In this episode of The Authentic Dentist, Shawn and Allison have the privilege of talking with CEO of DentalPost Tonya Lanthier. Tonya shares her story of starting off her career as a dental hygienist, recognizing a need in the industry, and starting the DentalPost as a way to meet this need. This didn’t come without challenges. Today, with over 16 years of experience and 67,000+ offices using DentalPost as a way to meet needs in the office, Tonya dives into what makes a healthy environment and how understanding the people in your workplace is vital for that office to thrive.

From the power of mindset, to childhood influence, to the practicality of a good attitude, this podcast is sprinkled with gold nuggets that you can use to improve your office today!

Full Transcript Below

Shawn: (00:00)
Hey, this is Shawn and Allison with The Authentic Dentist podcast. And we are excited to interview Tonya from the Dental Post. And Tonya, just chatting with you a little bit. It is already been so inspiring to hear just how you even arrived at where you’re at starting kind of in dentistry as a hygienist. So yes, today we’re excited just to talk with Tonya a little bit about that and just share kind of what she’s doing.

Allison: (00:32)
Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your company is doing right now?

Tonya: (00:37)
Sure. You know I started out as a hygienist and and I’ve been doing hygiene for 25 years and I kind of, you know, 16 years ago threw up a website because I was temping at the hygienist and I felt a need. And during that temping, I was in different offices and I’d always see offices that were doing great and everybody was happy. Then I’d always see offices that you had you’d go in and they couldn’t keep the book full and nobody wanted to be there. And the dentist didn’t never look happy. And I started to see these, these trends and offices where people fit really well. And everybody kept saying, well, I’m not happy here. I want to go somewhere else.

Tonya: (01:27)
And so I’d say, Oh, I know the office. That’s great. Cause I kept there and they were wonderful. And so my phone started reading, ringing off the hook and I was had had about with infertility. And so I got pregnant with twins. So I threw up a website during that time trying to have kids and juggle everything. And it just grew. And now 16 years later, it’s I have 850,000 dental professionals on the site nationwide and there’s 67,000 dental offices using it to fill the needs of their office, using data, to make a better hire and using assessment to understand if a person will fit in their office better.

Allison: (02:12)
Can you tell me a little bit more about how you do this assessment?

Tonya: (02:17)
Yeah, we’ve, you know, when I was in when I was just out of dental hygiene school, I worked for two doctors and they took us to a course and it was my first taste of what death was. And I remember thinking, wow, this is cool. You know, they made us do this in depth. This test and you know, I was a, a D ID. So I really liked people and I knew I liked the results and I was like, this is really cool. And then we started looking at everybody else on the team and where they sit down and you had an insurance person and they were a little bit of a higher CS and they were detailed oriented. And it was really interested.

Tonya: (03:00)
It fascinated me to see how people interacted with each other. So that was kind of my, I think, first journey to understanding what assessments were so on dental post I added, I added a disc and since then I’ve added EDI emotional intelligence co work culture assessment that you can get a better fit where your environment still dental philosophy and what your goals are. So I think if you kind of understand some of those things, when you’re hiring that, that can help you achieve your goals and give excellent care to your patients, your team function at a high level and then be a happier and be happier at work.

Allison: (03:46)
So are you saying that some combinations don’t work well together or some like is, should your hygienists be a certain combination?

Tonya: (03:55)
You know, there’s, when you look at like this there’s percentages, you know, like you could be a, you could be a hundred percent day, or you could be, you know, just about 60% D so if you’ve got like a hundred percent D for a doctor and you put you higher a hundred percent D for a hygienist, yeah. They’re going to lock horns and they’re probably gonna somebody, you know, they’re going to have control probably issues there. So you can work better if you’ve got like a lower D personality within higher D personality. But you really have to find that combination that does fit well.

Allison: (04:34)
Wow. That that’s just brilliant. So they take an assessment and then do you do the matching or do you have a computer system that does the matching?

Tonya: (04:42)
We have a matching algorithm that sends out candidates that would match up better with you if you’ve taken the assessments yourself and what you’re looking for. So there’s a lot of factors that play a role in that. Now, if you know, if you’re a high, you know, if you’re I personality ID hygienists, that would work well with a, with a D I M a high D I dentist. So, you know, you have to look at it as you don’t want to have all of the same working for you. And that’s typically what people hire, you know, you like, Oh, they’re like me. I really liked them. You, when you’re in an office, you need people that can’t do the things that you’re good at, or that you’re not good at. And the things that you’re good at, you know, you want to have a balance.

Allison: (05:30)
And, and I, I think you’re right, that’s a mistake. Lots of dentists make, you know, Oh, you’re like me come work for me. Oh, no, that doesn’t work. You need a lot of different personalities in order to, to make an office work.

Tonya: (05:41)
Yeah. Not everybody can be the boss. Yes,

Allison: (05:44)
That’s right. So I know that you have some more education. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

Tonya: (05:51)
A little bit about

Allison: (05:53)
At MIT? Do I remember something about London? Yes.

Tonya: (05:58)
I did. I, I, you know, I joined the hygienist when I was, I got to a level of growing the business cause I was, I was still, I was raising twins. I was also seeing patients about four days a week and I was running dental posts at the same time. And on the weekends I go to conferences and I got to a place where I’m like, okay, I need more structure. I need to put some more structure and I’m not sure how to do it. And I had a patient, several patients say, you need to join EO. And I was like, what is the, Oh, and nobody could really tell me what it was. And then I had to go meet somebody. And then what did, what yo is? It’s called entrepreneurs organization. And it opened my world and there’s a lot of dentist and EO as well, but it opened my world to resources that I would not have had if I had not known about it.

Tonya: (06:48)
And I think it helped me advance my, my growth of the company at that point. And what they offer is also programmed into MIT, into Wharton, into London business school, you know, into Harvard. And the first one I went to was London business school. And I was like, I’m going to, to business school. This is like, you know, incredible, you know, I’ve never had the chance to do something like that. And when I went there was a John Mullins was my professor. And he brought in all these professors from all over the world to speak to us. And it was a whole week. And I sat down with him at lunch one day and we were talking about my company and he’s like, I love your company, what you’ve done and how you look at the look at the people of it, look how they interact with each other.

Tonya: (07:46)
You want to make people happier in their work environment. And he knew, he knew that my, I was working at the hygienist and raising the twins and building the company where I just didn’t take on. I didn’t take on money to grow the company fast and furious. I took what I made and I put it back into the company and to add value to the people in dentistry. So, but working in over a hundred offices, when I was temping, I started to see things I can take from other offices that worked and bring a tool to the, to the community to help him. But John liked it so much that he did a pilot on it and brought me back over to London after I finished the course and he, he spent eight hours with me and did a pilot on it. And now he teaches it at London business school of how I built it on a post.

Allison: (08:41)
Wow. Congratulations. That is just amazing.

Tonya: (08:45)
You know, you know, I’m, I really am grateful for, I don’t, I just, when an opportunity has opened to me, I’ve just had faith and took the opportunity. And I, I, I do sometimes just go, wow, I’ve had a really fun journey from going from, you know, I’m still a hygienist, but going from hygienist to running a company, to go into a place where you meet people that have done amazing things, and then they give you back the feedback that you need to hear and where to take yourself to the next level, because when you become uncomfortable and you stretch yourself, that’s when you get your most growth. And I believe that’s about what we are at dental posts is self awareness. When you push yourself to understand people don’t like to change. And they don’t like to look at themselves in the mirror, you know, and look at their weaknesses. But when you do, and you can learn to grow from it or get better, then you can actually function at a higher level in life in general. You can be that, that Olympic, that Olympic level,

Shawn: (09:51)
You know, I just want to take a moment to pause because it is so fascinating. Everything you just said, like Allison and I, our whole brand is all about you know, just inspiring and encouraging those that are in this journey of dentistry. That might be wondering, I, I don’t fit perfectly and I’m not really sure if there’s more and you started as a hygienist, and then you, you just saw a problem and you saw a few other problems and you realize, Hey, I think I can actually do something about this. And it didn’t, it didn’t align itself at the perfect time in your life. When you had lots of freedom, when you had lots of time, when you like it showed up, when you could have just used it as a perfect excuse, you know what? I have twins, like, come on, no one thinks it’s a good strategy, have twins, and also start a side hustle. Like it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense, but you did it. And there’s so much about the mindset that you have, Tonya, that I know our listeners need to hear, because it’s just, it’s inspiring. And I know you were sharing with us something about you didn’t arrive at this without struggle. Is that correct?

Tonya: (11:02)
Yeah. There’s a lot of struggle. Yes. I’m gonna go back to my childhood. So my mom had OCD growing up and I’m not talking about the kind of OCD that, where you’re, you know, you use alcohol on your hands all the time, or, you know, you flip the switch, turn the light off, or the oven off, I’m talking about clinical OCD where she would wash us. And she would wash us five, six, seven times and she’d wash her clothes a lot. So I always say, you know, I was a very clean child and I became a hygienist cause my mom taught me cross contamination at an early age. But she was trapped in her head. And I saw that as a young child and I just wanted my mom to be okay. And I wanted her to be able to flourish and get her out of her.

Tonya: (11:52)
She, she was so trapped in her head that she couldn’t get out and stepped outside the box and be free. And it made me really sad and I always wanted, she, she gave me a gift to understand people’s minds. So I think that we’re, I think we don’t do people justice by when we look at somebody and we, we, you know, get to know someone, we go, why are they the way they are? And it, it goes back. It always goes back to childhood. It goes back to something that happened. There’s a great book that I read. And I don’t want to get off focus, but it’s called mastery of love. And it talks about, it’s an analogy. It talks about we’re all born disease free when we’re age, you know, up until the age two. And then after age two, we get a skin disease is what they talk about.

Tonya: (12:42)
And they talk about some people’s skin disease hurts more than others when people touch it. And it’s an analogy about how our, how our feelings, our emotions are so connected to how we interact with the world. And when we’re, when we’re touching, we’ve been damaged by our, by the adults or the limiting belief system that we grew up with, it really does keep us in our cage and we can’t flourish from there until we learn until we get to that place where we start our personal journey or development journey and decide. So I mean, I know I’ve got, got off there, but you know, my mom was my first teacher and I just wanted to understand why people do the things they do. And that helped me, my patients too. I understood their fear, understood their motivation. I understood what influenced them.

Tonya: (13:38)
And I was, I was a really good clinician because I understood what drove them. What was their fear? You know, if you can bring a person to where you want them to their outcome to be, which is, you know, optimal oral health, if you understand what their needs are and you have high emotional intelligence to understand your self awareness and how you interact with your emotions and other people’s emotions, social awareness, relationship awareness, and your, you know, you know, all the, all the emotional intelligence that, that if you understand how you interact and how your emotions feel, if you’re interacting with Steven, with your doctor or your, or your, or your team, if you understand, okay, I may not like her sometimes, but you know what? I’m not going to punish her. She’s doing her job. I don’t like the way she does something sometimes.

Tonya: (14:33)
And I’ve told her that she did it again. You know, you just have to not punish people. You have to be clear with a person. A lot of people a lot of people are passive aggressive in a lot of ways. And that’s you know, and they don’t realize they’re being passive aggressive, or they don’t realize that their ego gets in the way. And that all goes back emotional intelligence. And I do believe that is going to be the future of our work. And our school is going forward. It’s the mindfulness movement.

Allison: (15:00)
That is a lot of what Shawn and I talk about with The Authentic Dentist is that mindset and that coaching mentality, that you’re coaching your team all the time. And you’re coaching your patients all the time to bring out the best to encourage them to do their best work in the environment, needs to be that positive environment.

Allison: (15:19)
So kudos to you. That’s amazing. Well, I would like to go ahead and I want to touch on that, the mindset piece, you know, we talk a lot about you come into your practice and you see that there’s a lot of problems and that you need to address them. And we like to look at them as challenges. Well, you took a really big challenge and turned it into something amazing. What was your mindset there? How did you, how did you believe that you could do this?

Tonya: (15:48)
I don’t know. I don’t know what influenced me. I just, I’ve always been, I want, I want to help people. And again, it goes back to my, you know, my childhood where I just wanted to help my mom. I went to me and I came from, I came from a family that were, that helped people. I came from my great grandfather and my grandfather founded the fire department.

Tonya: (16:09)
They took care of people. You know, they, they, but it’s really more than that. Isn’t it? Cause you stepped out of the box, you did something that no one else had done and you took it even further. That’s, that’s impressive. I’m not sure what, but I think it builds on itself, you know, from my, from my experience as a child. I mean, I’ll say that when I was eight years old, I knocked my teeth out and a bicycle rack and the team was so good to me that I remember just wanting to go into that business and dentistry and be able to help people. They made me feel so good after I’d knocked my teeth out, went to the hospital and they brought the tooth back to the hospital. And you know, and I spent a lot of time in the dental chair.

Tonya: (16:55)
It, it really influenced me. I believe that the dental office is a big thing place for just the general public. I believe that I think the best job in the universe, cause we get to help people which gives a gift back to us, selfishly that we’ve improved somebody’s life. We’ve made them healthier. They may not always appreciate it, but we’ve actually done something for them. And if I see it as a gift back to me that I I’m able to take my gift in life and help somebody with my hands to help somebody with my knowledge.

Shawn: (17:32)
So Tonya, you shared about how, what happened when you were eight years old, losing your teeth had such an impact because you had a positive dental experience and Allison has a pretty profound story about a positive dental experience that influenced that I would like her to share.

Allison: (17:52)
I became a dentist because when I was in college and I was studying to go into medicine, my dad was diagnosed with oral cancer and our general dentist found it and he found it early because my dad went in every six months. And bigger than that, our dentist was paying attention. He cared there was a doctor patient relationship and it just changed my whole outlook. And I became a dentist and it just fulfills me. I love it. Just like you, I have all this passion about it, but a big piece of it is that doctor, patient relationship that paying attention to what’s going on. And it’s hard, especially in dentistry right now because we’re so busy. And I believe that’s when you as a dentist too. I mean, I’ve been a hygienist for 25 years and I did save people’s lives. The dentist trusted me.

Tonya: (18:43)
And then I had some that were kinda, that didn’t have the trust in me. They just went, they would never get it. But I believe if you, if you understand your and build your people up and give them, give them the accolade, you know, you will have a all star team I’ve seen egos get in the way of a team performing at a high level because the doctor needed so much, so much like kudos and accolades by their team that the team was supporting, supporting the doctor mentally. They were the leaders in the office instead of the doctor going, Hey, good job. Thanks for being here. You know, it goes both ways. So if you had the opportunity, what would you like doctors to know these young doctors who are graduating and starting their own practices? Do you have some advice for them? Yeah, I would say I know that they’re focused a lot on money right now because that’s where you are right now. You’re hungry. You’ve you’ve got debt. You’ve gone to dental school, you know, you’ve got your, if you bought a practice, you’ve got a lot on you investing your team though. Pause and tell everybody. Thank you for being there. Just practice. I think kindness to your team and make sure you pick the right ones that are onboard with you and have you set the goal make sure that everybody’s clear on what the goal is in your office. I love that. And that’s great.

Shawn: (20:16)
You know, one thing you said, Tonya, that I just, I have to say, cause I’ve just been waiting to say this at the right time, but you dropped a bomb that was so brilliant and inspiring. When you said that your mom gave you the gift of, and it’s like to everyone listening our childhood, no matter what challenges or obstacles or things that we might perceive as like, Oh man, that, that wasn’t ideal. Look at the situation I was born into or this circumstance that happened to me. But you found the side of it. That was a gift. And you even said it another time in this conversation, I was given the gift. And that is just such a profound perspective of like, almost like thanking that the circumstance, the challenges, even the suffering that cultivated in you, something that was a gift that now you can share.

Shawn: (21:13)
And now it turns into your contribution or you can help other people. And I thank you so much for sharing that with us. Like just really quickly, I think of my mom and she had a terrible upbringing and saw all sorts of abuse and the gift that gave her was she learned how to forgive. And she was able to give so many people grace and teach them how to love in the midst of it being not fair. And that’s the gift. She got to give people because of her childhood. So it’s like people out there that are wondering you know, how to become more authentic or find out more of who they are in dentistry. It’s like don’t forsake the gifts that you’ve been given that may not come across as gifts. You were talking about how your family always helped people. Well, someone else they might’ve grew up in a family where you know, it was more of like they’re always solving problems and that might’ve come across as critical. Cause there was just like, Oh, there’s something wrong here. There’s something wrong there. Maybe you’re good at finding problems then maybe you’re good at seeing what’s wrong. And that’s a gift you’ve been given and now you can find out how to be the answer to that. So I just, I love that.

Tonya: (22:27)
I have to share that dental school is very, very difficult and we’re not treated so nice. Yeah. There’s a lot of criticism. And I think when you’re raised in that environment raised as a dentist for four years and you graduate with heavy debt, you do come out into the world with a very critical personality because it’s been created and you do have to look at it as a gift and a gift that you don’t want to carry for that criticism to yourself or to your patients or to your team. But it, the process to undo it and be kind yep, hurt people, hurt people. And you know, you never know what you’re coming into when you come in contact with a person too, I believe that we’re all contagious. Your attitude’s contagious. You know how you come in and you slam your plan, your coffee down. And you’ve had a bad day morning coming in that passes on to the person that’s just setting there. And she’s like, where’d that come? It’s still energy. You’re passing that bad energy on to her. And then maybe she passes that bad energy onto a patient or somebody. She just, you know, it is contagious in your office. You come in and angry or start yelling or slam things or doesn’t talk to somebody or them. Think about how that the tone for the office for the day to treat patients with kindness.

Tonya: (23:51)
I talk about my dad inspired me to be a dentist, but my dad was also a coach. He was Olympic weightlifting coach. And I always look at it as coaching. You know, how do I want to be coached in dentistry? Well, I want to be positive and encouraged when I do something wrong. I want immediate feedback and I want to know how to fix it so I can move on. That’s the same way your team wants to be treated. It’s what it sounds like. They want to have coached and encouraged. So on dental posts we have where you can download the app and you could actually do a team meeting with the you’d have everybody take this assessment and you guys could talk about it in a team meeting. If you guys do want, I, I believe in team meetings, I had the best offices I worked at.

Tonya: (24:33)
They did really a little huddle in the mornings and then they did a big, a big meeting on like either a Friday or Thursday afternoon or Thursday morning or Monday morning. And those were the curiosity. What is a big meeting? How many, how much time? Oh, like a 30 minute meeting and kind of go around. I learned to do this with a doctor that taught me we would do one, one word openers to see how everybody feels in the office. Like, okay, I’m great today. Or I’m fantastic. Or, you know, today, thoughts, you know, so you can kind of get a gauge of who needs to be lifted up or, you know, real quick what’s going on with the, you know, what’s going to happen in the office and how it’s gonna work. I saw those offices run the best.

Tonya: (25:18)
And when you, you kind of have anybody or even give them a minute to talk about what’s going on with them in your office, you bond everybody together and they become a tighter team and they work better together. EO does this too, where you’ll have a meeting and you have one word openers and then you have what’s in your chat. You’ll have question, what’s been your challenge or you’ll have just something silly. Maybe that morning go if you can be any animal, what animal would you be? And it’s kind of a funny thing that goes around the rivet. It bonds everybody together and then all, all through the week or something, or the whole year, if people say something about what kind of you were going to be, you would have been a monkey or something, you know, kind of like it’s becomes the inside joke and it binds the team together. So there’s, there’s ways to do it and do it fast and create really teamwork with, you know, they’ll do anything for each other. But there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of little things that you can do. I mean, a lot of consultants do it when they break come in they’ll they’ll teach the, the office to be coherent and trust each other.

Shawn: (26:22)
I just thought of something because of kind of with this pandemic, a lot of what I’m seeing in Facebook groups is people saying a lot of dental professionals, aren’t really sure that they’re going to stay. You know, some hygienist didn’t want to come back. Like meaning what would you say to someone right now that I don’t know, maybe as wondering if, if either dentistry is still in their future or they’re just not sure. I don’t know, like what message would you give someone that’s just trying to get through this right now?

Tonya: (26:57)
No, I think if, if somebody has to listen to their intuition, if, if they think that they need to leave the profession, I think they should leave. I think it’s the greatest profession in the world. I have a mindset that I went into this to take care of patients and it’s my, it’s my job to take care of the doctor, my job, to take care of the patient and take care of my team and myself in the practice. That’s, that’s where my loyalty lies. But a lot of, I think you’ve been a lot of them have been in a while and they were teetering on waiting. I think that’s where we’ve seen the exits. We’ve done a lot of surveys and I have the results for those. And we’ve got a lot of the younger ones. I’m really scared by a lot of the women that have been in the profession a long time.

Tonya: (27:51)
I really think we had three types of hygienists. We had, we had the brave, we had the ones that were concerned. And then we had the ones that were just angry and they, and some of those people have legit, you know, to be angry that had, they they’d been abused by some of their doctors and there’s there, there’s great doctors out there and they also have the choice to move. It is you’re responsible for your choices in life. And I believe if you’re unhappy, you need to make a move. If you’re not, then you, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s your responsibility. You know you chose, you’ve chosen to not what you’ve chosen to make a choice and that was tonight. So that’s how I look at it. That’s wonderful. And I tell Dennis the same thing, you know, give someone the freedom to leave if they’re not the right fit, like the end of a relationship and it’s time, everyone should be happy if everyone is miserable in your office. Yes. Go ahead.

Shawn: (28:57)
I was just gonna say, where would you direct someone if they’re wanting, like, are there certain things you do where someone could work like with you or is everything primarily just through the website?

Tonya: (29:09)
I do primarily through the website, but I do work with about three or four people that call me up and asked me to work with her team. I haven’t done that a lot, but I do enjoy it. And I have a lot of friends that do that as well if they need help. Judy Kay is fantastic. There’s a lot of consultants out there if they’re looking for hygiene to, to really ramp their hygiene up Rachel Wall and her team and fire hygiene is fantastic. You know, so if I’m available, if, if someone wants to call me and talk to me, I’m always have my door open. But if they want to help their team or do a clap, I could, I can also facilitate those on zoom where we all take the personality assessments. We go through a team exercise. I would be happy to do that.

Shawn: (30:06)
And the best way for them to reach you just be reaching out to you on Facebook

Tonya: (30:10)
That or [email protected], it’s T O N Y [email protected]. But first I would have them download the app and the doctors take the personality assessments and try to understand, you know, look at it where they need to improve. And then have their team take it. They could do a meeting with that as well, or I can leave one for him,

Allison: (30:34)
Tonya, we so appreciate your time today. We’ve learned so much and I hope our listeners have, have learned where to go for team and how to treat their team. So thank you. Thank you for your time.

Tonya: (30:44)
Can I leave you with a, with a quote? Okay. Jim Rome, he was Tony Robbin, a mentor, and this is a thing he said, you can have more than you got because you can become more than you are unless you change how you are. You will always have what you’ve got.

Allison: (31:06)
Well, thank you so much, Tonya. It has been a pleasure. Really appreciate your time.