Mask-wearing dentist offering two toothbrushes to patient

Hiring “the right people” can be tough work but it is arguably the most important function you will ever perform. You must have a top performing team in place to give you the peace of mind that your patients are being well taken care of and that you are able to do what you do best – practice dentistry. To attract and retain high quality staff, employee compensation must include fair practices and reward employees based on the merit of each individual’s performance.

What happens if your practice has top performers who are at the peak of their salary range? Cutting hours and salaries is not the answer and bonus systems don’t work.

1.  This comment is not popular with employees, but it is worth considering, why should you give your staff a bonus for doing the job that they were hired to do? It seems to me that this is a redundancy that doesn’t make much sense and many practices cannot afford.

2.  Incentive bonus plans are labour intensive to administer. They require monitoring, analyzing and tracking.  This requires that time and attention of your manager is focused on production only instead of being committed to excellence in the quality of services provided.

3. Bonuses become an expectation. If financial targets are not achieved, employees may feel that they are still entitled to receive a bonus. What if your production is down and your practice is losing money and you cannot afford to provide a bonus?.   If employees do not receive bonuses that they were expecting,  they may view it as punitive and morale is affected in a negative way.

4. If bonus plans are not administered well they create a sense of unfairness in your office and result in employee unrest. The dynamics change from being patient focused to looking at the monetary rewards which leads to internal competition.  This is not good for your practice.  Even if you create a bonus system where everyone at your practice receives a bonus, then you are ostensibly rewarding poor performance as well.  If you have to discipline or terminate an employee, then you may run into difficulties with employment labour laws because you have rewarded the employee even though he/she was not meeting performance expectations.

5. Some offices will choose to only provide bonuses to the hygienists based on production goals. This type of system is not patient centered and it may encourage hygienists to rush through patient care to meet their production goals. It does not reward the hygienist who creates value for the patient by taking the time to educate them about oral health thus creating patient loyalty and trust.  It also neglects the other supporting team members who have worked hard to make the appointments, to prevent cancellations and process the payments.

How Do We Continue to Motivate Our Staff?

So how do you continue to motivate and retain those star team members while staying within your budget?   Here is a win-win solution – provide your employees with a Health Benefits Spending Account as part of your employee benefits package.  Traditional group benefits programs have been too cost prohibitive for many dentists and eligibility requirements and group size often made the idea of offering health benefits not feasible or practical.

Health Spending Account:

Health Spending Accounts provide your employees with the flexibility of obtaining services that suit the individual needs of each of your employees while providing the dentist with a tax benefit.  Your employees will be able to choose what is right for them and not be restricted by plan designs that don’t address the individual needs of your employees.

 Health care spending accounts allow their employees to make their own personal decisions about their health care spending and actually save the employers money.  Now dentists can provide the same type of benefit programs for your employees and enjoy a tax benefit.  It is a win-win solution that helps dentists retain high quality staff members .  Adding a health spending account to your personnel policies is a great way to keep the good employees and provide them with a meaningful reward for their dedication to your success.


Paying dental staff benefits may be a greater motivation vs. bonuses and your family can also participate on the plan.  Health Spending Accounts are a deduction to your professional corporation not only for staff but for your family.

The other plus is that the HSA only gets invoiced and billed to your corporation when a family or staff member uses the plan.

If you pay out bonuses, the funds are gone right away.  So not only are benefits more rewarding to staff but using an HSA could be better on practice cash flow.

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