Smile Source Private Dental Practice Blog

Improving Communication in Multigenerational Dental Teams

Understanding the Communication Divide

I own five dental practices in Iowa and Plaza Dental Group in Des Moines. As I provide leadership to all of the practices, I am striving to maximize their growth. I have thought a lot about multigenerational communication because our team members range from Gen Z to Baby Boomers, not only at each clinic but also on the support team that oversees marketing and business services for all locations. Our older team members often find it challenging to communicate effectively and meaningfully with their younger counterparts. We have experienced numerous communication breakdowns that have hindered processes and stalled growth.

For example, miscommunication between our older and younger team members led to costly errors in implementing new digital marketing strategies. Without a shared understanding of the technology and differing communication styles, our efforts to reach new patients were hampered, and our growth trajectory suffered. In another instance, an important business meeting went awry due to misunderstandings between a seasoned manager and a younger one. Despite both having valuable insights to offer, their failure to effectively communicate their perspectives resulted in a missed opportunity to secure a lucrative contract, highlighting the urgent need for improved multigenerational communication within our team.

Most of you in this audience are private practitioners in solo practice. Some of you may have partners and more than one location. No doubt many of you can relate to lost opportunities due to miscommunication—even if the opportunities are as simple as an inexperienced new hires answering questions over the phone incorrectly because they misunderstood what they had been taught by a senior or outgoing team member in a hurry or because they had not yet developed active listening skills and empathy with patients. And often busy senior team members assume, the youngest ones can swim independently and learn as they go. But they can’t do that efficiently, can they?

New employees need mentorship and support to keep the practice growing quickly. The valuable aspect of hiring the young is that they understand young consumers and are facile with learning new technology. They can be molded into the best behaviors in alignment with your practice vision without having to break old habits and break old perspectives. And whether it's the tech-savvy Gen Z entering the workforce or the experienced Baby Boomers nearing retirement, each generation brings its unique communication styles, preferences, and values to the table.


Overcoming the Communication Divide

I know you hear a lot about practice culture and developing a clear culture will align team members to work well together and with you to meet your goals and achieve your vision. I have always known the value of practice culture but there came a point when I was determined to change mine for the better. Specifically, I set out to overcome the generation communication divide in my business operation after we lost that aforementioned lucrative contract. I knew there had to be a way to improve communication and assimilate the change at the deeply cultural level.

To address the communication challenge, we tried and have found the following initiatives to be beneficial. These initiatives build a culture that supports “integrated communication.” Integrated communication ensures that all stakeholders receive timely, relevant, and consistent information and can move forward with a common understanding of the objectives and processes we design to meet practice goals. This culture enables us to collaborate effectively across generations as we set goals and design processes, and this collaboration ensures that all stakeholders own the goals and are highly engaged in meeting them.

  1. We created a cadence of general training modules and assigned mentors to young employees. We began conducting more training sessions at the five locations. These were learning opportunities focused on open dialogue about communication and creating a safe process for sharing ideas in which ideas from all generations could be received with respect and understanding. These regular training sessions promote empathy and appreciation for each team member’s unique strengths and contributions. 

  2. We also paired younger team members with seasoned professionals for mentorship. In this intentionally facilitated cross-generational mentorship program, more experienced team members can share valuable insights and best practices accumulated over years of experience, while mentees can offer fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. By fostering meaningful connections between generations, we create a culture of continuous learning and collaboration.

  3. We leveraged technology to facilitate communication with online tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and project management software. Although the younger team members were initially the most comfortable using the software platforms, the older team members quickly found the communication tools streamlined communication and saved time. Paired mentors and mentees helped each other as needed in adapting to the technology and becoming comfortable navigating the software platforms.

  4. In conjunction with active listening training, we established a regimen for regular feedback conversations among team members. We expect all team members to participate in the feedback conversations and to actively listen, validate each other’s’ perspectives, and respectfully provide feedback. We have found that creating a culture of feedback promotes transparency, trust, and continuous improvement within each team.

Of course, the four initiatives required leadership at the local level. Providers and practice managers had to be receptive to feedback and set the tone for effective communication. They had to lead by example.

If your practice growth is being hindered by intergenerational miscommunication and misunderstandings…if you sense you need coaching to lead your team in implementing similar initiatives, I think it is worth the investment. 


"Being part of the Smile Source Network has transformed our practice. Through the champion group, each department now has a dedicated champion to share information and best practices. This collaboration has greatly improved our efficiency and patient care, all thanks to the support from Smile Source."


While the journey to effective multigenerational communication may present its challenges, the rewards are undeniable—a cohesive team, streamlined processes, and accelerated growth. By prioritizing communication, holding team members accountable for actively listening, giving and receiving feedback with empathy, embracing the unique strengths of each generation, and mentoring each other, we can drive sustainable success for years to come.



About the Author

Dr. Steffany Mohan's journey in dentistry began in 1996 when she opened her first practice. Over the years, she has established and successfully sold several dental offices, solidifying her reputation as a leader in the field. Presently, she owns five of the largest and most profitable practices in Iowa, where she oversees a team of six associate dentists and 30 staff members, including 10 full-time hygienists. Dr. Mohan earned her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Iowa over two decades ago and has since pursued advanced training in various specialties such as Invisalign and dental implants. As a Six Month Smiles clinical coach and an Associate Clinical Director for the OsteoReady™ courses she lectures and consults nationally and internationally. As a Smile Source member, she shares her passion for combining technical expertise with strong workplace values and effective practice management systems to empower other dentists with knowledge and tools to thrive in our ever-evolving industry.


Dr. Steffany Mohan, DDS
Founder & CEO, Plaza Dental Group