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The pros of working with a practice administrator

May 14, 2021
Having a practice administrator to handle the office allows dental professionals to spend more time with patients and results in increased efficiency across the board. Author Sharon Garner explains.

After speaking with practice administrators from all over the country, I realize how fortunate I am to work for a dentist who values continuing education for our entire team. Unfortunately, so many dentists see training for practice administrators as optional. After all, this is a job you don’t need a license for, right?

There are many dentists working 14 hours a day, six and seven days a week, to do both dentistry and manage the office. They spin the drill by day and order clinical and office supplies by night. Managing a successful dental practice is not a role that can be treated as an afterthought. Operating without a practice administrator may end up costing the practice money, and will definitely consume precious hours of a doctor’s personal time.

To be truly productive, a dentist should be able to focus on those tasks only he or she is allowed to do by law, such as root canals. Anything a dentist isn’t required to do, such as sealants, should be delegated to a dental hygienist or dental assistant (check your state regulations). Likewise, a dental hygienist should only do those tasks he or she is allowed by law to do, such as prophies. Anything the hygienist is not required to do by law, such as radiographs, should be delegated to a dental assistant with a radiograph license. In turn, anything that does not require a dental assistant by law, such as sterilization, could be delegated to a technician. Many tasks related to managing a dental office can be successfully delegated to a trustworthy practice administrator.

I am not advocating that a dentist turn all operations over to a practice administrator, never to be involved in that aspect of the business again. Ideally, a dentist should oversee business operations and understand the statistics—what they indicate and how to improve the numbers. This only happens when a dentist has spent quality time with their practice statistics. I am, however, suggesting that the dentist doesn’t always need to be the one to physically run the reports. He or she should work with the practice administrator to establish a budget and make sure the numbers are working. A practice administrator can take on many tasks including personnel management, payroll, license renewals and CE tracking, accounts payable and receivable, insurance contract management, IT and security, software updates, tracking and scheduling productively, helping set goals and objectives and establishing procedures, OSHA and HIPAA compliance, and many others.

All that aside, we know dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants are licensed.  Basically, just about everyone in the practice is licensed with continuing education requirements. Why is it any different for one of the most pivotal positions in a successful dental practice? We know that the majority of dentists graduate with very little office or business management training, so having an educated practice administrator can be a major asset. Dentists can keep that productive drill spinning while their practice administrator handles the day-to-day tasks. 

Isn’t it the ultimate goal of every young dentist to own a practice and maintain a healthy work/life balance? Employing a dependable, trained practice administrator who is invested in the success of the business can help dentists reach that pinnacle of success characterized by a healthy, balanced life.

A practice administrator for 10 years, SHARON GARNER, MAADOM, NREMT, CDSO, joined the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) in 2016. She has a business management degree and was inducted as AADOM Fellow in 2017. She was nominated for Practice Administrator of the Year and awarded Practice Administrator of Distinction twice. She was inducted as AADOM Master in 2020, and will be inducted as the highest distinction, AADOM Diplomate, in September 2021.