The crucial relationship between dental assistants and office managers

a dental office manager helps a patient fill out a form

A cohesive dental team can make for a successful practice. When everyone is on the same page, it ensures appointments go smoothly, patients get the best dental care experience, and the whole office stays on schedule. While everyone in the practice works closely with each other in some capacity, the dynamic between dental assistants and office managers is particularly important.

“The practice wouldn’t run at all if the office manager wasn’t there to keep us on course,” says Laurie, a dental assistant.

Some dental assistants also perform front-office duties, giving them another level of appreciation for what an office manager brings to the table. As we celebrate Office Manager Appreciation Month, let’s take a closer look at some of the ways practice administrators and dental assistants support each other.

Managing the schedule

Most days in a dental office are booked with appointments. Without the front office and dental assistants working together, it can be difficult to keep the schedule on track. Office managers typically schedule appointments, factoring in the team’s availability and the expected length of a procedure. They may also lead team meetings to keep the whole staff on the same page about the daily schedule and anticipate or address any issues that may arise.

When patients arrive, the office manager and dental assistant work in tandem to maximize efficiency and minimize wait times. While the office manager greets patients, collects their insurance information, and updates their records, a dental assistant is often busy disinfecting and preparing the exam room as well as any instruments needed during the procedure.

Strong communication between the office manager and dental assistant is imperative. For instance, the office manager keeps the dental assistant and the rest of the dental staff up to date on schedule changes, such as cancellations or emergency appointments, to minimize any disruptions.

“Without strong communication between the front office, dental assistants, and dentist, we would be lacking in all areas of the office,” explains Lauren.

Communicating with patients

Dental assistants and office managers also work together to communicate with patients. The office manager is usually the first point of contact for patients, scheduling appointments and greeting them upon arrival. An office manager sets the tone for the visit, making patients feel welcome and comfortable before their appointment. Front-office staff may also field questions from patients, which they can then relay to dental assistants and the rest of the clinical team.

“As administrators, we present treatment plans to our patients,” explains Beverly. “We want them to know that once they accept care, we are going to do a great job delivering that care. The assistant takes that opportunity and runs with it, creating a happy patient experience.”

After appointments, the dental assistant can answer any questions the patient has and inform the front office about any follow-up appointments that need to be scheduled. Communication between the dental assistant and office manager ensures that patients receive consistent information, understand their treatment plan and costs, and ultimately leave the office satisfied with their experience.

“Communication is critical to a good handoff from the clinical area to the front desk,” says Aurora. “Anticipate patient questions and try to answer as many as you can before they reach the front-office staff.”

Keeping supplies stocked

Dental practices need lots of supplies, from pens and printer paper to gloves, probes, and scalers. Office managers and dental assistants work hand in hand to keep the office stocked with all the essentials. The front-office staff is usually responsible for ordering supplies, monitoring expenses, and establishing relationships with vendors. Dental assistants, meanwhile, let the front office know when supplies are running low and help restock and organize inventory.

Simply put, the job of a dental assistant would be much harder without office managers — and vice versa. This month and every month, make sure to thank the front-office staff for everything they do!

“Teammates who appreciate each other are more productive,” says Kay.

Read more: Cross-training from dental assistant to office manager