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A Career Path of a Dental Receptionist

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: July 11, 2019

Anyone working as a dental receptionist knows there is a big difference between being a receptionist at a dental office versus working as a receptionist for any other kind of business.

Certainly, a dental office receptionist does things other receptionists do, such as answering phones, handling correspondence and helping others in the office with their scheduling and day-to-day needs, but there are several things that are specific to a dental office receptionist. A dental office (regardless of whether it is a general family practice, a pediatric dentistry office, a dental surgeon, orthodontist or another type of dental practice) is built around the technical aspects of the human mouth and the requirements of treating it.

Not all dental office receptionists may necessarily have a dental receptionist certificate course, but for many who are starting, getting a certification is the first step because it proves to potential employers that they have the skills and capacity to work in a dental office without extensive additional training. In a scenario when two candidates are a great fit for the office environment, it’s obvious that the hiring team will choose the person who has completed a dental receptionist course over the person who hasn’t.

A good dental office receptionist course will cover the following key points and areas:

– Dental terminologies related to dental anatomy and terms specific to general dentistry and dental specialties.
– Dental billing procedures and billing software as well as insurance filing, treatment estimates, fees, patient financial plans and dental codes.
– Management of patient charts, record keeping and dental and medical information.
– Communication and correspondence, including applying dental terminology to dental-office-specific reports, letters and other forms of communication.
– Dental scheduling tools to maintain the orderly flow of a dental office and the schedules of other team members.
Additionally, a foundational dental receptionist course will ensure the education outlines the unique demands of the day-to-day role in terms of what students can expect their future job to look like.

Before enrolling in a program, check the list of faculty teaching at the school to ensure you will be learning from professionals with extensive knowledge and industry experience.

It’s a great idea to do some research to get a feel for “a day in the life” of a dental office receptionist before registering. You should know exactly what the job will entail.

The next time you’re in a dentist's office, quietly observe what those friendly people behind the desk do in addition to checking you in. You’ll also want to ask friends and family if they know anyone who works in a dental office in any capacity and ask them questions or better yet, ask if you can stop by to watch what goes on.

The list of responsibilities for a dental receptionist job is lengthy, and in addition to greeting patients, they do the following:

– Welcome new patients, enter them into the office system, help them complete all required forms and keep the information up to date.
– Work as “air-traffic-controller” in managing patients through their appointments, juggling those who are late or early with hygienists and other team members or rescheduling their appointments.
– Schedule and confirm upcoming appointments, including recalls, arranging records for the next day and filling cancellations as appropriate.
– Ensure scheduling, files and records are accurate, up-to-date and secure.
– Organize and manage referrals to dental and medical specialists including managing any lab work requests or other technical information that may be required.
– Manage patient insurance forms and payment plans, arrange payment schedules, take payments, inform patients of payment options, prepare bills and statements, submit forms to patient insurers.
– Take stock of office supplies, order and restock while also maintaining a professional reception area.

It’s a busy job. Many offices have more than one receptionist, but this will depend upon the number of patients the practice caters to, how many dentists work in the office and the general nature of the practice. It takes someone with solid communication, planning, observation and organization skills, along with a keen eye for detail and accuracy and the ability to adapt to be a great dental receptionist.

A successful dental receptionist takes pleasure in working with others, is detail-oriented, can work with various software programs and scheduling systems. The person is good at time management and prioritizing tasks, has a willingness to learn new things and a keen interest in oral health and hygiene.

Becoming a dental office receptionist requires specific skills and a good foundational course to help you edge past other candidates. With these things in place, you’re sure to shine and achieve the job of your dreams.


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