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What Does a Dental Practice Manager Do?

DentalPost takes a look at what are the duties and responsibilities of a Dental Practice Manager.

Become a Dental Practice Manager

In any dental practice, the dental office manager plays a vital role. They keep business operations efficient, productive, and profitable. They prevent costly mistakes and maintain strong relationships with personnel and patients.

A highly skilled dental office manager helps dentists and dental hygienists focus on delivering outstanding dental care. With a competent dental practice manager, the practice will attract more patients, waste less time, and overcome all kinds of challenges, from employee conflicts to insurance verification.

If you want to become a dental practice manager, you have made a wise career move. Your work will draw upon many skills, allowing you more opportunities to grow and flourish than some other roles in the dental office.  To find out how to make yourself a competitive candidate for a dental office manager’s position, read on.

What Education Do You Need to Become a Dental Practice Manager?

Managing a dental office doesn’t require any one kind of degree. Managers possess different educational backgrounds. However, some degrees will give you knowledge that’s critical for office management.

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration or in health management can make you more competitive as a job seeker. However, even if you have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s in another area, you can still augment your education by taking certain coursework or earning relevant certifications.

Look into programs or coursework that cover managerial skills, business operations, human resources, accounting, bookkeeping, health insurance, and regulations affecting healthcare. Organizations like the Dental Assisting National Board can offer you those certifications. 

Also, make sure you’re comfortable with different kinds of office software. Familiarize yourself with Microsoft Office and Google Workspace. As you gain more experience with different digital tools, you’ll become more adaptable and have an easier time learning to use the specific software your dental office relies on.

How Do You Build Experience As A Dental Practice Manager?

Even with a good education, there’s a slim chance of getting hired if you don’t have any relevant experience. Many people start building experience by working in dental offices or other office settings connected to health care.

You can start out by working as an office assistant or a dental front office receptionist. Maybe you’ve already worked as a front desk coordinator or administrator in a different setting and can bring that critical experience to your new job. Some people who become dental office managers begin as dental assistants and broaden their education and duties to include business administration and office management.

How many years of experience do you need before getting hired as a manager? Each office will make different demands in their job postings. However, it’s important to not take a posting too literally and assume you’ll be written off for not meeting each requirement. When in doubt of your experience, apply anyway! 

For example, if you don’t seem to have the length of experience an office requires, you may still be able to provide stellar references, demonstrate transferable skills, or show strong educational credentials. Emphasize any previous work experiences that highlight excellent communication skills and managerial abilities. 

Sometimes, you can get your foot in the door at a certain office by starting out in a different dental front office job, such as a dental receptionist. As you continue to build your skills and earn certifications, you may wind up getting promoted internally to a manager position.

As a Dental Office Manager, What Skills Do You Need?

The exact nature of your responsibilities will vary from one dental office to another. Be sure to carefully read job descriptions and ask for clarification about specific functions.

In some offices, job positions are more specialized, and the office manager’s role remains distinct from a dental receptionist or a dental billing specialist. In other offices, the manager’s responsibilities may encompass some of the functions of a receptionist, a billing specialist, or a dental assistant.

Even in offices where the positions are more specialized, a dental office manager is expected to assist other personnel with challenging problems. For instance, they may need to help pacify an irate patient or deal with a thorny billing or insurance issue.

Regardless of the specific tasks required by the dental practice you work for, the following are some of the core skills you need as a dental practice manager:

Communication Skills

Whether you’re making phone calls, writing business emails, or holding difficult conversations with another member of the dental team, you need excellent communication skills. You need to be able to speak to a variety of people, including patients, other personnel, insurance company representatives, and business suppliers with ease and credibility. 

The ability to communicate clearly, accurately, and with tact is essential. If you feel like your writing skills are weak, make sure to strengthen them with coursework and practice. Focus on how to write well as a business professional, and learn the conventions of professional communication.

Customer Service Skills

As a dental practice manager, one of your main goals is to give patients the best experience possible at your office. Even if a dentist or dental hygienist performs stellar work, patients will feel negative about the office if it’s poorly run.  

Through the dental front office, patients form their initial impression of the dental practice as a whole. As a dental practice manager, you need to make sure the front desk and clinical dental team deliver impeccable customer service.

Is the dental front desk responding quickly to calls and following up in a timely way? Is a dental receptionist ever behaving rudely to patients or failing to explain things clearly? Is the intake process for a new patient efficient and welcoming?

Other ways to provide excellent customer service include helping patients sort out insurance issues, helping them understand and follow their treatment plan, and resolving conflicts about billing. One of your responsibilities as a dental practice manager is to oversee all of these aspects of customer service.

Leadership Abilities

Because you handle the management of the dental practice and the dental front office team, you need to show consistently strong leadership. As a leader, you resolve conflicts between team members, enforce rules and regulations, and set an example for how the dental front office should behave.

Another aspect of leadership involves hiring and providing orientation for new team members. Whether you’re hiring a full-time dental receptionist or having a new office assistant come in part-time, it’s your responsibility to ensure that they’re suitable for their positions and receive the on-the-job training they need to settle in.

The front desk also turns to you for guidance with various challenges. You’re expected to handle difficult situations with calmness and good sense. Know how to utilize the strengths of the office front desk and delegate responsibilities based on the skills of your office team members. This is where DentalPost’s assessments are invaluable, helping you better understand your team’s personalities, strengths, and weaknesses as well as workstyles so that you can better manage. 

Organizational Skills

Without strong organizational skills, dental office managers flounder. Part of good organization involves maintaining a system of records. These include budget reports, receipts, insurance forms, and full documentation of patient care.

Another example of good organization involves juggling employees’ schedules. Whether they’re in a full-time position or coming in only a couple of days a week, you need to ensure that the practice is always staffed with enough employees.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Best practices for a dental business change over time. You may need to adapt to new kinds of technologies, new insurance policies, updated industry regulations, and other evolving situations.

One recent example is how dental offices responded to COVID-19. To give patients a safe dental experience, managers had to make important decisions and implement new policies. These included updated rules about air filters and the number of people allowed in a waiting area. 

In response to a variety of situations, managers need to act flexibly and with problem-solving abilities. The effectiveness of their response stems in part from their willingness to learn and adapt.

Big-Picture Thinking

Although you need to perform detail-oriented work as a dental practice manager, you also need to step back and see the bigger picture. What’s going well in your office, and what can improve? Are you noticing preventable mistakes?

Maybe one of the new full-time employees needs more office training. Or maybe you notice an inefficiency that’s putting a strain on the budget. You have to observe how personnel interact and whether they’re using the most effective systems. 

Different offices also have their own specific needs. Whether you work for an orthodontics practice or for a family dental practice that serves both adult and child patients, you need to understand the particular needs of your dental practice. The solutions you come up with will be tailored to the specifics of your office.

Emphasize the Benefits You Bring as a Dental Practice Manager

After putting in the work to earn their Doctor of Dental Surgery or DDS degree, dentists want to focus on delivering high-quality patient care. Their DDS degree doesn’t prepare them for the management of a business. This is where you are invaluable to them. 

As a manager, your job is to help their business thrive. Your work frees up their time and eases their stress. When you perform your job well, everything flows smoothly, the dental practice isn’t burdened by unnecessary costs, and patients and personnel are satisfied.

Whether a dental practice has one practitioner or a team of several, you bring tremendous value to their business. As a job seeker, highlight the many benefits of your skills, experience, and education. For their business to succeed, practitioners can’t do without a dedicated dental practice manager.

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