Create an Organizational Culture that Is the Antithesis of Learned Helplessness 

May 24, 2024 Pina Johnson

By Pina Johnson, Professional Certified Coach, and Edwin (Mac) McDonald, DDS 

B.F. Skinner, a noted 20th century behavioral psychologist, conducted an intriguing and provocative experiment using laboratory mice. Using behavioral conditioning he was able to condition one group of mice to believe that through their actions they were able to determine their fate. Using the same methodology, he also succeeded in conditioning another group of mice to believe that there was nothing they could do to alter their fate. 

He then placed the first group of mice, the ones that believed their actions mattered, into a large tub filled with water. As anticipated, this group of mice, when placed in a life-threatening situation, acted instinctively and began to swim to the side of the large water-filled tub. Upon reaching the edge of the tub the mice were able to crawl out to safety. 

The second group of mice, the ones that believed that their actions were meaningless, when placed in the tub of water, simply sank to the bottom and drowned. Appropriately, the lack of responsiveness displayed by the second group of mice was termed “learned helplessness.” 

Culture Lifts or Sinks Ambition 

Belief that our actions and choices matter is essential to “making things happen.” 

According to Edgar Schein, an icon of modern leadership thought, the primary function of leadership is to create an organizational culture. The culture that we choose to create will influence every aspect of our organization and ultimately determine our dental practice’s success or failure. 

Value-based leaders understand the power to alter the course of the organization does not reside with a few; it is shared by many. Organizations with cultures based on shared beliefs and purpose are higher performing. Leaders of the highest performing organizations foster cultures rich in collaborative decision making and a profound belief that everyone has influence. 

Counter Learned Helplessness by Empowering Self-Confidence 

We have come to recognize that good-old “self-confidence” is a learned competency, and effective leaders create organizational cultures that promote and teach self-confidence to each individual team member. This is accomplished by empowering teams through collaborative decision making and ensuring each team member has been given the knowledge, skill, support, resources, and appropriate authority to accomplish each task required to meet the shared goal. 

Unleash Teamwork and Creativity 

In organizations with shared leadership cultures, human self-confidence is unleashed beyond saving oneself to act in the best interest of the organization. Knowing that our individual actions will have some effect on our organization’s future (and thus on our own future and the future of others we value) compels us to want to take actions that have positive benefit for everyone. This is “meaningful” for the individuals within the organization. This raises their engagement in the work and simultaneously generates a sense of wellbeing.  

In our dental practices, “We are serving others with empathy and care to ultimately improve their wellbeing.” This is a form of love. It begets appreciation and reciprocity. When the slings and arrows of daily life initiate negative thoughts of being out of control of a situation, remembering our purpose and prior successes enables us to see disappointments and frustrations as opportunities to create a new type of approach and carry on. 

The goal for effective leaders is to allow all of this to happen in a psychologically safe environment in which our staff need not fear repercussions for their well-intended actions even if the outcome of these actions is less than ideal. By creating organizational cultures that are psychologically safe, we draw out our organizational creativity which is often stifled by the psychological repression found in command-and-control cultures. 

Creative thinking is considered to be one our highest-level cognitive functions and has been found to be a distinguishing characteristic of exceptional organizations. The wise leader understands that their organization is best served through shared power, collaboration, and utilization of their organization’s collective creativity. 

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DATE: June 12 2025 @ 12:00 pm - June 14 2025 @ 7:00 pm

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CE HOURS: 17

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Single Occupancy Room with Ensuite Bath (Per Night): $ 345

This “can’t miss” course will empower Dental Assistants to bring their skills to excellence! During this dynamic hands-on course, led by Pankey clinical team member, Sandra Caicedo, participants will learn…

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What Motivates Dental Teams? 

May 15, 2024 Pina Johnson

By Pina Johnson Professional Certified Coach 

 What motivates teams is a question that has been asked for as long as someone has been seeking solutions for organizational performance. The day of top-down (or command-and-control) leadership is gone.  

Daniel Pink, in his 2009 book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, takes a deep dive into the decades long effort to understand the research around human motivation in the modern workplace. Consistently, employers believe they are doing a great job of recognizing, rewarding, and motivating their employees. The people that work for them report the opposite. The tension between the two groups is observable and measurable. In this book, Pink discusses the key patterns that are consistent in what motivates people., takes a deep dive into the decades long effort to understand the research around human motivation in the modern workplace. To his credit, he uncovers the key patterns that are consistent in what motivates people. 

What doesn’t work—external rewards and punishments 

Although there are times and places to administer rewards (carrots) and consequences for behaviors that violate the organization’s values (sticks), “carrot and stick” strategies do not work and have not been working for quite some time. In fact, according to a great deal of research, these strategies reduce performance over time after a brief initial improvement when they are introduced.  

What does work—internal motivations 

Research has clearly demonstrated that there are three primary internal motivations that drive team member engagement: 

  1. Autonomy 
  1. Mastery 
  1. Purpose 

Autonomy over your work appears to be the strongest driving force among those three. There are many aspects to autonomy that you can explore in Daniel Pink’s book. My takeaways are that people want: 

  • Control over how they do their work 
  • Ability to creatively enhance the methodology of their work 
  • A strong voice in the direction and future of their work 

This begs the questions:  

  • Have you met individually with each team member and talked about this?  
  • Are you giving them the freedom to do their jobs well?  
  • Are you developing them with training opportunities and direct challenges?  

Responsibility without authority creates frustration. Responsibility demands autonomy. 

Mastery is defined as the desire to get better and better at something that matters. You can feel the natural connection to Autonomy as the desire to improve is based in each person’s unique gifts, talents, skills, and desire to use these for something important.  

Control seeks compliance. Autonomy seeks engagement. When a person becomes fully engaged in an activity, and is challenged enough to be stimulated, they can lose themself in that activity be it work or play. That optimal state of peak performance is described as flow. Mastery happens in and through those experiences of flow. Mastery is a mindset that requires a great deal of grit and becomes the infinite game that we never complete. 

Purpose answers the question for each person: “What are you supposed to do with your one short life?” When the organization has a clear purpose, the individual understands their role in that purpose. When they connect the organization’s purpose to their own life’s purpose, then you have a powerful force at work. Is the purpose of your organization clear? Have you asked the key people in your organization what their purpose is? Have you helped them to connect those two purposes?  

Our responsibility 

As practice owners and leaders, we are people developers. Everyone possesses a unique set of gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, and ultimately a life purpose. Unlocking that unique set of internal motivators for everyone on your team is the key to building an abundant future. That future is defined by a transformational mindset rather than a transactional mindset in which power is limited by time, redundancy, compliance, and efficiency.  

Each person motivates themself. Our role as a leader is to help our team members, one at a time, to discover, connect with, and unleash their powerful internal motivators. Then together, as a team, we can channel all of that discretionary energy into a shared mental model with a laser-like focus on the organization’s clearly defined and stated purpose.  

Pina Johnson PCC is a Certified Professional Coach with the International Coach Federation, and as a former practice administrator, she has over 20 years of experience in the dental field. Her coaching strategy and emphasis lie in developing leadership skills and practice cultures that produce peak-performing teams along with increased productivity and profitability. In her private practice, Pina specializes in group coaching. Partnering with Drs. Joel Small and Edwin (Mac) McDonald at Line of Sight Coaching, she coaches many dental teams with great success, resulting in increased employee engagement, reduced stress, improved performance, and enhanced communication. Pina received her professional coaching certification from the University of California, Davis. Upon completing her training, she was invited back to serve in multiple capacities as a UC Davis coaching program faculty member. Pina has been a featured speaker covering topics including, The Neuroscience of Trust, Management Behaviors that Foster Employee Engagement, and How to Talk So Your Staff Will Listen, and Listen So Your Staff Will Talk. 

Pina is a Member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers, Dental Speaking Consulting Network, Dental Entrepreneur Women, International Coach Federation, and the ICF Sacramento Chapter. 

 

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DATE: June 12 2025 @ 12:00 pm - June 14 2025 @ 7:00 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 17

Regular Tuition: $ 2050

Single Occupancy Room with Ensuite Bath (Per Night): $ 345

This “can’t miss” course will empower Dental Assistants to bring their skills to excellence! During this dynamic hands-on course, led by Pankey clinical team member, Sandra Caicedo, participants will learn…

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How Do You Like to Receive Feedback? 

April 29, 2024 Kelley Brummett DMD

Kelley Brummett, DMD 

Recently, I completed growth conferences with everyone on my team. The beauty of a growth conference is that it’s all about growth. It’s all about effort. It’s all about meeting each other and becoming more aligned with the mission of the practice. If I have something I want to share with a team member that’s a concern or something new I would like them to achieve such as mastery of a new skill, I think about how I’m going to communicate it. And as I do growth conferences with the individuals on my dental team, I am cognizant that they are likely to want to receive feedback differently as individuals.  

I’ve discovered that if I ask my employee upfront how they like to receive feedback, they pause to think before responding. I wait patiently for their response because I know the response will save both of us time and energy. For example, there are some team members who want the short and skinny of it—“Give it to me straight now.” They don’t want you to hold back. There are some team members who need to be gently warmed up before they can hear the message and require thorough explanations of why. 

I’ve discovered it helps to frequently ask the “how do you like feedback” question of my team to get their buy-in of my feedback. The beauty of “feedback” is that even criticism can be framed in a positive way as the next identified step in working towards a goal.  

Those of us in dentistry know that sometimes we move fast, but there are times that we need to sit back, think through what somebody gave us information about, and then come back and have a conversation. Mary Osborne has guided us to have conversations with patients that allow us to slow down and learn more about them so they can think, hear themselves speak, and learn about themselves. I’ve decided the feedback question is also a good question to ask patients. “How do you like to receive information? Would you like to know all the details or for me to summarize?” 

I’ve learned from Mary and experiences with patients that “staying in questions” helps them grow. Staying in questions also helps team members grow. Staying in questions helps us providers grow. So, feedback—how do you give it? How do you like to receive it? How do you handle it? I encourage you to think about this. 

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Kelley Brummett DMD

Dr. Kelley D. Brummett was born and raised in Missouri. She attended the University of Kansas on a full-ride scholarship in springboard diving and received honors for being the Big Eight Diving Champion on the 1 meter springboard in 1988 and in 1992. Dr. Kelley received her BA in communication at the University of Kansas and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After practicing nursing, Dr Kelley Brummett went on to earn a degree in Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia. She has continued her education at the Pankey Institute to further her love of learning and her pursuit to provide quality individual care. Dr. Brummett is a Clinical Instructor at Georgia Regents University and is a member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. Dr. Brummett and her husband Darin have two children, Sarah and Sam. They have made Newnan their home for the past 9 years. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading and playing with her dogs. Dr. Brummett is an active member of the ADA, GDA, AGDA, and an alumni of the Pankey Institute.

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Having an In-House Lab Benefits Patients

April 26, 2024 Stephen Malone DMD

Stephen Malone, DMD 

Our Knoxville, Tennessee, dental practice has grown to where we now have four dentists, as well as four hygienists, six dental assistants, two patient coordinators, a practice manager with two front-office patient care specialists, and one more primary partner in our dental practice—Bob Cutshaw. Bob is a master lab technician with over 40 years of experience and owner of Cutshaw Labs. He has been a partner in care with me for nearly 25 years and collaborates with our doctors on all dental restorations requiring lab work. 

Recently, I was thinking again about how grateful I am for my association with Bob and for the many benefits of having his lab located downstairs within our practice facility. Perhaps, having a lab in-house is something other dentists might aspire to eventually have in their own private practice. 

Bob is involved in care planning just as much as I and the other dentists. We can sit side by side to collaborate on treatment using a combination of digital 3D modeling and analog articulated models and wax-ups. 

For patients with complex needs, he routinely comes into the operatory or the consultation room to meet with patients. As he explains his involvement in their care and how the highest quality materials and latest techniques will be used, they become fascinated in the laboratory methods and technologies. Some request a tour of the lab and want to watch some of the process. 

We use digital designs for all prosthetics. Bob’s professional-grade 3D printers work all day long for predictable, efficient fabrication of custom restorations. Then he hand-paints and glazes the crowns and prosthetics for optimal natural aesthetics. Because he is involved in planning our most complex cases that involve implant supported hybrid denture, he is deeply invested in the details that allow the finished product to be delivered with ease. 

Having his lab in-house allows us to rapidly fix issues that arise, for example, alterations to a restoration when it doesn’t quite fit right or has a slightly incorrect shade. Instead of waiting for days or weeks to deliver back and forth a restoration to an outside lab, we make the changes here on the same day. 

For Patients undergoing clear aligner treatment, we manufacture our clear aligners in-house. If a patient loses or damages a tray, it is immediately replaced so the patient doesn’t lose precious time in treatment. The same goes for our occlusal splints, night guards, sports mouth guards, and Essix retainers. 

One of the branding traits of our practice that has earned us our high reputation is the in-house laboratory. Without a doubt, having this lab just downstairs is a major way in which we enhance the quality of care we provide to our patients. 

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DATE: October 2 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 4 2025 @ 1:30 pm

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CE HOURS: 25.5

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Stephen Malone DMD

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for nearly 20 years. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role. Among the continuing education programs he has attended, The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education is noteworthy. He was the youngest dentist to earn the status of Pankey Scholar at this world-renowned post-doctoral educational institution, and he is now a member of its Visiting Faculty.

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Are Your Temporaries a Practice Builder or Simply Temporary? 

April 10, 2024 Gary DeWood, DDS

Gary M. DeWood, DDS, MS 

Many dentists believe that provisional restorations don’t really matter. After all, they are not really a stand-in for the final restoration. I would respectfully disagree. I am a proponent of creating functional, durable, and highly esthetic provisional restorations, every time. They have the potential to impact your dental practice a lot more than you might think. Whether you print them, form them, or free-hand them, a GREAT temporary is a great billboard for your practice. 

  1. Make the provisional as Esthetic as the final restoration.

I contend that the more your provisionals look like what you are hoping for when you seat the final restorations, the more people will talk about them, AND you. 

I was able to build a referral restorative practice by creating provisionals that made patients want to come to my practice and specialists want to send people. For much of our career, almost the entire team of the oral surgery office we worked with, and many of the team members from the other specialty practices we worked with, were our patients in Pemberville, Ohio. 

Front teeth or back teeth, when you make them look like teeth, people will like it and they will show and tell other people. “This is just the temporary?!” was not an uncommon question or exclamation from our patients.  

  1. A GREAT guide makes a GREAT provisional restoration.

Your wax-up** cast/model serves as your vision, as your preparation guide fabrication device, and as your provisional former. When the preparation is appropriately reduced for the material selected, the temporary can mimic the restoration. 

** The wax-up might be created with wax then duplicated with impression material and stone to create a cast, or it might be scanned to be duplicated with resin and printed or milled to create a model. 

  1. 3. Use that provisional to highlight the talents of your team members.

You might LOVE to make those provisionals, but if your assistant is equally excited when it comes to recreating nature for the patient to appreciate, then it could be an opportunity for patients to see that your assistant does much more than set-up, clean up, and hand you an instrument. My dental partner, Cheryl, (who is also my wife) and I actively sought out things that could help our patients experience our team as much more than our helpers. 

As we all know, dental assistants are an integral and vital part of what the practice is and are a powerful force in how and why patients ask for dentistry. Assistants who fabricate provisionals have an opportunity to be seen differently, and we were always looking for ways to create partnership with them in our treatment. 

  1. 4. Take pictures of them.

Photographs of the temporary will make it easier for the lab to design the outcome. They will be able to see what you are thinking, able to visualize what you want, AND maybe even more importantly, see what you do not want. With anterior provisionals, I have frequently noted to my ceramist, “Please put the incisal edge in exactly this position vertically and horizontally in the face, then use your artistry to create the tooth that belongs in the face you see in the photographs of the patient before, prepared, and temporized.” 

There were many times when the technician was able to see and create effects that I might have not recognized as being “just the thing that would make these teeth extraordinary.” And don’t forget to show the patient the photograph. 

  1. 5. Love the material you make the temporary with.

The better the provisional material is at holding tooth position and functional contact, the less adjustment we’re going to have, so using a high-quality material is important. There are a lot of them out there. I like bis-acryl materials that polymerize with a hard surface, have little or no oxygen inhibited layer, and can be polished easily. The polish is more about feeling smooth than about the shine. Ask you patients how their provisional tooth “feels” when you are done, so they sing your praises. 

  1. 6. Use high-quality core material.

When you use a good core material the prep will be smoother, making it easier to fabricate nice provisionals. Ideal prep form goes a long way toward better provisionals. 

  1. ASK your patient to tell people.

As noted above, when you can elicit an emotional response about the awesomeness of your provisional, ask the patient to tell other people, “….and this is just the TEMPORARY!” 

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DATE: October 2 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 4 2025 @ 1:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 25.5

Tuition: $ 4795

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

 MASTERING TREATMENT PLANNING Course Description In our discussions with participants in both the Essentials and Mastery level courses, we continue to hear the desire to help establish better systems for…

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The Pre-Clinical Interview – Part 1 

March 4, 2024 Laura Harkin

The Pre-Clinical Interview – Part 1 

Laura Harkin, DMD, MAGD 

I am a third-generation, restorative dentist in New Holland, Pennsylvania, which may be best known for its blue, New Holland tractors. I own my grandfather’s and father’s dental practice where I am the sole provider for approximately 1,000 patients. My dental team consists of two hygienists, two assistants, and two front office administrators. 

I graduated from dental school in 2008 after short careers both in the actuarial sciences and as a stay-at-home mom. In 2010, I purchased my practice and signed up for my first course at The Pankey Institute. Note, my father also studied at the Institute when it first opened its doors in the early 70’s. One of my greatest challenges, early in my career, was learning how to diagnose oral conditions, develop and present treatment plans, and execute that treatment via phases. I found it quite overwhelming to simultaneously manage multiple, complex cases. Now, I love sharing my experience and the approach I’ve found works best for me. 

Above all, I’ve learned that in the midst of daily pressures in dentistry, we need to maintain our own health and strength to properly treat our patients and lead our teams. Surrounding ourselves with knowledgeable, positive, and compassionate colleagues helps! 

Knowing ourselves is as important as knowing our patient. 

Dr. L. D. Pankey’s Cross of Dentistry supports the belief that knowing oneself is of equal importance to knowing a patient whom we choose to treat. This challenge forever evolves because no person remains unchanged with time. I frequently evaluate my strengths and weaknesses as a provider, team leader, and mentor. At the same time, I ask myself what aspects of patient care and business management I excel at and most love to do. I can then choose my specialist team accordingly and empower my office team to best support me. 

Together we ultimately provide a better product and higher level of care. 

To prepare specifically for the treatment planning process, my team helps me gather key information and clinical records from a patient for a comprehensive evaluation. After a thorough analysis, I carefully craft written documentation which will help educate my patient, my team, and the specialist team I’ve chosen. An added benefit is its ability to serve as legal documentation.  

I always ask a team member to join me during treatment plan presentations. They bring another set of ears and eyes so that we may better understand a patient’s motivating factors as well as the challenges they may face in receiving treatment. We encourage open and honest conversations and understand that treatment plans evolve to fit the needs of individuals. 

How do we get to know our patients? 

In addition to gathering a thorough health history and dental history, we are seeking to learn more about our patient’s chief complaint, perception of their current state of oral health, desires for treatment, and barriers to care. 

We listen intently for clues to identify a patient’s communication style. I’ve always heard that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. I practiced with my father for two years and once, after observing me, he said, “Laura, you do far too much talking. You need to really listen to what your patients are sharing.”  

I’ve had to develop the skill of active listening. To stay in the question and become comfortable with silence takes practice. Some observations that I try to make in order to effectively communicate and build a relationship with a patient are as follows: 

  • Do they seem to enjoy conversing or are they responding with short answers in order to get through the interview quickly? 
  • Do they readily ask questions and express thoughts, or are they quiet and need to be invited and prompted to share? 
  • Are they amiable? 
  • Are they distrustful or fearful due to past dental experiences? 

We need to intentionally verbalize our empathy when we’re in conversation with a patient to help them recognize that they’re being both heard and understood. 

It is beneficial to understand a patient’s background. For example, what have they done in life? What do they love to do? Who is important in their life? Sharing in these conversations will help build a rapport, lead to improved doctor/patient communication, and can help to begin a trusting relationship. 

Does the patient have limitations such as the ability to drive to appointments, afford dentistry, or find time for treatment? Do they need to discuss their oral health condition and treatment options with a trusted family member before making a decision? 

Understanding these answers helps us to not only provide respectful and resourceful solutions but also limit inaccurate assumptions. This knowledge is especially helpful in my third-generation practice, where I have many elderly patients who are dealing with health issues, multiple medical appointments, and scheduled drivers. Their desire is to simply make a careful decision for an oral rehabilitation which fits their objectives and abilities. 

Do we hear the desire for treatment? When speaking with an existing patient, I can often recognize signs of interest to move forward with previously recommended treatment. At that point in time, I often ask, “Why now?” The answer helps me clarify their chief concern(s) so that we can move forward fittingly. 

In Part 2 of this series, we will explore additional techniques to clarify our patient’s desire for oral health and long-term, oral stability. 

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DATE: October 2 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 4 2025 @ 1:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 25.5

Tuition: $ 4795

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

 MASTERING TREATMENT PLANNING Course Description In our discussions with participants in both the Essentials and Mastery level courses, we continue to hear the desire to help establish better systems for…

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Laura Harkin

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Do You Know Your Team’s Threshold?

February 23, 2024 Robyn Reis

Do You Know Your Team’s Threshold? 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

While visiting a dental practice that had amazing hospitality and incredible relationships with its patients, I observed a doctor’s presentation to a patient who was in his forties and who had been saving for a smile makeover for a long time. The doctor did an amazing job with his presentation of what was possible and the phases of treatment. The patient was very excited, even teary-eyed.  

The patient wanted to get started and asked about the cost. The doctor said, “You know what? My team at the front are experts in figuring that out.” So, the patient was taken to the front and handed over beautifully. In a few minutes, he was presented with the treatment plan on paper with the approximate dollar amounts. In phases, they would do the full mouth. All seemed to be going well until it wasn’t. 

Intrinsically, everyone has a monetary threshold that up to a certain point, you have no problem with the amount. It’s something within your range of expectations and easy to say yes. When you cross that threshold, anxiety may creep in and for sure, you become uncomfortable.  This is what I witnessed in a matter of moments. 

I observed the front office team member look uncomfortable after glancing at the paperwork, despite being experienced with treatment presentations. The clinical assistant who had been part of the diagnosis and treatment planning process, would also help with scheduling and any questions. 

Together, they gave the patient the opportunity to ask questions after reviewing the plan again. The full mouth restoration was going to be in the neighborhood of $25,000. The first phase would be about $18,000. They offered CareCredit financing. The patient said, “It’s only $25,000 and I have $20,000 saved. This is wonderful! I don’t know how I will pay the other $5,000, but I know I have the means. It’s only $25,000.”  

The team appeared somewhat shocked because they were obviously uncomfortable with quoting that amount. This treatment plan crossed their personal thresholds. They suggested the patient go home and sleep on it “because this was a big investment.” The patient was so committed to moving forward that, despite their advice, he scheduled his first appointment. He would call them back once he figured out how to pay the remaining balance, knowing insurance would contribute very little. 

What I also found interesting was that neither team member asked for a deposit. No money was exchanged to reserve an extended appointment. The patient could back out and the doctor’s time spent on the case work-up would be uncompensated. In my experience, making a signed financial agreement would be the responsible step to take at this stage.  

This example illustrates the discomfort many dental teams feel about asking for a deposit if the treatment estimate crosses their personal threshold. Of course, dental teams will want to explain what can be done to make treatment more affordable and the financing options that are available. But it is beneficial for team members to understand their personal threshold and to become comfortable saying, “Grab your checkbook or pull out your credit card, Mr. Jones. Here’s what your investment is going to be to get started.”  

What’s your threshold? This is a great team exercise you can do at your next meeting because a patient might ask anyone they interact with about the cost of dentistry, and what options you offer for the dentistry they want.  Every team member will benefit from considering their personal threshold and discussing it — even role-playing — to become comfortable with the best ways to manage these questions. Depending on the situation, it could be referring the patient to the treatment coordinator or to the financial administrator to have a comfortable conversation. 

It is my belief that when patients are excited about what the treatment results will be and they want to move forward, it’s the right time to ask the patient to make a financial commitment to get the process started. 

Related Course

Mastering Treatment Planning

DATE: October 2 2025 @ 8:00 am - October 4 2025 @ 1:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 25.5

Tuition: $ 4795

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

 MASTERING TREATMENT PLANNING Course Description In our discussions with participants in both the Essentials and Mastery level courses, we continue to hear the desire to help establish better systems for…

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Robyn Reis

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Culture Fit Versus Culture Add

February 16, 2024 Robyn Reis

Culture Fit Versus Culture Add 

Robyn Reis, Dental Practice Coach 

When you are hiring team members, you are likely thinking about how those you interview will fit into your practice culture. Do their values align with yours? Do you share similar backgrounds and philosophies? A business’s culture is a system of shared values, beliefs, and behaviors that influence how people dress, act, and perform their roles. Most practice owners work hard to have everyone get along, support one another, and work as a team to give every patient a wonderful experience. So, it’s only natural to want to find someone who fits into that culture when a position opens up. 

In the HR world, recruiters have a different approach – they are moving away from “culture fit” towards “culture add.” What does this mean exactly? A great mentor of mine, Sheri Kay, says it best, “People come together in their similarities, but they grow together in their differences.” 

On the pages of Harvard Business Review, Forbes Magazine, Fast Company, Inc., and Entrepreneur, you will read that more and more companies are moving away from the traditional culture fit that creates a monoculture where everybody has shared similarities and there is no growth. Instead, they are recreating a culture that is open to new ideas, open to conversations where people poke holes in traditional ideas and say, “Hey, what if we did this? This is what we think we want to do. Now let’s figure out why it will or will not work.” 

In recruiting a hygienist for a client, one of the candidates stood out to me. In addition to her clinical hygiene education, she also had a financial background which represented a “culture add” for this particular practice. She had a greater understanding of goal setting, the finances of the business, and how to create a profitable hygiene department. She ended up being a fantastic and productive member of their team. 

When you are in the hiring process, do you think about adding to your culture? Diverse backgrounds correlate with more diverse problem-solving and decision-making processes. In studied corporations, diversity leads to increased profitability.  

In dentistry, diverse backgrounds can lead to the attraction and retention of diverse patients. Diverse backgrounds can fill in operational holes in your business model. Does a candidate have a background in psychology, finance, education, customer service, computer IT, office administration in another industry, or marketing? Does a candidate speak a second language that will be an asset in your community? Is a candidate artistic, an exceptional writer, a community volunteer, or actively participating in other activities? 

During each interview, seek to learn what the candidate could add to your practice culture in addition to culture fit. After talking about a candidate’s resume and interests, talk about situations that occur in the practice and current needs. Ask if the candidate has ever been in similar situations and how they handled them. Do the answers indicate personality traits and strengths that will add to (complement) the team? Ask the open question, “Based on your personal experience, what insights could you add to this situation?” 

In today’s competitive market for talented team members, consider what a new hire with additional skills could add to your culture and what these new contribution possibilities could be for an amazing patient and team experience. Happy hiring! 

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Robyn Reis

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Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

January 25, 2024 Paul Henny DDS

Are You Prepared for Your Next Hiring Challenge?

Most dentists hire during a crisis because a vacancy created for various reasons drives a need to fill a position immediately. This high-stress, time-sensitive situation often undermines the dentist’s ability to hire more strategically and therefore move their practice up to the next level. In other words, dentists tend to re-create the status quo out of desperation, rather than strategically evolve their practice over time based on how they hire and develop team members.  

Understanding what you need and want to create ahead of time (skills and values that are non-negotiable in a person) is key. Hopefully, this article will prompt you to think about this truth as well as prepare for the next hiring challenge. 

Seek These 8 Personality Attributes 

According to Avrom King (and my own experience), there are eight personality attributes that must be predominant within a care team for it to prosper over time: 

  1. Optimism: Despite all the craziness in today’s world, team members routinely demonstrate a hopeful and positive attitude toward adversity and others.
  2. Involvement: Team members actively pursue problem identification and resolution. They are caring and committed to seeing the practice function at an optimal level.
  3. High Self-Regard (not to be confused with high self-esteem): Team members feel competent, capable, and worthy of success. They believe that their lives make a positive difference in this world, and they demonstrate it every day.
  4. Missionality: Team members are committed to living clarified personal values. This commitment goes far beyond themselves. They see their life as an integral part of a greater whole and congruent with the mission of the practice.
  5. Energetic Curiosity: Team members are stimulated by their curiosity about people, things, and challenges. Consequently, their positive energy is contagious, and their problem-solving ability is high.
  6. Resilience: Team members are flexible and able to adapt in a healthy and functional way to routine day-to-day stressors. Consequently, they don’t avoid conflict. Instead, they approach conflict maturely and with the intention of positive resolution.
  7. Self-Control: Team members know who they are, where they are, and where they want to go. They also know what they are doing – or are in the process of finding out. In other words, they are effective self-leaders with the ability to delay gratification.
  8. Relationship-Oriented: Team members prosper via long-term open, honest, and hidden-agenda-free relationships. Consequently, they’re able to seek out and effectively propagate opportunities for commitment in others through those relationships.

Conduct Behavioral Interviews and Assess Emotional Intelligence 

The bottom line is that our hiring process must be behaviorally sophisticated to predictably assemble a highly symbiotic team of emotionally intelligent individuals. Conduct behavioral interviews and make use of emotional intelligence and personality assessment tests. Behavioral hiring interviews ask candidates questions about how they handled specific situations in the past and the candidates are urged to provide somewhat detailed answers about their role, actions, and results. You may ask how they feel about the experiences and what they learned from them. Knowing what they know now, what would they do differently? Don’t shy away from asking them about their life goals and what appeals to them about working in a dental office. Are they enthusiastic about teamwork and making a difference in the lives of patients? 

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This “can’t miss” course will empower Dental Assistants to bring their skills to excellence! During this dynamic hands-on course, led by Pankey clinical team member, Sandra Caicedo, participants will learn…

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Paul Henny DDS

Dr. Paul Henny maintains an esthetically-focused restorative practice in Roanoke, Virginia. Additionally, he has been a national speaker in dentistry, a visiting faculty member of the Pankey Institute, and visiting lecturer at the Jefferson College or Health Sciences. Dr. Henny has been a member of the Roanoke Valley Dental Society, The Academy of General Dentistry, The American College of Oral Implantology, The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology. He is Past President and co-founder of the Robert F. Barkley Dental Study Club.

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Their Ideal Day 

September 22, 2023 Christine Shigaki

I’m sure there are many aspects of your work that are really fulfilling, and I’m sure there are aspects of your daily work that you wish could be easier, maybe even less stressful. What about your work brings you joy? What would it take for you to provide your best work? What would it look like? What would it feel like?

I took an informal survey of dentists and hygienists about what they would need to have an ideal day. When I examined the dentists’ answers, I realized the answers would resonate with every member of a dental team.

The top five answers from dentists were:

  1. Having the appropriate instruments to provide excellent care.
  2. Opportunity to gain knowledge and skills.
  3. Excellent performance/execution of their work.
  4. Opportunity to implement new learning.
  5. Working with patients who are grateful for their care.

All hygienists desired “time to provide appropriate care for each patient.” Specifically, they asked for:

  1. Time to select and sharpen instruments for each person and for the specific procedures they will be doing.
  2. Time to properly assess each person’s unique periodontal condition, including time to accurately measure gum pockets and recession, minimal attachment/thickness, and to assess bleeding (blood thickness, how much bleeding, and where it is coming from—is it systemic or localized?).
  3. Time to explore possibilities with patients regarding their current condition, past condition, and potential future.
  4. Time to debrief and collaborate with the doctor to explore the next steps for the patient.
  5. Supportive teamwork across the practice to provide the best care.

Speaking of collaborating with team members, I invite you to ask your team members what their ideal day would include. Discuss, as a team, your shared ideals, and expectations. Consider where expectations do not match and discuss why this is and what must change to meet shared agreements.

Understanding and affirming the needs of others will have a positive impact. The exercise of writing down what works, what could be better, possibilities, goals, and a pathway towards implementation of superior supportive teamwork is likely to increase your practice joy factor.

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Christine Shigaki

Dr. Shigaki has been in dentistry since 1989 where she started as a dental assistant while completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Washington. In 1994, she graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA. Dr. Shigaki, a native of Seattle, has built her practice since 1995 and opened Belltown Dental in 2003. She is a life-long student of dentistry and believes that it is her professional responsibility to provide optimal, comprehensive care in a modern facility with state of the art equipment and techniques. She has completed and continues her studies with extensive post graduate dental education, including several dental study clubs and coursework at the distinguished Pankey Institute, where she is also currently an advisor and faculty member. Christine also facilitates teams and mentors dentists. She enjoys the work/life balance that dentistry allows her and hopes that others can find their joy in dentistry. When not at the office, teaching/studying dentistry, she enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and extensive extended family. She enjoys being involved in her children’s activities, yoga, reading, various outdoor activities and cooking.

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