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Front Desk Archive

by Stephanie Sisk


CDS dentists have many roles in their dental offices. You are doctors, first and foremost, but you are also business managers, new business development leaders and team-builders. This online column will help you stay on top of the latest dental trends and resources as you juggle all of your roles.



  • May 2, 2018

How to ensure that your new associate succeeds


Last month, we explored the reasons to hire a dental associate along with the many ways to evaluate the applicants. Success! You’ve hired a great person to join your team.

You may think your work is done, but there’s more to consider to ensure the transition is positive and smooth for everyone.

Early on, recognize that bringing the rest of the staff into the process will pay dividends going forward. Ideally, the dentist will explain the need for an associate before interviews begin and relay that staff input is important.

“These are magic words that let the team know they’re important in the decision, and even more important in the selection and orientation of the new dentist,” explained Linda Miles of Miles Global. If staffers’ opinions are sought and valued, they will feel more invested in helping the new dentist succeed, she said.

There are pitfalls for the lead dentist to avoid as well when an associate comes on board. Ms. Miles has some advice:

  • Don’t speak unfavorably about the new dentist to the team.
  • Don’t compare the new dentist’s skills to your own. “Remember, you were new once.”
  • Don’t hoard your patients.
  • “Don’t take all the big cases and expect the associate to be happy with ‘leftover’ dentistry or procedures you don’t like doing,” Miles said.
  • Be a mentor and teacher for your younger colleague.

The clinical team also has some responsibilities, including speaking favorably about the new dentist and offering to introduce patients to him or her. Building up the sense of camaraderie will in turn build up the success of the practice for everyone, so this advice is solid. “When the enthusiasm for the associate is high, his or her success doubles,” Miles said.

Assistants and hygienists also should jump in to help the new dentist find instruments in an unfamiliar office, offer assistance with a difficult patient or help out when the dentist is getting behind schedule. “Show that you’re there to help make his or her transition easier,” Miles said.

Another important rule: the clinical staff must be respectful and positive, and not slip into a “superior” attitude with the new and/or younger dentist. “This should be clearly outlined and understood when (the new dentist) arrives,” Miles said. “With an estimated 60 percent to 70 percent of associate failures being blamed on rude and overbearing employees, this is very important!”

Front office staffers also can take steps to ease in the new associate.

Crafting a “welcome letter” that is mailed to patients provides a chance to introduce the associate and establish name recognition. The letter should “ring with warmth and sincerity” and express the doctor’s pleasure in joining the practice and meeting patients, advised Belle DuCharme, a dental consultant with McKenzie Management. The letter also may offer a “Get to Know Dr. Jones” special or discount, like a free oral exam and cleaning, to jumpstart the new associate’s standing.

Laying the right groundwork for a new associate will put everyone on solid footing for success.

Photo by bojan89,copyright

The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society.

CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.

Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist.


Email Chicago Dental Society about any topics that you wish to be covered.