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3 reasons to complete the ADA's dental coding certificate program

March 16, 2022
As the OM, you're the practice's go-to person for all things coding. How long has it been since you brushed up your skills? The ADA's course can help.

My doctor sent me an email about the American Dental Association (ADA) dental coding certificate program in early 2021. I skimmed the email thinking, “I already know this information. Doesn’t he know what I do?” Then while attending the annual American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) conference in Florida, I stopped by the ADA’s vendor table. They were offering a discount to anyone registered by the end of the year, and it sounded more informative than I had originally thought. I can’t turn down a good deal, so I registered. I completed the program, and I think you should, too.  Here’s why:

#1: You are the go-to

Even though I no longer submit insurance claims daily, as the office manager, I am the person my team and doctor come to with coding questions. I’m expected to know the CDT codes or be able to access resources to help find answers for my team. The ADA coding program is 5.5 continuing education (CE) credit hours and covers four modules: terminology, procedure codes, ADA dental claims, and CDT companion. The dental terminology was helpful and a nice refresher. As insurance policies change and expand, there are terms like bundling, preauthorization versus predetermination, and least expensive alternative treatment (LEAT), that can be confusing. New lingo appears every time I take a CE course. As the go-to person in the office, you need to be well-educated on the topic of insurance terminology; this course can get you there.

#2: Medical coding

If your office isn’t all ready listing diagnostic codes on dental claim forms or submitting to medical insurance, you may find yourself in this situation very soon. There is a trend with evidence-based dentistry where a provider needs to give the reason why or diagnosis for a procedure that has been completed. Many pediatric dental policies are associated with medical plans, and some state Medicaid programs are now requiring the use of ICD-10-CM codes.  

If I’m honest, I haven’t read the CDT code book from cover to cover for several years. I was pleasantly surprised to learn during the coding program (and a little embarrassed I didn’t already know) that there is a whole section dedicated to the most common ICD-10-CM codes applicable to dentistry. The course module focusing on ADA dental claims introduces participants to medical coding. This is a great intro course on medical coding.

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#3: Test your knowledge

The CDT Coding Companion is an excellent resource, and many times I think we overlook its usefulness. During the coding program, one module is spent coding scenarios. As the office manager, I’m used to presenting the scenarios at a team meeting or giving examples to my team for practice. The tables were turned and I was putting my knowledge to the test. When I was at the front desk coding every day, I had these codes memorized. I learned during the exercise that I was a little rusty, but I enjoyed the challenge. I found myself racing to see if I could complete the section with the correct codes before the presenters shared the answers. Once in a while, office managers need to be challenged; it shows that we need to grow in our positions, too. 

The ADA's dental coding certificate program is offered as a live-stream course or on-demand. I took the live-stream and enjoyed the interaction with the presenters and the ability to ask questions. In the end, I'm happy I took my boss's advice and completed this program; I think it would be useful for anyone in the "go-to" role of office manager in a dental practice.

About the Author

Cara Hull, MAADOM

Cara Hull, MAADOM, and her husband, Dr. Joseph Hull, own a general dental practice in Gregory, South Dakota. She is a lifetime member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) and a member of AADOM’s Dental Spouse Business Network. She earned her Fellowship (FAADOM) in 2012, and in 2021 she earned her AADOM Mastership (MAADOM) designation.

Updated March 16, 2022