| Journal of the Arizona Dental Association, June-July 2013
In business, there are titles that serve to describe the
various positions one holds. There is the fire chief,
COO, CEO, head waiter, school principal, leading lady
in a play, and so on. Typically with various job titles, the
name references the job’s description and list of duties
for which they are responsible. The one thing most of
the aforementioned positions have in common is that
the job description for each is pretty much standard-
ized for their specific industry. However, when it comes
to dentistry, there are many variations with the same
title. For example, the title of office manager can mean
different things to different practice styles, so that what
one dentist sees as a true “office manager,” another
dentist sees as more of a receptionist.
More importantly, the ambiguity about job titles (as they
relate to dental team members) is that it leads to a great
deal of confusion when applicants are applying for a
position. The job responsibilities for an office manager
or head hygienist can vary significantly from practice
to practice. That said, one constant is that every dental
practice is comprised of three separate areas:
• The administrative team handles the orchestration
of the front desk and all that is required to keep
things going from a business perspective
• The clinical team, which includes the dentist and
his/her clinical assistants.
• The hygiene team, which is made up of the hygienists
ists (and in some cases the hygiene coordinator,
although this particular position can also
cross over into the administrative side).
From speaking to dental professionals, I have found
that some dentists assign quite a bit of responsibility
to the dental office manager in their practice—many
even handle the doctor’s personal finances. Many office
managers are tasked with advising the dentist when the
practice can afford the purchase of new dental chair
or an upgrade to their practice management software.
Conversely, other office managers do little more than
schedule appointments and remind patients of their
overdue treatment plans.
So what exactly is the purpose of a job title? In many
cases it gives the team member a “pass” to assert a
perceived authority, and let the rest of the team know
that, “I am the boss, so listen to me.” In other situa-
tions, it means, “I handle some responsibility at the
front desk, but not as much as you would think based
on my title.” In some situations, job titles can cause the
mild-mannered dental team members to suddenly show
signs of aggression and power, placing themselves in a
category that is above the rest of the team—even the
dentist him/herself. This, as you might guess, causes a
great deal of dissention and team unrest, which often
lead to additional, unnecessary stress.
The meaning and significance of particular job titles
are truly open to perception by each team member,
and they can have a myriad of meanings and responsi-
bilities. As a suggestion, consider taking away the job
titles and focus on thorough job descriptions instead
(the breakdown of job responsibilities and detailing
what is required of every position that is more impor-
tant than any title). By doing so you will find that this
approach breeds both inter-department harmony and
operational efficiency.
A resourceful way (and a way to avoid future strife) is
to create job descriptions for each position with the
help and input from the entire dental team. By taking
this practice-wide approach, everyone has the oppor-
tunity to contribute, no one feels left out, and there are
no unwelcomed surprises that surface down the road.
Furthermore, your team will appreciate the opportunity
to voice their ideas and opinions.
Guest Contributor
With 35+ years in dentist-
ry, Deb Roberge, dental
business developer, dental
team coach and advisor,
lecturer, and author,
has contributed much
to the dental industry.
ARose byAnyOtherName
Job Titles doNOT Tell the Whole Story
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