© Stephen Coburn | Dreamstime.com
Front Office Manager

Exploring choices in the dental assisting profession: Dental office manager (Part 6 of 7)

Oct. 23, 2019
There are many opportunities in the dental practice for dental assistants who want to move into something beyond the daily chairside position. Natalie Kaweckyj has tried many of them, and she discusses front office options here.

There are so many opportunities in the dental practice for dental assistants who are ready to transition from the day-to-day chairside position. Dental assistants are knowledgeable in many areas of dentistry and understand the mission and philosophy of a dental practice. An option for those who would like a little variety, more responsibility, and a greater challenge is the position of the dental office manager/practice administrator.

Dental assistants can be ideal candidates for office manager because they understand the inner workings of the office and how to work productively to help the practice thrive. They’re quick to think on their feet, creative problem solvers, and great multitaskers. If their hair isn’t on fire, it’s a slow day at the office!

 Managers serve as leaders in the practice, typically overseeing both the administrative and clinical teams. General duties include supervising staff, maintaining schedules, coordinating patient treatment, and overseeing billing, to name a few. Depending on the type and size of the practice, there may be assistant managers or assistant practice administrators who provide front office support.

Like dental assistants, practice managers need to be organized and adaptable in a variety of situations. This position creates and implements policies, and upholds procedures, schedules, and systems that make the practice run smoothly. Staying organized helps the team focus on their duties and creates a pleasant experience for patients and team members.

Additional characteristics of a great practice manager

Emotional resilience—Managers who are emotionally resilient are aware of how their moods affect others. They need to remain calm and productive under pressure and cope well with change, even when they don’t like it. How a manager behaves in challenging circumstances can have a significant impact on how administrative and clinical team members react. Managers who value fair treatment allocate tasks and set schedules while keeping in mind team members’ capacity and development goals. The person acknowledges good work and achievements and strives to build a diverse and inclusive team.

Caring role model—Caring managers learn what makes their team members click. They’re genuinely interested in their success and well-being and show this by regularly checking in with people about how they’re doing both at the office and outside of work. Managers lead by example. Those who are good mentors focus on developing the team and getting tasks done efficiently. They have regular one-on-one meetings with team members and encourage them to offer solutions to problems. Managers who show a genuine interest in team members’ career development acknowledge improvement and do not focus solely on the deliverables.

Communicates, empowers, and motivates—Managers who are great communicators should also be good listeners. This is a skill that sometimes needs to be developed. Great communicators allow time for others to speak without interruption. Exceptional managers have a clear understanding of the organization’s vision and share it with their teams in a way that motivates them. They keep the team up to date on what’s happening in the organization and inform them about opportunities for professional growth. Managers who foster innovation empower their teams to make decisions and learn from failures and achievements. Great administrators don’t micromanage team members, they encourage ideas and assist with the implementation. Effective administrators help team members stay motivated to do their best work, and they feel successful when their teams are successful and happy.

Visionary and results-oriented—Managers make sure the vision of the practice translates into an actionable strategy for the team. They help team members understand how their roles contribute to the success of the practice so that they have a vested interest in overall achievement. Managers who are results-oriented ensure that performance standards are maintained, which is especially important with today’s regulatory compliance. They identify with the daily challenges team members face to provide optimum care and customer service, and they have the skills to formulate solutions.

Office manager responsibilities

The responsibilities of dental office managers can vary. There are certain tasks that are done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annually. Here is a generalized list of responsibilities. 

• Plan and manage office operations to ensure excellent patient support services.
• Oversee daily office activities and provide guidance to staff as needed.
• Ensure that patient appointments, cancellations, and last-minute adjustments are handled properly.
• Assist in budget preparation and expense management activities.
• Develop promotional programs to attract more patients.
• Handle social media marketing.· Recruit and train new candidates.
• Assist in employee performance evaluation, promotion, termination, and retention.
• Respond to patient queries and ensure patient satisfaction.
• Oversee collections from patients and contact insurance offices for payment.
• Keep the treatment facility clean, safe, and organized.· Follow and enforce office policies and regulations.
• Perform timely payroll processing and maintain employee records.
• Review and approve vacations, sick leave, and unpaid leave.
• Identify areas of improvement and concern and implement appropriate corrective actions.
• Perform inventory control and management to support cost reduction initiatives.
• Oversee staff scheduling.

If you love working with people as a dental assistant, you may flourish as a dental office manager, who also works with a variety of people. Excellent office managers develop rapport with people and communicate with them effectively. Advancements in dentistry are constant. As clinical advancements continue, there’s an increasing need for educated professionals in the administrative area of the dental field. Working many years in management has given me the professional challenges I needed to maintain my interest in the profession. 


Academic options

Administrative options

Clinical options

Dental treatment coordinator

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.