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What You Need to Know to Succeed as a Dental Receptionist

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: December 3, 2019

The job market is getting more competitive, and the need for specific education, skillset and natural inclination to a job is increasing. In the past, individuals could take business courses in high school and often land a steady job as a receptionist. However, as the role of receptionist has become more specialized, so too has the need for advanced education and the skills to do the job – this is especially true in the healthcare field. For example, getting work as a dental receptionist comes from being a good fit as well as proving the skills necessary to do an outstanding job in a fast-paced patient-care environment.

Before looking into dental receptionist courses, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the job, whether you will like it and what skills it requires for a good fit.

The Role of Dental Receptionist

While the role varies from office to office, the primary duties of a dental receptionist include:

– Greet patients, update records and systems with current information and help with any required forms;
– Work as “air-traffic-controller” in managing appointments, juggling those who are late or early and rescheduling, confirming appointments, arranging records for upcoming appointments and filling cancellations;
– Organize and manage referrals to specialists including managing lab work requests or other technical information;
– 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 seen in the clinic and how many dentists work in the office. While most of these duties are explained and practiced in dental receptionist courses, there are some personal skills that will make the job easier and help you excel at it.

Skills of a Great Dental Receptionist

Given the varied duties of the job, a great dental receptionist is calm under pressure, can juggle competing priorities and enjoys communicating with patients. That translates to skills like time management, communication, data management, customer service and adaptability. Ability to maintain confidentiality, understanding of record-keeping and scheduling are also skills to hone during dental receptionist courses to be able to manage these essential components as soon as you start your job.

Additionally, according to Work BC, receptionists need to ensure they have active listening skills, reliable reading perception and strong writing skills – these are parts of the necessary communication skills. Social perceptiveness is also noted by Work BC as an essential skill since receptionists must be able to understand why individuals react in the ways they do. This could be as simple as noting someone’s discomfort if the bill is larger than they expected and finding ways to speak privately about it. Or as advanced as identifying that one of the dental hygienists isn’t behaving as they normally do and finding ways to support them to ensure the day goes smoothly for everyone.

Overall, a dental receptionist needs to be aware that their role as the face of the office is critical. Their mood, attitude and reactions colour the perceptions others have of the clinic, so highly professional customer service skills are an absolute must regardless of what is going on in the office, or how a patient is behaving.

Looking for the Right Dental Receptionist Courses

An excellent dental receptionist course will cover the following key points and areas:
– Dental terminology 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 team members’ schedules within that office as well as respecting patients’ time and confidentiality.

If the school you are looking at has instructors from within the industry teaching the dental receptionist courses (which it should), every day of your education, you will see how your learning correlates to day-to-day tasks within an office environment. You’ll want to ask a lot of questions before registering for courses to be sure the instructors have the background necessary to give you the knowledge and skills you need to be an asset to a dental practice the day you start.

How to Succeed Once You Get Your Job as a Dental Receptionist

As noted in the skills, communication is key, and this should lead to learning patient names and interests. You only see patients about once every six months or so, and it can be challenging to get to know a point or two about them, but it creates a healthy relationship when a patient feels personally remembered and recognized. This will give patients a welcome feeling when they come to visit instead of feeling like it’s a painful chore.

Another success pointer is to find ways you can help others in practice. If there is a hygienist, who struggles to keep her supply cabinet stocked, help by filling it for her when you have a spare moment. It isn’t about gaining praise, but about creating a positive environment where people work together and support each other in their service to patients.

Additionally, always be open to learning new things. While something the dentist, hygienists or techs ask of you may not be part of your formal training or job description, learning new things makes you a crucial part of the team. When you embrace that learning and work together with others, you become a greater asset. Also, a positive mental attitude can’t be overlooked. It’s the best way to be happy in your job, find new things to learn and make sure you are always progressing in your role.


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