge of your engagement or:

David J. Goodman, CPA, MST
Dental Practice Leader


[1] Kang XL, Brom HM, Lasater KB, McHugh MD. The Association of Nurse-Physician Teamwork and Mortality in Surgical Patients. West J Nurs Res. 2020 Apr;42(4):245-253. doi: 10.1177/0193945919856338. Epub 2019 Jun 19. PMID: 31215348; PMCID: PMC6920603.