Who’s Who in the Dental Office
Everybody knows what a dentist does, but do you know who all those other people working in the dentist’s office are? From dental assistants to hygienists and front desk personnel, each has his or her own duties to perform.
Our quick and easy guide will give you a run-down of some of the most important players in any dental practice. No matter duties you might have in the dental field it’s important to know how each individual’s tasks help the team (and the dentist) stay on course and ensure proper dental care.
Dental assistants perform basic support functions for a dentist. Most of them focus on clinical tasks like sterilizing instruments, stocking and maintaining dental supplies, assisting in procedures (for example, keeping patients’ mouths dry and handing instruments to dentists), giving advice to patients on dental care and even assisting with x-rays if allowed by state law. Some may also perform clerical duties such as billing, scheduling follow-up appointments and updating patient records.
Dental hygienists handle more complex clinical tasks, such as taking x-rays, administering anesthetics, dental charting, cleaning teeth (removing tartar and plaque) and applying sealants and fluoride. Because of the higher level of responsibility, dental hygienists are more often required by state law to have licenses than dental assistants are.
Know by a variety of titles — including receptionist, patient scheduling manager, patient service representative, treatment coordinator, dental biller and office assistant — front desk personnel are in many ways the face of the dental office. They are the first people patients talk to when they call, the first people they see when they arrive and the last people they see when they leave. They greet and check in patients, answer phones, schedule appointments, request records, follow up with patients, develop and maintain dentist and hygienist schedules, handle patient financing, bill insurance companies and perform general office duties.
A larger dental office might have an office manager (also known as an operations manager) in charge of keeping the business functions of the operation running smoothly, allowing the dentist to focus on patients and clinical procedures. The manager’s responsibilities may include human resources (such as payroll, hiring, performance appraisals and employee work schedules), developing and managing a budget, supervising and training staff, developing and implement marketing strategies, overseeing cash management and accounting guidelines, developing and enforcing office policies and reporting to the dentist.