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DB Column – Two Sides of the Management Coin: Dental Team Compensation and Benefits

January 16th, 2009 · No Comments

Staff Viewpoint by Linda Miles – Doctor’s Viewpoint by Dr. Rhonda Savage…


During these difficult economic times, the dental team doesn’t understand WHY raises and improved benefits don’t automatically happen. This is especially true if they are having a more difficult time with their personal finances. There needs to be open and concise communication from the doctor as to how times like these are handled so that when times are better, their personal compensation can be better as well. Not discussing this issue with the team crates low morale, inner-office gossip, and total dissatisfaction of employees.

The staff members think and in most cases say to each other: “We have worked harder this past year than any other, yet there was no end-of-the year bonus, as in the past (or it was much lower)…AND, have you heard anything about our annual raises?” Or, “We did not replace _____ when she left in September, so now WE are doing her work too… The doctor(s) should have divided her salary with us!” The “working harder with little recognition” is commonplace in the dental office, yet the dentist owner has, in most cases, taken a huge HIT with out-of-control overhead, lower profit margins, and a frighteningly slower schedule the last quarter of 2008.

The team needs to realize that if the money isn’t coming in the front door, the business owner can’t send it out the back door in the form of raises. “Raises must be earned, not EXPECTED.” If, however, there is open communication with the entire team, this can relieve much of the stress related to this often taboo topic. Not discussing it is the REAL issue.


Dentists, for the most part, dislike confrontations and will oftentimes ignore a situation or issue thinking if they ignore it, it might go away. Discussing the team’s performance (if it is anything but stellar), is often difficult and viewed as a confrontation. Then knowing that after a performance review, thirty days later, there should be a 15-minute merit review to discuss salary and benefits, which is even more difficult knowing the staff member wants a raise and thinks he/she deserves one. Avoiding these issues or delegating them to an office manager is most likely how many dentists deal with it.     


  • 1) Remind the team that there will be annual performance reviews in their anniversary months with a 30-days later review of their personal compensation (which does not always mean a raise).
  • 2) Let the performance evaluation be in three parts: 1) Doctor(s) Review, 2) Self Review, 3) Anonymous Peer Review. (For a comp copy of the LLM&A Performance Evaluation Form email

Open communication should go like this:

“We have all worked very hard this year. As you know, the US economy is down, but we can’t let it get us down. If we have a great year net profit wise, we can offer increases in pay and benefits. When there is a flat year, we must, for the sake of our future business, put a freeze on all salaries until things improve. If there has been a “down year,” as 2008 was (our first in the history of the practice), we as a business took a decline. Just as families pull together when things get tough, we consider you our work family and we, together, will weather this storm. We will do our very best to keep all employees employed but will evaluate this every 90 days. We may have to ask employees to have a higher cost share on their health benefit plan, but the alternative is to cancel the insurance, which we hope not to do. Please also know that in business, when we keep a positive attitude and pull together as a work family, things will get better, and when they do, we will resume sharing the growth with you; the team that makes it happen.”

Final To-Do:

  • 3) Make a list of all the areas of the practice you can work on as a team during slower times, such as reactivation calls to all patients not seen in the past seven months or more and clearing up insurance past-dues and patient accounts; perhaps transfer those patient accounts to a patient finance plan to avoid interest for the patients. Pull a copy of your incomplete dentistry and revisit patients by letting them know that postponing dental care can cost more in the long run, not to mention creating pain and dental emergencies.

If your practice has an issue that you wish to have our LLM&A team discuss in future DentalBlogs, please send them to with the subject “Marketing Coin.” Last but not least, remember those practices that keep a positive attitude during tough times are those that have a positive outcome in the years to come. Call Rhonda at 800-922-0866, or Linda at 800-922-0882 if we can be of service to you and your team.

Tags: Administrative · Two Sides of the Management Coin by Linda Miles and Dr. Rhonda Savage