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Dental Office Training: Part One

Dental employee manuals with job descriptions contain materials, drills and testing on how to perform each different position in a practice.

This is different than a checklist of the employee’s responsibilities. Checklists are fine and are needed to give a quick overview of responsibilities but checklists do not train, explain or show an employee HOW to DO the job. More on how to train properly in a moment. 

Most training is usually “on the job” and done by the person who held the position before or someone who is trying to handle other duties while training the new employee at the same time.


This approach takes away from the existing employee’s production time and can give the new employee a shaky start at best.

On-the-job training should actually be referred to as an “apprenticeship” but first it is much better to give new employees written materials (in some cases video and audio as well) to study first before tackling the actual responsibilities of the job. This way, the concepts and the job activity come together a lot better and give the employee more certainty and understanding of their job.


Cambridge recommends the following training system:

1. Customized dental employee handbooks for the practice.

2. Create written exams for each job description/manual to ensure the employee understands the policies and why they should be followed. When the employee answers the question in essay form you should know whether or not they really understand the policy. If their answer is too brief or incorrect, the OM or doctor simply has the employee re-read the policy or procedure and re-write their answer until the employee gets it right.

3. Create specific procedure and role-playing drills to ensure the employee gets their “feet wet” by having them perform some of the functions of the job as they go through their written manual. It is impractical and unprofessional to give someone a manual full of policies and procedures, tell them to read it and expect them to automatically be trained. By getting involved with the functions, as the employee goes through the reading, they gain more confidence in doing their job. Confidence is key to having loyal and dedicated employees.

4. The last part of training for a new employee is the apprenticeship. This is a term and practice that is slowly getting lost in many fields. The apprenticeship is a key aspect of training. This is where the employee gets to prove their worth to the practice and themselves by practicing and demonstrating their abilities on the job. According to the Oxford Concise English Dictionary the derivation for the word apprentice comes from Old French apprendre “learn.” Can you imagine not having any form of lab or residency program during a dentist’s education? Every position in your practice should have an apprenticeship checklist that requires either the dentist and/or the OM to sign off on each individual step of the program, before the employee is considered actually trained.

5. If you offer staff bonuses it is recommended that you minimally require the employee to get completely through all of their training and apprenticeships before they are eligible. Once they complete the apprenticeship you could even give them a “Trained & Apprenticed” certificate that is framed and put on the wall somewhere.

6. As long as you treat your employees with respect, let them know how well they’re doing from time to time, and reward them (e.g., give them a free lunch or dinner now and then) for a job well done, you can inspire very loyal and long term employees. Some dentists miss the boat on this concept of acknowledging and rewarding their employees. This concept is one of the most important duties of an executive in any business – acknowledge, promote and reward your productive employees. If you are not generous in this area, you easily could lose a lot of revenue and profit.

A very large expense to a practice is the amount of money wasted on hiring and training new employees on a repeat basis. There is, of course, always going to be some necessity to hire and train new employees however if you have a proven system for your dental office training, that ensures your staff can DO the functions of their job, you will have lowered this costly expense. Not to mention you will have improved your staff morale because nothing improves morale like confidence and competence.

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