Receptionist Greeting

Exploring choices in the dental assisting profession: Dental treatment coordinator (Part 5 of 7)

Sept. 18, 2019
There are many different career options for dental assistants who are looking to transition out of the day-to-day chairside position.

To read the first three parts of this series, see the links at the end of this article.

There are many different opportunities in the dental practice for dental assistants who are ready to transition from the day-to-day chairside position. As dental assistants, you are knowledgeable in many areas of dentistry and understand the mission and philosophy of dental practices.

One option for those who would like a little variety in their careers is the position of dental treatment coordinator. As the link between the patient and dental team, the dental treatment coordinator is a vital position for the financial health of the practice. The coordinator works closely with the dental team to ensure that patients understand the treatment, risks, benefits, and treatment options, as well as why the treatment is necessary. The treatment coordinator closes or assists in closing treatment plans and takes responsibility for working the patient base to ensure that there is zero unfinished treatment.

But my office doesn’t have a treatment coordinator . . .

In a dental practice without a treatment coordinator, which is often the case in small dental practices, a dental provider diagnoses and educates patients about the necessary treatment needed and encourages patients to accept. Collection of finances is often referred to the front desk staff. The chain often breaks down at the front desk when treatment costs come up. This is because the front desk is not trained to handle patient objections and the various hurdles that can come up in case acceptance.

Some dental practices ask the office manager to stand in as treatment coordinator, which in a small practice can work for a while. But as the practice grows, the office manager’s time for managing the practice dwindles with the increase in treatment coordination. It really comes down to each practice and whether or not productivity can be maximized with someone working only part time on patient case acceptance. A practice that has a patient base of 1,500 and averages 50 new patients per month is ready for a full-time treatment coordinator.

The importance of this position cannot be stressed enough as treatment can’t be produced unless is marketed to patients. Case acceptance is usually the most neglected area of the practice and considered an afterthought by being combined with other positions. From a business standpoint it is very simple—an office can only generate so much in production as the amount marketed to and accepted by patients. The dental practice can have a much healthier patient base and a lot less financial worry if a designated team member is responsible for patient case acceptance and compliance.

What qualities are needed?

This dental treatment coordinator position is not for everyone and takes several qualities for the ideal candidate. These include:

• Positive attitude. Attitude is everything these days. A positive attitude can get you further when you believe in what you’re marketing. Patients pick up on this.

 • Enthusiasm. The way to turn your work into play and have the motivation to take the action necessary in order to succeed is to have enthusiasm for your work. The treatment coordinator position allows you to mix your love of dentistry and your passion for helping patients.

 • Knowledge of dentistry. As a dental assistant, you have the knowledge of most dental procedures and can communicate effectively to patients the need for treatment compliance. You’re able to break down complex dental terms into layman’s terms so patients understand.

 • Professionalism. You’ll need excellent communication skills, self-confidence, professional appearance, and a special ability to persuade patients to accept treatment without being pushy or overbearing. Many people judge a book by its cover and will judge someone trying to market an expensive treatment plan, so look the part!

 • Organizational skills.  You must be a self-starter, systematic, and have good follow-through. Most dental assistants have these qualities. We have to in order to stay on top of things!

 • Knowledge of dental insurance.  This knowledge helps patients use and understand their benefits and maximize treatment coordination. Dental insurance is a mystery to many patients, especially when it comes to maximizing their benefits for the year.

 • Ability to think quickly and concisely. You must think on the fly and with little preparation. This is a skill in itself as not everyone is able to ad lib when needed. With practice and over time, this will come automatically.

 • Multitasking taken to the limit. This is a skill that dental assistants embrace! Multitasking is an important soft skill that is often overlooked, and as a dental treatment coordinator, you will be doing multiple things at the same time and doing them well.

What are the responsibilities?

The dental treatment coordinator’s priority is to assist the dental team in getting patients to understand and accept recommended treatment, then coordinate the treatment plan so it works for both the patient and the dental practice. Responsibilities often include but are not limited to:

• Conducting interviews to understand the patient’s oral health history, concerns, and objectives.
• Explaining the treatment plan, addressing patient concerns, and answering any questions the patient has.
• Assisting the patient in prioritizing the treatment and establishing a plan for scheduling and payment.
• Building trust and understanding the patient’s objectives in his or her overall oral health.
• Conducting financial consultations with all new patients and with existing patients when new treatment plans are presented.
• Managing and maintaining payment options and policies for patients to uphold the practice’s financial integrity.
• Understanding the practice’s policy on working with dental benefit plans and being prepared to educate patients about their dental benefits.

Financial responsibilities may include:

• Billing dental insurance, posting payments, and making claim estimations.
• Overseeing and tracking dental benefit plan accounts receivable and following up on claims regularly to ensure timely payment.
• Communicating with all outside and third-party financing companies offered to patients and educating patients on the available outside financing options.
• Tracking patient accounts receivable and outstanding balances to ensure timely payment.
• Assisting in dental practice’s collections protocol for all outstanding balances.
• Introducing new patients to the dental practice by reviewing health histories, explaining the provider’s exam, and describing any other features about the practice that should be highlighted.
• Conducting treatment consultations with all new patients and with existing patients when new treatment plans are presented.

The dental treatment coordinator serves as an advocate and educator in creating treatment plans for dental care. The role is essential in securing treatment plans and coordination of financial resources, insurance requirements, and billing practices. In most dental practices this role assists the office manager, who is the direct supervisor, in production goals and in greeting patients, scheduling appointments, answering phones, and other office responsibilities.

There are no education requirements to become a dental treatment coordinator, but most employers prefer candidates with several years of experience in dental  offices. You may also learn about the workings of a dental office by completing a coordinator certificate program. Courses in treatment coordination focus on patient communication, terminology, accounting, and marketing.

The best dental treatment coordinators are dependable problem solvers who can navigate insurance claims and work with patients to find affordable options for treatment. It is a great option for those of us who love dental assisting but need something new!


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Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, RF, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAAis a senior moderator of the Dental Peeps Network and a past president of the ADAA.