09.11.09 Issue #392 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague
Tips for Hiring
Communicating About Perio
The Impact of Your Personality

Yesterday’s Expert is Today’s Amateur
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Hiring someone who is “experienced” does not have the same meaning that it did in the past, unless this person has had formal business training and can demonstrate more than e-mail skills on the computer. If the job requires the employee to compile spreadsheets using Excel, but the applicant only has superficial knowledge of the program, find out before they’re on the job. If staff are expected to compile letters to patients, doctors, insurance companies and others using Microsoft Word and the applicant has no idea how to use the formatting options within the program, better to learn that now than discover it in six weeks. Don’t allow yourself or your team to be surprised by what a new recruit doesn’t know. Test applicant skills before you ever offer them a front row spot on your team.

For example, if you’re hiring a new office manager, this applicant’s skills should be evaluated in a number of areas. Consider this approach: first, make up a “dummy” patient on the computer and ask the applicant to put together a treatment plan and then schedule the patient for multiple appointments. Next, ask the candidate to post from the treatment plan. From there, the applicant should be asked to gather insurance information on the “dummy patient.” Finally, the applicant should be able to create a treatment proposal and a financial option sheet. These are the basics. You will be able to observe skill level and the need for additional computer training.

Will the investment necessary to bring this person up to speed be too great, or do their strengths outweigh the weaknesses? Can the shortfalls in their skill levels be overcome with proper technical training? You’ll have clearer answers to those important questions if you carefully evaluate the applicant’s current skill level. If you choose to train, make the most of the teaching opportunities across the entire staff. 

If you’re planning to train the new employee in-house, consider exactly who is going to take on that responsibility. If it’s you, the doctor, do you plan to see patients in the morning and clear your afternoons, so that you can teach the new employee how to use the systems? Chances are great that you have neither the time nor the inclination to take on this responsibility. If it’s another staff member, do you plan to pay them extra so that they can teach the new recruit after hours? What is the competency level of the person training the new employee? Is this person the beneficiary of layers of information that have been passed down from one worker to the next and still just trying to figure things out themselves? Or are they truly an expert on how to use the systems fully and effectively.

Certainly, well-trained staff can be helpful in familiarizing new employees with computer systems. But plan to budget for professional training and make the most of those dollars spent. Take specific steps to build a lineup of software superstars with an effective training system. Bring the software trainer in to teach the employee specific skills, and document each session, so that the new employee, as well as others in the practice, can review steps for completing specific tasks and check their level of mastery. Keep the documentation in your Dental Business Training Manual along with a checklist of computer system skills specific to your practice that each employee should have mastered.

Each time you integrate new technology or make use of a new tool in your computer software, add the training steps to your training manual. This will allow staff to review procedures that they don’t use regularly and help new staff to master new systems more quickly and efficiently.

Finally, remember the three month rule of thumb. In general, it takes three months of supervised training to get a new hire up to speed. Don’t assume that they know their job because they say they do. Monitor the performance during the 90-day training period and have a senior team member check the accuracy of the work with the intention of coaching - not criticizing. Front office accuracy in new patients, collections, production and retention can be checked by the daily and monthly reports run by the computer.  Instructions on reading these important reports are also incorporated into the curriculum no matter what system you are using.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com. Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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Carol Tekavec
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Talking to Patients About Periodontal Disease

Most dentists and hygienists want their patients to accept their recommendations for appropriate periodontal treatment. However, it is often hard to get this done. Despite the fact that periodontal disease is one of the most common ailments affecting people in today’s world, many patients don’t know they have it! Recent estimates show that 61% of adults over age 25, and 86% of adults over age 45 have at least one periodontal disease site in their mouths. But they may not be experiencing symptoms that they recognize as being part of a disease process, or they may not be having any symptoms at all.

How can we persuade our patients to do the right thing and address their perio concerns?  In a word: education. Without understanding what is going on in their mouths, most patients will typically not be moved to do anything about it. It’s up to you to provide a compelling explanation. Good health and good looks are topics that are generally effective in engaging patients. But how do you know where to begin? 

One way is to use a patient centered brochure. This does not mean a generic “smiling faces” type of publication, but one that addresses the real concerns of real people. An advantage of a brochure is also the fact that they are generally inexpensive. Just be sure that any educational materials you select address patient’s real questions.  

For example:

Q: What is periodontal disease?
A: It can be described as an inflammation and/ or infection of the gums and bone which support the teeth. It typically begins with an accumulation of plaque on the teeth and roots. If left undisturbed, this soft plaque can combine with minerals in a person’s saliva to form calculus or tartar, which is hard and somewhat like cement.  Once calculus forms, it provides additional surfaces for bacteria to grow on. The bacteria and their toxic by-products can seep into the gums and bone, eventually destroying the bony support and foundation for the teeth.

Q: How can I tell if I have periodontal disease?
A: Warning signs of periodontal disease include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from the teeth (the teeth look “longer”)
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Teeth that appear to be shifting or seem loose
  • Changes in the way the teeth fit together (your “bite” seems different)

Q: Can periodontal disease cause tooth loss?
A: Yes!

Q: Can’t I just use strong, over-the-counter mouthwashes to cure periodontal disease?
A: Despite what you may have seen in television commercials, a mouthwash alone cannot control gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) or periodontal disease. Certain prescription mouthwashes may help, but they cannot be your only weapon.

Q: If I lose my teeth due to periodontal disease, can’t I just get dentures or implants? Is treating periodontal disease worth it?
A: Implants are a proven treatment option for missing teeth. Dentures have long been used to help patients continue to eat and preserve their appearance, (although most denture wearers express that they would much rather have their own teeth). Even so, these solutions can be time consuming and expensive. Most dentists and patients agree that a person’s natural teeth are best. Preventing or treating periodontal disease is definitely worth it. A person’s smile, attractiveness, ability to chew and enjoy food, and general sense of well being are dependent on good dental health!

Q:  What is the treatment for periodontal disease?
A:  Your dentist and hygienist will set up a plan just for you, however, treatment usually begins with scaling and root planing. Using special dental instruments, calculus is removed from the teeth and roots of the teeth. Embedded bacteria and their toxins within the root surfaces are also cleaned away. With these removed, the immune system can begin healing the gums and bone and tamping down inflammation.  If scaling and root planing do not get a handle on the disease process, surgical treatment may be needed. After your disease is under control, a standard “cleaning” at your check-up appointments will not be adequate. Instead, you will need to receive periodontal maintenance therapy in order to keep your mouth healthy.

Patients are interested in good health and good looks. The key to helping patients accept periodontal treatment is to promote an understanding of the disease process, how it may be treated, and how investing in their periodontal health makes sense.

More answers to patient questions are found in my brochure, Periodontal Disease. What You Need to Know, available from McKenzie Management.

Carol Tekavec CDA RDH is the president of Stepping Stones to Success, and a practicing clinical hygienist.  She is a consultant to the ADA Council on Dental Practice and was the insurance columnist for Dental Economics for 11 years.  She is also the author of the Dental Insurance Coding Handbook and the creator of the “First Encounter™” Chart.  

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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The Personality of Dentistry: How Do You Measure Up?

To succeed in dentistry, you need good technical and behavioral skills. We refer to the latter as “personality” – enduring traits and qualities that influence our actions.  There is no doubt that you need strong cognitive abilities to be admitted to dental school, and solid clinical skills to graduate. However, once you are in a practice, the impact of your personality on patients and staff is the deciding factor on whether you have a mediocre or thriving business… and also whether you find joy in your work or feel stressed and burned out. 


A major theory of vocational choice argues that particular personality types are attracted to certain work environments. The closer the match between your personality and the requirements of that job, the more you can apply your skills and ability on problems that you find interesting. Ultimately, a person’s work performance is determined by an interaction of personality and environment, with the best performance occurring when there is a good fit between both. The bottom line is if you are going to take your practice to a new level, you need to know your personality. Whether you want your staff to perform more efficiently or your patients to be more amenable to treatment recommendations, your capacity to influence others depends on your personality!

Consider the following: Dr. Smith and Dr. Jones have almost the same qualifications. They both graduated from top-ranked dental schools. Perhaps they even practice in similar communities. Yet Dr. Smith makes $75,000 a year, after expenses, while Dr. Jones makes $300,000.

In my experience coaching dentists, I have found that the most important factor for success is the dentist and his/her personality. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked. The belief is that revenues are raised by having more high-tech equipment, training in new procedures, upgraded office furniture, etc. These things may be helpful, but it is the dentist’s ability to effectively communicate, manage staff and relate with patients that enables the practice to flourish. It is Dr. Jones’ personality that enables him to command a salary that is four times that of Dr. Smith.

While there is no perfect job match, satisfaction with your job is directly related to the “goodness of fit” between your personality and the personality of dentistry. The good news is that you don’t need to spend years on the couch analyzing your early childhood to figure out what makes you tick. Now you can assess your personality in the comfort of your own office or home. McKenzie Management researched the personalities of peak performing dentists. We measured 12 psychological traits along a behavioral continuum. You’ll answer 107 true-false questions, it takes less than a half an hour, and it’s incredibly affordable. In minutes you’ll have a comparison of your score with those of working dentists who have been identified as peak performers.

Before you take the test, evaluate yourself informally. Keep in mind that strengths overused can become weaknesses. What’s important is keeping the right balance between the two ends of the spectrum. For example, an overly gregarious dentist may not listen closely enough to patients concerns. A very reserved dentist may not talk enough to put patients at ease. Therefore, rate yourself on whether you do or do not have “just the right amount” of each trait.

1. Cool, Reserved Warm, Easygoing
2. Easily Upset Calm, Stable
3. Not Assertive Dominant
4. Sober, Serious Lively
5. Expedient Conscientious
6. Shy, Timid Venturesome
7. Suspicious Trusting
8. Practical Imaginative
9. Self-Doubting Self-Assured
10. Traditional Open Minded
11. Group-Oriented Self-Reliant
12. Undisciplined Organized

Then assess yourself on these five global factors of personality. As you did before, determine whether you have a good balance or if you lean toward the extreme end of each continuum.   

1. Introverted Extraverted
2. Stress-Prone Stress-Resistant
3. Receptive Tough Minded
4. Accommodating Independent
5. Unrestrained Self-Controlled

Now click onto the McKenzie website and order the Dentist Profile. When you receive your report, do a comparison between your self-assessment and the formal results. See which of the 12 personality traits are a “good fit” and which, if any, are a “poor fit.” If you know yourself well, there should be close alignment. If there are gaps, identify areas where you can begin adjusting your behavior.

I have specialized in testing for over 25 years in numerous applications. I assure you that the McKenzie Employee Assessment Test may seem simple, but it is based on nearly 60 years of research done by the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (IPAT). IPAT has partnered exclusively with McKenzie Management to create this exciting and specialized application for the dental field.

If you desire a more rewarding professional life, turn that dream into a reality by taking the first step. Assess your personality and determine the fundamental drivers that influence your behavior. Become a peak performing dental leader starting today!

Contact Dr. Haller at coach@mckenziemgmt.com. For each Dentist Profile you purchase in the month of September, McKenzie Management will give you a complimentary test for a member of your staff. 

Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like information about any of her practice-building seminars, contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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