Dental office management is a demanding yet rewarding profession. Dental office managers often function as leaders within the dental practice. Their wide-ranging responsibilities could include supervising hygienists, keeping appointment schedules, facilitating patient treatment, or handling billing. Since dental assistants also juggle a wide variety of administrative and clinical duties, they usually possess the skills to excel as dental office managers. To become a successful dentist office manager, you must be detail-oriented and able to manage time well.
In dental assisting, you will perform several different tasks. You may be responsible for booking appointments, greeting patients, taking X-rays, handling laboratory specimen collection and disposal, preparing patients for dental treatment, and sanitizing dental preparation areas. While your primary responsibilities may vary from location to location, your ability to effectively perform all of these tasks will increase as you gain experience in your field. As you move up the ladder from a dental assistant to a dental hygienist, your duties will become more specific and significant.
Many dentists prefer dental assistants to dental office managers because the dental assistants usually are paid lower salaries and have fewer job responsibilities than their managers. However, dental assistants still perform some administrative duties. Dental assistants are expected to ensure that appointments are made on time, take X-rays of patients’ teeth, initiate and maintain a patient’s dental hygiene routine, and assist in treatment. If you decide to pursue a career in dental assisting, it is imperative that you keep yourself updated with the latest technology and learn all of the necessary policies and procedures as required by your state’s regulations. You must also take a comprehensive training program, complete a certificate program, and complete a state exam in order to work as a dental assistant.
Although dentists perform the majority of their office work, a dentist can also have private practices. Private practices are typically run by the spouse or another family member and may be more hands-on in nature. As a dental assistant who works in a dentist’s private practice, you may be expected to perform some of the same functions as you would in a dental office. For example, you may be expected to assist the dentist with scheduling appointments, taking X-rays of teeth, making treatment plans for patients, and assisting the dental hygienist during treatment. In a private practice setting, you will likely not receive full dental coverage, and the scope of work may be much smaller than a full-service dentist’s office.
Many people decide to combine their education and experience, by enrolling in a diploma program that will allow them to earn a two-year degree in dental surgery. This degree program is highly respected throughout the dental industry and can lead to a lucrative position as an orthodontic technician or dental assistant. These positions generally pay higher wages and require less traveling. Dentists and dental hygienists alike who complete this course of study will be well prepared to take on the advanced roles available in a dental office, and will be able to apply their knowledge in their job to patient care. The downside to this career path is that it requires both a graduate degree in dental science and a four-year bachelor’s degree.
The most important role that dental assistants play is in the front office of a dental office. Assistants are responsible for greeting patients, taking X-rays, taking dental history, arranging paperwork, and arranging for patients’ transportation to the dentist. In larger dental offices, an administrative assistant may also collaborate with the dental hygienist and other staff members, and help direct patients toward their dental appointment.