For dental assistants taking on office management duties, continuing education is key

Aug. 20, 2012
If you are a dental assistant who is taking on additional office management responsibilities, the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) is there to help you deal with the unique challenges this role represents.

Many Certified Dental Assistant (CDA) certificants tell us that they’re taking on more office management responsibilities in the dental office. These duties may include anything from managing the dental office’s finances to creating financial reports or recruiting new employees. Other dental assistants, after several years of assisting chairside, are deciding to move to full-time dental practice management positions as the next step in their career path. Dental office management is a dynamic field, and new opportunities — such as group practice administrator, patient coordinator, finance director and others — are available.

Taking on extra responsibility or changing roles in the dental office are, of course, great ways to advance in your career and show your employer that you want to grow along with the practice. If you choose dental office management as your career path, though, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges this role presents. There are constant and rapid changes in technology and healthcare regulations, not to mention changing patient communication needs, OSHA and HIPAA compliance, and the different management structures of modern dental practices.

As the dental office manager, you may also need to interpret a variety of financial reports and effectively communicate critical financial information with all members of a dental practice, or find yourself in charge of accounts receivable and accounts payable (and need to understand the difference between the two!). Determining an effective financial policy and developing appropriate patient payment options may also be responsibilities of your new role.

Perhaps you enjoy working with people more than numbers, so you’ve decided to either take a full-time human resources position in a dental office or broaden your current role. Human resources involves recruiting, hiring and evaluating employees, as well as complying with labor and employment laws and generally making sure the staff is working efficiently so that the focus of the dental practice is on patient care.

Identify Professional Development Goals

After you’ve decided to pursue dental office management as the next step in your career, or if you want to broaden your skills as a dental assistant, the next step is to identify your professional development goals. To help in this endeavor, consider joining a professional membership organization.

The American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) is the largest organization dedicated solely to dental office managers. An AADOM membership will give you access to professional development resources, as well as the opportunity to earn recognition with an AADOM Fellowship, a title that will help earn credibility and open doors to new opportunities. (For AADOM Fellowship requirements, go to

The American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA) is another national membership association to consider joining. If you began your career as a chairside assistant and are now a dental office manager and wish to continue networking with other dental professionals, an ADAA membership offers resources and networking opportunities for business assistants, those working chairside and dental assisting educators and consultants.

Continuing Education

After identifying your professional development goals, the next step is to take Continuing Education (CE) courses to help develop the skills needed to succeed in a dental office management capacity. The DALE Foundation, the official DANB affiliate, has collaborated with AADOM to create CE programs targeted to dental office managers. The courses are all developed with the same high-quality standards recognized in the online learning community, and they are self-paced, which means that you complete each course online when it’s convenient for you.

The DALE Foundation currently offers three courses for dental office managers: HR Fundamentals for the Dental Office, Accounts Receivable for the Dental Office, and Financial Reporting for the Dental Office, the newest course. All of the DALE Foundation’s dental office management courses provide learners with participation verification certificates noting CE credits earned, upon completion. In order to meet requirements for AADOM Fellowship, members must complete all DALE Foundation dental office management courses, in addition to meeting other Fellowship requirements. The DALE Foundation is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider, which means that it has been identified by the American Dental Association as a quality provider of continuing dental education.

There are ample professional development opportunities to help acquire the skills needed to manage the dental office, whether in a full-time capacity or as part of your job as a dental assistant. Show your employer and your patients that you want to broaden your skills and help improve the practice with CE courses at every step in your career.

The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) is recognized by the ADA as the national certification board for dental assistants. For more information, please go to, or contact Cynthia C. Durley, M.Ed., MBA, Executive Director of DANB, at 1-800-367-3262 with any questions.