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Episode #553: How to Motivate My Team to Use Technology, with Dr. Kelly Tanner

Your team is averse to technology. They’re intimidated, overwhelmed, and not motivated to learn. But is that actually true? Technology might be what your practice needs, and today’s guest explains why. Kirk Behrendt brings back Dr. Kelly Tanner from Next Level Dental Hygiene to reveal how your team may be craving new technology and how you can help them learn. For the naysayers in your practice, she also shares advice for encouraging and motivating them to use it. To hear more about technology and getting your team to use it, listen to Episode 553 of the Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

The Dental Handoff podcast on Spotify:

Books by John Maxwell:

Books by Jim Collins:

Main Takeaways:

Your team might actually want to learn how to use new technology.

Help team members understand how technology will help patients.

Give team members reasonable expectations for learning.

Train your team and provide real-time feedback.

Technology can bring your team together.

Ask your team how you can help them.


“Technology is 3D scanning devices, it’s CBCT, it’s digital cameras, it’s lasers, it’s digital censors. It’s anything new. Sometimes, for some offices, it’s technology for AI. It’s reading the radiographs, sending them over the interwebs into the global outer space system where there’s a space modulator . . . and sending it out somewhere to have it read, to have your team be supported by these technologies so they can best serve the patient. And so, that’s what I mean by technology.” (4:57—5:41)

“You have to help that team member go back to their original answer about why they’re there to begin with and why they’re showing up every day. I would bet you, because most people answer yes to this, that it’s about serving people. So, can we, with this technology — with this procedure protocol, whatever, fill in the blanks, CBCT, 3D scanner — serve the patient at a different level to help them understand and to help them get the best health outcome from this? If you can relate that and translate that back to that dental professional, that dental team member, they’re more likely to be able to figure out how to put it in their workflow.” (11:48—12:24)

“Docs will go out to a convention, and they come back with the shiny thing. They roll it back in, and it’s like, ‘Oh, this is the best thing that I’ve ever purchased! Okay, let’s use it on Monday.’ Everybody is going, ‘What is this about? What do we even do with this?’ So, one, you’ve got to train your team. Some of the best companies I’ve worked for and worked with have the best trainers and support around that tech. And then, also, where do those procedure’s protocols fit in around that individual schedule? So, for instance, I love, love, love teaching offices about how to integrate 3D scanning in their hygiene operatory. So, agnostic to any type of scanner, just using it, putting it in play to educate. It is not about selling, because educating is serving. So, when you make time, one three-minute scan that you can do compresses that visit down. You gain back 10 minutes of time.” (12:51—13:51)

“A picture can be worth a thousand words. What is a scan, or an X-ray, or something else that you’re showing them visually that is worth even more than a thousand words? Because it’s about a visual, an emotional experience for the patient. That’s how we all make decisions. So, if we can integrate something, a CBCT scanner, a 3D scan, show them what it is, they can see what you see, they go, ‘Whoa. I didn’t know that that was there. I now want to take action on that.’ Don’t you think, dental professional, that saved you time? Because now, you don’t have to try to explain it, from this very complex thing that they can now see for themselves.” (13:52—14:34)

“It’s practice, just like anything else. Holding a high speed, doing a certain procedure, it took you a little while to get there. We all have to remember that the first time that we held a mirror, it took a minute to not feel like we were going to drop it down someone’s throat. So, it’s going to take that muscle memory, that repetition, that repetitive nature of putting it into your workflow, having the doctor and team be also giving you some grace to do that. I’m not saying give you 10 extra minutes. That’s not what I mean. But be intentional about practicing that. So, with the scan, scan yourself. Sit down with teammates. If you’re waiting on a patient, or a patient cancels, or during lunch time, or whatever, sit someone down in the chair. Practice on them. Get better. Get that feedback from team members.” (15:25—16:14)

“I always start with, ‘How can I support you?’ The best words, ever. ‘How can I support you with this?’ Listen for more than five seconds, pause, and let them fill in the air space. Because they’ll tell you if you listen. And say, ‘How can I support you? Do you need more time?’ And don’t give them the answer. ‘What are you having the most challenge with? What do you think would be most beneficial for you?’ And then, once they tell you if they need a little more time, or they need a little more coaching, bring that other trainer back in during a lunch-and-learn, whatever that looks like. Or people hire me to come in to consult and watch their workflow.” (18:17—18:58)

“My dentist has a new team. And the team member, this is her third scan for this intraoral scanning device. And so, I’m a trainer, just not paid by anyone. But because I’m a consultant, she’s like, ‘Okay. I know who you are, and I know you train. Give me any feedback.’ I’m like, ‘I want you to be confident. I want you to know that you have got this.’ She starts to do it, and she’s like, ‘Tell me if I can do anything.’ So, I reached up gently, and I held her arm, and I went, twist. She goes, ‘Oh.’ And I said, ‘Parallel.’ All it needs, sometimes, is one word for her to see that difference on the screen and how it’s turning up. And she goes, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that!’ It just takes one flick of a wrist, and here it is. It’s filled in all the spots where it was missing before. I said, ‘You see, it’s like a camera. If you hold it too far away with this particular scanner, it’s trying to fill in the information from what it thinks it needs.’ And she’s like, ‘Oh. Just like a real camera.’ ‘Exactly. It’s going to be blurry, so it’s trying to make sense of it.’ ‘Oh.’ So, it’s that real-time feedback, just like coaching.” (19:14—20:20)

“[AI and radiographs are] so important because it’s the appointment where everyone is rushed, and the doctor is rushed. Sometimes, doctors and hygienists are rushed. We’re all thinking that we’re looking at the same X-ray. We’re looking for the same things, we think. But then, it’s just sitting there. This pathology is just sitting there because it’s not jumping off the screen at you. But then, these AI technologies are already prescreening this and somewhat giving you a second opinion — not taking you out of the equation but helping you. They’re supporting you to say, ‘Hey, I’m over here. Look at this. Look at this,’ with a percentage of confidence that that may be what you’re looking for or looking at. And then, you could say, ‘Nah, I don’t agree with that,’ or, ‘Whoa, I almost missed that.’” (22:09—22:56)

“These AI systems, they’re constantly taking in information, as we all know. The more information you feed it, the smarter it gets. And the more cases you put in, it’s going to give you more output based on different patients all over the world. And so, you’re sitting there in the op, and all of a sudden, these boxes come up around the teeth or at the bone level saying, ‘Hey, there’s bone loss here. There’s loss of lamina dura. There’s potential pathology here.’ And I’m going, ‘Whoa, I never would’ve otherwise seen that. I would’ve thought maybe it was something else.’ I think that it’s easy in any part of our lives, if we’re experiencing something, to try to explain it away of, ‘My stomach is upset. Oh, it’s probably that thing that I ate,’ or, ‘It’s probably this.’ ‘Well, how long has this been going on?’ ‘A week now.’ ‘No, it’s not that, then. It’s probably something else.’ But we can look at it and say, ‘No, that’s probably just cervical burnout on the X-ray.’ ‘No, it’s caries because this also thinks that it’s caries. Should we look a little bit closer?’ It truly gives you that second opinion to be able to give you the best predictable outcome for that patient. And to catch things when they are small is always the goal, because dentistry only gets more expensive.” (22:58—24:12)

“Training by many companies and manufacturers, we need to take advantage of this. With doctors who have purchased technology, please take advantage of this training. It will save you so much time. It will create efficiency like you’ve never known it, and it will flatten the learning curve with your team.” (24:40—24:57)

“Start to where it’s going to give you the biggest value in your practice. So, digital censors, for sure. And I think there are other resources out there. It may have been on [ACT’s] website where I saw the top things to start with when you’re a new dentist, and the number-one things that are great to invest in, and then where you build from there, and what are those things that are going to be a standard in every other office. And then, perhaps after you get that situated, and you’re seeing that productivity, and you’re seeing the team work their efficiencies, go to the next thing. What is going to increase your productivity, your profit margin, and also decrease your overhead? What can everyone use? What can everyone make sense of? And don’t choose 85 goals for your team. Choose like two or three for a quarter.” (25:52—26:43)

“When you’re talking about technology where some people can have their own bias created about, ‘I don’t want to bring tech in because it will overwhelm the team,’ I find just the opposite, that that team is looking to be rejuvenated by different cutting-edge technology. They’re looking to learn something new. They want to offer their patients something. They want to be excited around something. And anything new like that, whether it be a new software that you’re integrating, a new electronic health record, whatever it is, people can come together around that. So, that actually builds the team in a way that other things may not.” (27:12—27:55)

“Bring the technology in. Don’t be hesitant about it because I think that you’ll find, surprisingly, that your team will embrace it. They’ll say, ‘My doctor cares about me. My doctor cares about their patient.’ It actually enriches their patient experience, and the patients go, ‘I’ve never been told that before in my entire life or showed that.’ Because remember, people expect a visual experience. We expect it from Instagram, from YouTube, from this podcast — everything. They expect it. And so, if we’re not giving it to them, it’s kind of like we’re falling short. So, what are you giving your team that they can be excited about?” (27:58—28:37)

“Ask [your team] what lights them up, what makes them want to come to work every day, and maybe some things that don’t. And then, help them tell you what truly motivates them. Because then, you can respond in a way that’s meaningful to the practice. And sometimes, you find out that they don’t align with your practice anymore, or that they’re ready to grow into a different position because they’re telling you something. You’re like, ‘Oh. Well, shoot. I didn’t realize you were even interested in that.’ So, they become stagnated. They become burned out. You get the attrition because you’re not listening. So, listening with that empathy, and then not assuming that they don’t want the technology. Start by relying on your team, and then also the company, the manufacturer, to deliver the training, deliver the support. And if you can’t reach your end goal, get someone else to come in to give you a different lens on perhaps what your team can be doing.” (29:33—30:36)

“It’s small, little things. It’s that real-time feedback that helps that team as a learning organization to improve. It’s only when you bring in something that’s a disruptor, like technology, that truly brings your team together.” (30:38—30:54)


0:00 Introduction.

1:45 Dr. Tanner’s background.

3:03 Why this is important in dentistry.

4:36 Technology and motivation, defined.

5:43 How to motivate your team to use technology.

7:28 Important characteristics in a leader.

11:26 Motivating naysaying team members.

12:26 Educate patients using technology.

14:37 Have reasonable expectations for team members.

17:49 Ask team members how you can support them.

21:39 AI and radiographs, explained.

24:59 Where to start.

26:57 Technology will rejuvenate your team.

28:58 Last thoughts.

31:27 More about what Dr. Tanner does, and how to get in touch.

Dr. Kelly Tanner, PhD, RDH Bio:

Dr. Kelly Tanner, PhD, RDH, earned her Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene and her Master of Science in Dental Hygiene from Old Dominion University. She found a love specializing in management and administration within her master’s degree and continued her doctoral education at Regent University in Virginia Beach University in Business & Organizational Leadership. Her Ph.D. focused on organizational metacognition, in-depth study of group dynamics, and how to elicit permanent organizational change.

Dr. Tanner is also a certified John Maxwell Leadership Coach and is also certified in the science of emotional intelligence (EI). She teaches organizations how to leverage their productivity and teams utilizing EI and other customized assessments to make changes that LAST and teams that THRIVE. Through measured assessments and interaction, she can help teams of any size create sustainable systems for personal and professional accountability by increasing ownership and synergy within the organization. Her proven methods will enhance team interaction, case acceptance, digital adoption, and workflow efficiencies.

Dr. Tanner has a published chapter in forensic odontology for dental professionals, and also multiple publications in topics regarding telehealth for dental hygienists. She recently published her dissertation titled: Identifying Leadership Development Needs of Dental Hygienists Using an

Online Delphi Technique.

Dr. Tanner has served as a mentor, clinician, consultant, researcher, and also as a dental hygiene educator and clinical director. She has served as past president of the Virginia Dental Hygienists’ Association and also as Chair of the ADHA Council for Public Relations. She has been recognized for her outstanding leadership within healthcare and university settings and is a recipient of the ADHA and Johnson & Johnson Award for Excellence.


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