Dental Assistant Tasks: Front Office vs. Back Office

Dental Assistant Tasks: Front Office vs Back Office

When applying for a job, a dental assistant might be asked if he or she is qualified to work in the front office or the back office, but do you know the difference between the two? Here’s a rundown, but keep in mind that dental assistants are often asked to work in both areas, so to maximize your employment potential, you should sharpen the skills it takes to succeed in the front and the back office.

Front Office

What Is It? As the name suggests, front office dental assistants work near the front door of the dentist’s office. They sit at the front desk by the waiting room and are the first point of contact with patients when they enter and the last point of contact when they leave. It involves more of an administrative function than back office work.

Duties May Include:

  • Greeting and checking in patients
  • Scheduling appointments
  • Making reminder calls
  • Answering phones
  • Billing
  • Estimating patients’ share of cost
  • Collecting patients’ payments
  • Bookkeeping
  • Insurance claims processing/followup
  • Data entry
  • Mail processing
  • Records management
  • Treatment planning
  • Developing/maintaining dentist/hygienist schedule
  • Supporting marketing and promotional efforts, such as referrals
  • Customer relations
  • Faxing, copying and other general office duties

Useful Skills:

  • Typing
  • Reception skills
  • Telephone etiquette, including pleasant personality, clear speaking voice and a positive attitude
  • Interpersonal skills and group dynamics
  • Communication skills
  • Computer proficiency and the ability to learn new programs
  • Knowledge of dental practice management software
  • Knowledge of insurance coverages/forms/billing/collection techniques
  • Awareness of treatment and payment plans
  • Organizational skills
  • Listening ability
  • Knowledge of records management techniques
  • Proper work demeanor, dress and grooming
  • Ability to work independently and as a member of a team

Back Office

What Is It? A back office dental assistant provides more direct aid to the dentist before, during and after dental procedures. It involves more of a clinical function than front office work.

Duties May Include:

  • Assisting dentist during the examination and procedures, using the ability to identify dental instruments and hand them to the dentist in a safe and efficient manner
  • Operating dental equipment
  • Anesthesia administration
  • Cleaning and sterilizing dental instruments
  • Explaining preventive dentistry techniques to patients
  • Responding to dental office emergencies
  • Instructing patients on oral hygiene and postoperative steps
  • Cleaning and organizing exam rooms

Useful Skills:

  • Knowledge of dental equipment, instruments and how to handle and maintain them
  • Problem solving skills
  • Laboratory skills
  • X-ray operation knowledge/license
  • Understanding of dental anatomy
  • Awareness of sanitation and safety regulations
  • Knowledge of dental terminology
  • Understanding of the dental assistant’s role in anesthesia administration, sterilization and laboratory procedures
  • Knowledge of preventative dentistry techniques