I have a confession. I’ve never worked anywhere in the dental clinic except the front office. I jokingly tell my teammates that I work with green, not red. I’m fairly certain that if I ever tried to assist, the dentist would not want me back there either. I get nauseous at the mere thought. It is for this reason that I have nothing but respect for dental assistants. They work hard to anticipate the dentist’s needs, and to ensure that each patient is well taken care of at every visit.
Dental assistants are a vital part of the overall dental production, and they’re key to the successful completion of the daily schedule. As a front office team member, I can tell you that we depend on assistants to communicate with us regularly. This communication helps the practice provide excellent patient service in a timely manner.
Here are three ways that dental assistants can continue to improve the dental schedule to keep it booked and on time.
1) Little to no patient waiting — We ask our patients to arrive on time. It’s only fair that we respect their schedule as well. Unexpected events may sometimes delay our schedule, and this is when assistants must communicate with the front office team members so that they can tell the patient that we are experiencing a delay and won’t be able to get to them on time. Most patients understand, however, some will choose to reschedule. Informing them as soon as possible lets a patient know that we value their time, and it promotes good patient relationships.
2) Educate and encourage patients to schedule needed treatment — As the dental team member in the room with the patient and dentist, assistants are called on to talk to patients about the necessity of the recommended treatment, and to encourage them to schedule before they leave the practice. Patients often ask the assistant questions they don’t feel comfortable asking the dentist. This is the assistant’s opportunity to encourage those questions, discuss the prescribed treatment, and if available, show videos of the recommended procedure.
3) Enter accurate coding for today’s visit and treatment planning — This is vital to ensuring that the front office team knows that there is treatment prescribed, and it allows the team to quickly check out today’s visit. The dental front office team member can then give a treatment estimate to a patient with little to no wait time, and this allows them to schedule the patient’s next visit. This smooth transition builds the patient’s confidence in the practice and helps the entire visit flow effortlessly.
These are simple and effective ways dental assistants can help patients, teams, and schedules soar where others only fly. Dental assistants are a valuable and necessary part of every dental team. They work hard to make the patient comfortable, keep supplies stocked, clean and sanitize the operatories, keep the dentist on schedule, and numerous other duties. These reasons are enough to make me appreciate the hard work and dedication of dental assistants.
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Lisa Marie Spradley, FAADOM, is the “Front Desk Lady.” She has worked in the dental front office for more than 16 years, and uses that experience to help others learn how to focus on the patient and transform first impressions into best impressions. Lisa Marie is a front office consultant, speaker, and writer. She is a Fellow and active, lifetime member with the American Association of Dental Office Managers. Contact her online at www.tcbdentalconsulting.com to learn more about how the “Front Desk Lady” can help you.