dental front office manager

A career as a dental office manager can be incredibly rewarding. There’s so much job satisfaction in knowing you’re a key player in your practice, directly impacting how smoothly things run. However, it’s also one of the most demanding jobs in dentistry, and few people understand what it takes to do the job while making it look fairly effortless!

Dental Office Manager Survey

The role of office manager becomes more demanding every year. I’ve seen how critical they are to the success of a practice, and I’m amazed at how energetic and resourceful these women and men are.

Fred Joyal, founder of Futuredontics, the parent company of 1-800-DENTIST

In 2014, Futuredontics surveyed 356 dental office managers to gain an insider’s view of the job. The survey uncovered an unfiltered look at the career goals and the personal and business challenges modern dental office managers face.

Recent surveys by DentalPost, published in early 2022, provide some additional insights. We’ve pulled the highlights to show you just what a dental office manager’s “secret life” actually looks like.

What data do we have about dental office managers?

According to DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey

  • An overwhelming majority (98%) of office managers are women.
  • 30% are sole income providers.
  • 35% completed a college-level program in practice/office management.
  • 14% have AADOM Distinction.
  • 21% work in more than one dental office location.
  • 62% work with dental teams of 5 to 15 team members.
  • 43% of office managers work 36 to 40 hours per week, and only 36% indicated they would like to work more or fewer hours.
  • 31% of office managers work more than 40 hours per week.
  • 60% of working office managers have 20 or more years of experience in dental administrative roles, 26% have 10 to 19 years of experience, and just under 14% have less than ten years of experience.
  • Despite the pandemic disrupting employment, nearly 50% have been with their current employer for 2 to 6 years. Over 20% have been with their current employer for ten or more years.
  • Just over 44% earn between $41,000 and $60,000 per year.
  • 43% earn more than $60,000.
  • Their average reported income was $62,100 in private practices and $71,630 in corporate practices.
  • 26% were dissatisfied with their income, and 27% were in the process of applying or planning for a new job.
  • 43% were planning to retire within ten years—12% within four years.
The “Secret” Takeaway: 

When the current generation of managers retires, the industry will likely face a serious talent shortage. So, with low turnover and unequal gender distribution, it might become increasingly difficult to recruit experienced managers. On the balancing side of the scale, are the increased wages in management that will motivate front office staff members to develop into practice managers. 

DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey disclosed that nearly 88% of (nonmanagement) front office staff members are paid an average hourly rate of $21.60, which is $6.40 less than the average $28 practice managers make per hour.

Do Dental Office Managers like their jobs?

Most office managers say they have a “good-to-amazing” work/life balance. The biggest culture concern is office drama, and the number one career concern is burnout. 

DentalPost’s 2022 job satisfaction survey found that their top “like” is the ability to use their skills (70.5%), followed by positive interaction with patients (64.5%).

  • 63.25% have recommended their career to others.
  • 74% are satisfied with their career overall.
The “Secret” Takeaways: 

There’s a lot to love about being a dental office manager if you can find the right practice and culture fit. With the right skills, self-motivation, and opportunities, a career as a dental office manager is not only rewarding but also very achievable because:

  • A bachelor’s degree isn’t always necessary—only 35% of managers in our latest salary survey reported that they have one.
  • Currently, there are a multitude of open positions in dental practice administration, for which a front office staff member can apply or prepare to fill with training. 
  • The top three qualities identified by Futuredontics to be correlated with success are excellent communication, excellent organization, and experience in office administration.

What are the best (and worst) parts of their jobs?

In 2019, Futuredontics reported that:

  • Managers rated patient interaction as the best part of their jobs; the second closest part (albeit distant) was keeping the schedule full. (This is slightly different from Dental Post’s findings in early 2022, where the top-rated part of their job was using their skills, followed by patient interactions.)
  • One-third of all respondents say they “love their job.”
  • Managers employed by DSOs (dental service organizations) considered themselves happier than those working at private practices.
  • Additionally, most managers dislike practice marketing and dormant patient reactivation; it’s considered one of their least enjoyable responsibilities and lowest on business priorities.
The “Secret” Takeaway: 

Managers prefer working with people directly. So, if you’re a practice owner, make sure marketing efforts aren’t left on the shoulders of your dental office manager. They need time to focus on the day-to-day of your business.

How should you market your Dental practice?

  • Online reviews are the most important marketing activity according to managers.
  • Practice websites are considered one of the most efficient ways to acquire new patients.
  • Most managers (90%) believe word-of-mouth referrals are still the top source of new patients.
The “Secret” Takeaway: 

While digital is important to your practice’s marketing efforts, managers know that nothing compares to a great review by a friend.

Dental office managers are the “secret sauce” of your business.

Therefore, a well-run practice means a dental office manager is working hard behind the scenes. DOMs greatly ensure success, from staff training to patient acquisition. And while a “typical” dental office manager might seem to fit into a “type,” it’s not nearly as cut-and-dry when you dive into the data. 

DentalPost’s 2022 salary survey found that in many private dental practices, the office manager is also cross-trained to be a dental assistant when needed. Office managers perform a “heroic” wide range of duties, including answering the phone, patient scheduling, front office cleaning, in-office hospitality, payment collections, fee presentation, insurance claim processing, marketing, bookkeeping, supply ordering, vendor relations, and IT support.

Ultimately, treating your dental office manager with respect and giving them the tools to do their job is always the best way to unlock your dental office manager’s full potential.

To learn more, download your free copy of Futuredontics’ full report, “The Secret Life of the Dental Office Manager,” and download DentalPost’s full reports: Dental Office Manager Salary Survey Report 2022 and Dental Job Satisfaction Poll 2022.

Updated August 2022.

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