A dental receptionist sits at the front desk of a dental office to perform customer service and clerical duties that support the dental practice, including answering phone calls, answering questions, taking detailed messages, and scheduling and confirming patient appointments. Additionally, they greet patients as they arrive, perform COVID-19 screening, gather personal and insurance information, communicate the patient’s arrival to the clinical team, update patient files, and assist patients at the end of their appointment to make payment and schedule the next visit. Duties often include determining the terms of insurance coverage, processing insurance claims, assisting the dental office manager with payment notices, and following up insurance claims. A dental receptionist must make a great first impression when new patients call, make all patients feel valued, and set the stage for a remarkable patient experience with each patient on each visit.
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Dental receptionists are in high demand. If you enjoy interacting with people, are empathetic, have a genuine desire to help others, and are highly organized and attentive to detail, you will likely enjoy this type of employment. In this position, you will interface with patients on the phone and in the reception area to primarily provide information, schedule appointments, receive payment, and communicate with other dental office team members. You will assist in the smooth running of dental practice operations by performing other assigned administrative tasks.
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Dental receptionists converse with patients on the phone and in-person to provide customer service. They also assist in the smooth running of dental practice operations by performing assigned administrative tasks. On surveys, dental receptionists rate their job satisfaction as high. They note the pleasure they have in providing customer service that helps people receive the care they need and seeing the smiles on patients’ faces. They also note the enjoyment of working with coworkers as a team to overcome challenges and meet goals. If you enjoy working with people and making them smile, are empathetic and service-minded, communicate well, are highly organized, and enjoy doing detailed administrative tasks, dental reception may be a gratifying job for you.
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As of 2021, reported data in the United States indicates the average dental receptionist’s pay is $13 – $14 per hour. Dental office receptionists with advanced education and experience in dental office administration are compensated at a higher level. For example, dental receptionists who have worked for 20 years in dentistry may earn at the high end of $20 per hour. DentalPost’s 2021 Dental Salary Survey indicates that 48% of front office team members earn less than $40,000 per year, while 38% earn between $41,000 – $60,000. This salary data combines responses from dental receptionists and other front office administrators.
In the United States, the front desk/receptionist team is recognized on Administrative Professionals Day, the Wednesday during Administrative Professionals Week (the fourth week of April).
View the calendar of the National Dental Holidays.
There is no mandatory educational requirement for becoming a dental receptionist in the United States or Canada. Some dental reception positions are part-time, making it possible to work in this capacity while continuing your education. When reviewing candidates, employers will look at education level, and those with a high school diploma, GED, or an Associate degree will have an advantage. However, suppose you are intelligent, have good communication skills, mature demeanor, enjoy customer service on the phone and in person at a front desk, and can demonstrate some office software skills. In that case, there are dental offices that need dental receptionists. Whether you learn solely on the job or combine this experience with college-level courses in healthcare office administration, a dental receptionist learns about many aspects of a dental practice. You learn dental terminology, effective patient communication, financial accounting, patient scheduling, dental billing, and insurance processing.
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There are no specific requirements or degrees to become a dental receptionist. Employers seek engaging applicants, put others at ease, communicate well, are good at multi-tasking, and enjoy providing customer service and completing detailed administrative tasks. Job candidates who have worked previously as a receptionist in an office have taken classes that best prepare them for doing administrative work in a dental office, or another kind of office have relevant experience. College-level courses in topics such as health administration and accounting are helpful. Some colleges offer dental receptionist certificates or training programs that cover dental terminology and dental practice administration skills. These programs vary in duration, typically 6 to 11 months, or you can achieve an Associate degree within two years.
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In the typical U.S. dental practice, there are four business office positions (1) dental receptionist to answer inquiries and schedule patients; (2) treatment coordinator to assemble treatment plan documentation, present treatment fees, get signed consent for treatment, and ensure accurate completion of patient records; (3) accounts manager to perform billing, process insurance claims, and do financial AR and AP accounting); and (4) the office manager to oversee smooth running of all practice operations, including those functions listed above, plus hiring, training, employee scheduling, software management, facilities management, supply control, performance measurement, and often also marketing. In a small office, one employee might perform all business functions. In other small offices, the duties might consolidate so that one or more administrators do reception, scheduling, treatment coordination, and financial accounts management, with an office manager overseeing them. There are crossover dental assistants or hygienists employees in some dental practices who perform front office business tasks during some of their scheduled hours.
View the dental front office job description.
Demand is high for both part-time and full-time dental receptionists and on a permanent or temp basis. Schedules vary by the needs of the practice, including business day, weekend, and evening hours. Most dental receptionists work 35+ hours per week (full time).
Some employers provide benefits to dental receptionists, including health insurance, dental treatment at a reduced cost, life, disability insurance, and retirement plans. An employer may provide some but not all these traditional employee benefits. Dental service organizations (DSOs) with many employees offer the most robust employee benefits packages.
Dental receptionists work in a healthcare facility and are therefore health care workers. Depending on their duties, there are occupational risks such as exposure to infectious diseases, radiation, disinfectant chemicals, sharp instruments, the emotional stress of patient anger, and even patient violence. In the United States, dental team members receive OSHA safety training by their employer when they begin employment and annually after that. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) vaccination recommendations can be found here. The CDC’s most current COVID-19 risk prevention guidelines for dental offices can be found here. All healthcare workers, including dental receptionists, should be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Dental professionals are at increased occupational risk of COVID-19 because of their routine exposure to patients’ airways and performance of aerosol-generating procedures. However, dentists and dental team members throughout the U.S. and Canada have effectively implemented the coronavirus control recommendations of the American Dental Association (ADA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Canadian Dental Association (CDA) to minimize this risk. Dental practices are open to provide dental care to patients. Appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) is available and in use by all dental workers. Patients receive COVID screening before their appointment and are required to wear face masks in the proximity of others, except during clinical dental procedures. All dental office workers were among the first to be offered COVID-19 vaccination. If the dental office is in a community with rising COVID-19 infection, your risk is higher because the risk of patients entering the office with unknown SARS-CoV-2 infection is higher. If you are concerned about the safety of a dental office, learn online about that office’s COVID-19 safety precautions, and discuss your concerns over the phone with the front desk of the dental office before visiting.
Before the pandemic, administrative dental workers, including dental receptionists, did not wear face masks. During the COVID-19 pandemic, all healthcare workers, including all dental team members, must wear protective face masks over their noses and mouth to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Depending on their office, dental receptionists may wear business attire, scrubs, or another type of practice uniform. A 2018 survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that 66% of dental practices require staff members to wear scrubs for work. Another 31% had some other version of a practice-specific dress code. Most respondents said requiring scrubs simplifies things for staff, helps prevent inappropriate dress, promotes team unity, and promotes the brand imaging of the practice.
Some employers enforce a no visible tattoo policy because they do not want to offend the conservative population of the dental practice. They have a legal right to do this. More dental receptionists with tattoos are employed than were in the past. Read 10 helpful tips for job seekers.
State laws on drug testing vary. Depending on state regulations, a dental receptionist might be drug tested before hiring or if the employer suspects the employee has symptoms of drug or alcohol use that could or has interfered with performance or could or has caused harm to others. In some states, a documented drug-free workplace can do periodic or random drug testing.
The office manager will train receptionists in a dental office to use software platforms designed explicitly for efficiently communicating with patients, scheduling patients, confirming appointments, maintaining patient records, including payment information, and more software-assisted tasks. Multiple software platforms are available, so not every dental receptionist will have or develop experience with the same software as other receptionists. When applying for jobs, dental receptionist candidates should demonstrate competence with Microsoft Office software (Word and Excel).
Some dental office managers begin their dental careers as dental receptionists. As a dental receptionist, you will have the opportunity to develop your customer service skills, continuously learn about all aspects of running a dental office. You may step up to assist with marketing, purchasing, treatment coordination, fee estimating, dental insurance plan administration, and more. Suppose you aspire to be a dental office manager through job experience and educational courses. In that case, you can become a skilled assistant office manager who moves into the executive office management role. If you work for a dental service organization growing in multiple locations and have centralized business services, you may find more opportunities to advance your career to this level.
Learn more about dental office manager responsibilities.