The Members of the Dental Team: Position Overviews

Managing The Dental Team

Every practice should have job descriptions that outline the education, qualifications and specific duties for each member of the team. Developing this information up-front has two main benefits: first, it makes it more likely that your practice will hire qualified individuals for each role; and second, it lets each employee know what is required to satisfactorily fulfill the requirements of the job.

Creating accurate job descriptions takes time and thought but you’ll reap the rewards of those efforts every time you hire, coach, evaluate, or terminate staff. While it’s doubtful that most dentists enjoy conducting these non-clinical activities, they are necessary components of leading the team and managing the practice.

Think of job descriptions as a form of communication that ensures that anyone – and everyone – working in the practice understands their responsibilities and knows exactly what’s expected. They’re also helpful when recruiting staff to fill new or vacant positions and when planning programs to update staff training. Well-written job descriptions can also provide language to use when recruiting staff and also be valuable documentation when it’s time to provide coaching, redirect work assignments, improve poor performance, and even when it’s time to terminate someone on the team.

Make sure you consult your state’s dental practice act for guidance in defining which duties can be performed by different members of the dental team, under what level of supervision, and any education or exams that must be completed, or any state or national credentials that must be held before specific duties can be delegated to clinical staff members. Your state dental association may also have resources that can help. Finally, always make sure that employees and job applicants are properly licensed to work in the state where your practice is located, if that’s required for the position.

There are many resources that can provide sample job descriptions for positions common to most dental practices. While templates and other samples can be good starting points, it’s likely that some changes will be necessary to make sure the position fills the needs of your practice. Consider asking members of the team for input on the position description for their roles. Just remember that it’s up to you to decide which suggestions to incorporate and which to disregard.

 

Resources:

Position descriptions for dental assistants, dental hygienists, and dental office managers provided courtesy of The ADA Practical Guide to Creating and Updating an Employee Policy Manual

Position Overviews

Associate Dentist

Associate Dentist

General requirements:

  • While minimum requirements vary from state to state, any associate dentist should have a current license to practice in the state and proof of insurance.
  • General duties include:
  • examining and diagnosing patients
  • evaluating radiographs and scans
  • developing patient treatment plans
  • performing clinical professional services including administering anesthesia
  • repairing or replacing fractured and/or diseased teeth
  • extracting teeth
  • performing periodontal surgery
  • prescribing medications for patients in accord with recognized guidelines
  • authorizing the manufacture of dental prosthetics by dental laboratories

In addition, other duties include

  • confirming that patients are knowledgeable about the importance of proper oral health care and the connection between oral health and systemic health
  • confirming that patient records accurately reflect the procedures performed and correct billing procedures have been followed
  • supervising and managing staff when appropriate
Dental Assistant

Dental Assistant

General requirements:

  • Dental assistants can begin their careers through either on-the-job training programs, work-study programs or by completing college-level coursework through an accredited dental assisting education program. Requirements for allowable duties vary by state; check your state’s dental practice act to ensure that any dental assistants on your team hold the necessary education and/or training required. Specific information regarding dental assisting job titles, allowable functions, and the requirements for each state are available in an easy to compare format through an online resource from the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB). DANB updates this resource throughout the year as legislative or administrative changes are made to related state law and rule. Unless otherwise indicated, DANB has obtained state dental board review and approval of the accuracy of this information, and notes any questions should be directed to a specific state dental board.
  • Links to complete dental practice acts and administrative rules for all oral healthcare providers in each state are easily accessible through a <ahref="http:>joint effort between the American Association of Dental Boards (AADB) and DANB. Note that this resource provides links to actual, current state practice acts and administrative rules, so this information is complete but not easily compared state-to- state.</ahref="http:>

General duties may include:

  • greeting patients when they sign in and monitoring arrival times
  • setting up treatment rooms for procedures
  • preparing and maintaining dental instruments, supplies and equipment.
  • escorting patients to treatment room
  • showing care and concern and helping patients feel comfortable
  • reviewing health histories according to the practice’s protocol
  • anticipating and responding to the dentist’s needs during patient treatment
  • performing expanded functions and other tasks assigned by the dentist
  • preparing dental materials cements, amalgam, composite, impression materials, etc.
  • answering patients’ questions
  • charting patients and recording the date, service rendered and any charges
  • ensuring that accurate treatment notes are recorded in patients’ charts
  • monitoring patient flow
  • providing patients with instructions and demonstrating proper techniques when necessary
  • monitoring and managing inventory
  • performing allowable duties under expanded function when appropriate

Relevant ADA resources:

Additional resources:

Dental Hygienist

Dental Hygienist

General requirements:

  • Each state has specific regulations regarding responsibilities and the range of services that can be performed by hygienists.
  • reviewing the daily schedules for hygiene patients with the appropriate team member
  • working with other team members to efficiently schedule hygiene patients
  • reviewing patient health and dental history forms and updating them as necessary
  • accurately charting each patient’s periodontal health
  • performing prophylaxis, scaling, root planing and selective polishing
  • administering local anesthetics (where allowed by the state’s dental practice act)
  • taking radiographs
  • applying fluoride and sealants
  • teaching patients proper oral hygiene techniques
  • counseling patients on oral health
  • documenting pertinent observations and patients’ conditions and responses to recommendations for care
  • cleaning and sterilizing instruments
  • performing other tasks assigned by the dentist as allowed by the state’s dental practice act

Relevant ADA resources:

Dental Laboratory Technician

Dental Laboratory Technician

General duties include:

  • working closely with dentist on fabricating prosthetics
  • constructing partial or full dentures; fabricating crowns and bridges
  • manufacturing implant supported prostheses
  • repairing dental prosthetics and appliances
  • preparing models and molds from dental impressions
  • preparing wax bite-blocks and custom impression trays
  • casting and finishing gold or metal alloys for bridges and denture bases
  • packing plastic material in molds to form full or partial dentures
  • molding wax over denture set-ups to form full contours of artificial gums
  • makes orthodontic bands from gold, silver, stainless steel or other metals
  • finishing metal framework of dentures and polishing and buffing dentures
  • training and/or supervising other dental technicians or dental laboratory workers as appropriate
  • improving quality results by studying, evaluating, redesigning processes for fabricating prosthetics
  • maintaining the knowledge and skills required to successfully manage computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing technology
  • documenting and maintaining records, preparing reports, correspondence and billing based on the work performed
Administrative Assistant

Administrative Assistant

General duties include:

  • maintaining the appearance and order of the dental office to include patient scheduling and management
  • opening and closing the dental office
  • checking the daily schedule for accuracy and providing the schedule to the dental team
  • answering and responding to telephone calls
  • reviewing supplies for reception and submitting orders to the business manager
  • maintaining petty cash 
Appointment Coordinator

Appointment Coordinator

General duties include:

  • greeting patients upon arrival and providing all appropriate forms
  • creating a comfortable, relaxed yet professional environment in the front office
  • keeping track of patient charts
  • advising doctor and other staff of patient arrivals
  • updating the schedule when it changes and coordinating patient flow
  • noting when patients are late
  • working with the doctor to reschedule missed appointments or change proposed treatment for the day
  • scheduling and confirming appointments
  • determining the appropriate response, in consultation with the doctor, when appointments are missed or when there are late arrivals or late cancellations 
Bookkeeper

Bookkeeper

General duties include:

  • overseeing account receivables and account payables
  • acting as the liaison between insurance companies and the dental office for submitting claims
  • submitting balance sheets and profit/loss reports to the dentist
  • processing payroll
  • collecting reports together for the accountant and ensuring that the business’ taxes are paid
Business Manager

Business Manager

General duties include:

  • administering the day-to-day activities of the business office
  • scheduling of patients
  • interviewing job applicants
  • dismissing staff members as authorized by the dentist
  • supervising accounts receivable and payable
  • managing inventory control
  • managing patient recall
  • knowing and supporting the practice mission, long-term business plan and short-terms goals
  • assisting the dentist with other tasks assigned 
Financial Coordinator

Financial Coordinator

General duties include:

  • managing office financial transactions using practice management software
  • verifying plan coverage and benefits
  • securing preauthorization of proposed treatment plans when necessary
  • working with patients to develop payment plans and schedules that meet patient needs
  • following up on past due payments
  • submitting claims to insurance companies/third-party payers for timely reimbursement
  • acting as the office’s dental coding resource by staying up to date on CDT changes
  • acting as the office’s medical coding resource by staying up to date with relevant diagnostic codes and CPT codes. 
Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

General duties include:

  • creating and coordinating the practice’s marketing, advertising and promotional activities, including all internal and external communications
  • working independently, or with direction from the office manager, to develop all patient correspondence and marketing communications
  • maintaining, monitoring and updating the practice’s website and social media presence
  • representing the practice at business networking and community events
  • increasing the patient base by building brand awareness through strategic marketing initiatives and creative and inventive strategies
  • creating and maintaining a reporting system to track the effectiveness of new campaigns
  • developing and managing patient referral programs
  • designing marketing and promotional materials
  • coordinating other activities such as conference travel, volunteering, mentoring programs, community outreach, etc. 
Office Manager

Office Manager

General duties include:

  • administering the day-to-day activities of the business office, including patient and employee relations
  • interviewing and dismissing staff
  • managing the practice’s marketing and communications efforts
  • ensuring regulatory compliance
  • overseeing staff training and motivation
  • managing compliance with OSHA and other relevant state and federal regulations
  • knowing and following the office contingency plan
  • staying up-to-date on trends, legislation and regulations impacting the dental profession
  • managing patient financial accounts
  • managing the hiring and ongoing performance of staff
  • managing and updating office computer systems as necessary

Relevant ADA resource:

Practice Administrator

Practice Administrator

General duties include:

  • maintaining the dental practice’s budget
  • tracking profitability
  • specifying the use of practice communication tools
  • ensuring that everyone is aware of new or updated information, such as changes in staffing, duties, procedures, protocols, etc.
  • emphasizing communication with information
  • ensuring that the entire dental team is regularly trained through the appropriate programs and evaluations
  • developing and maintaining relationships with dental practice team members and doctors
  • evaluating patient flow to identify marketing needs
  • identifying areas of practice improvement
  • improving patient services by coaching team members and focusing on patient advocacy
  • proactively leading the team by assuming leadership responsibility for suggesting and implementing various activities and initiatives throughout the practice