The dental practice training dilemma

This article originally appeared in Dental Economics

One of the attractive aspects of dentistry is the possibility to be a clinician and a business owner. This has certainly appealed to me. It is wonderful to lead the office team to provide great service to patients, and then also to be the one to deliver those services. But as I have practiced during my last 16 years as a dentist, I have discovered that wearing both these hats is much more difficult that I had imagined! In fact, as I found success, ironically I found my practice even more challenging. The busier I became, the less time and energy I had to devote to its administration.

dental staff training

You don’t hire the best staff members . . . you train them

Of course I couldn’t do it all on my own. I started to rely more and more on my staff. And this is when I became a big believer in training. My mantra became, “Training, training, training!” One of my professional mentors taught me, “You don’t hire the best staff members . . . you train them.” I recognized that if I was going to expect great things of my staff, training would be required. So I did what so many of us in the profession do: I took my staff to exciting Las Vegas seminars, I hired superstar consultants, I organized impressive training retreats, and more. It all had some benefit, that is, until the seminar was over, the consultant guru went home, the trained staff member moved to Alaska, and the training budget ran out! It was all great stuff, but I could never really get it to stick. There was a huge disconnect between the great ideas and actually successfully implementing them in my practice.

I needed effective ongoing training, not dazzling event training

I learned that effective training couldn’t be an event for my practice. It needed to become a fundamental part of the routine and culture. A summer thunderstorm downpour of training could never support my staff the way I wanted; instead, I needed the consistent and regular drip of training to become a part of us.

I’m a doctor, not a dental insurance expert

The hardest revelation was when I realized I was a terrible trainer for my staff. I fancied myself a smart guy, but the more I got into the nitty gritty of running a dental practice, the more I realized what I didn’t know. Generations ago, a dental office was a much simpler thing. An office receptionist and a dental assistant may have been the only staff needed. But modern dentistry is filled with a myriad of options and technical features.

Our patients also come with greater expectations. It was impossible for me as the practicing dentist-owner to be the expert and train my staff on the depth and breadth of the needed parts of my dental practice. Sure, I might have some good ideas about a few aspects of running a dental practice, but I quickly decided I was better at root canals than I was at training my staff about the details of their job.

The dental practice training dilemma

After some consideration, I decided the best training would have the following characteristics:

• It would exist and occur within the practice.

• It would be able to be repeated as often as needed.

• It would draw on experts in the field and best practices, not just on my limited experience.

• It would be time efficient to the doctor/owner and not take away from my productivity.

• It would be affordable enough to make it an ongoing element of my practice.

This was my dilemma. I knew what training my practice needed, but I couldn’t really find it anywhere. I don’t think that it existed, until now.

Dilemma solved

What a relief when I found others had identified these needs as well. When I discovered ePractice Manager was developing a system exactly to meet my needs, I was thrilled. Right away I could see that they understood my dilemma. In fact, I was so impressed by its solution that I became an investor in the company. I’ve played a role in getting it to the point where it is now a useful online resource. Allow me to tell you a little bit about my experience as a user of the ePractice Manager solution.

My favorite thing about the system is that it’s online. It’s 2017, and the world’s knowledge is out there and accessible to everyone. We shouldn’t have to fly to a distant conference to learn the best ideas about practice management. This is also ePractice’s key to being available for follow-up training and affordability. The magic of the internet has brought the modern age to dental practice training.

These graphs show the difference in production and income in my practice since I started using ePractice Manager.

ePractice Manager offers training courses on many subjects, and the courses are always growing. The best part is that the knowledge comes from experts. Each course is developed from many years of dental management experience. Now my staff can be effectively trained with consistency, even if the team changes or grows.

Not just training: tools

When I first discovered ePractice Manager, I was looking for a training solution, but I was delighted to discover that it covers much more. ePractice Manager is a set of tools to assist me in managing my practice. It tracks important KPIs and provides understanding about how to react to that information. It provides solutions for personnel scheduling and employee performance reviews.

I don’t think it is an overstatement to say the difference between a successful and unsuccessful dental practice is a well-trained staff. If we want our team members to excel, we must support them with ongoing and effective training and tools. I’ve found that ePractice Manager is a new and exciting way of providing that support.

W. Shayne Guffey, DMD, is a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, and has been practicing for 16 years. He has a multi-discipline practice in Mesa, Arizona, where his goal is balancing excellence in patient care with his professional interest in practice leadership and management. He has a particular passion for practice development through team training. Contact him at To learn more about ePracticeManager, go to