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What Happens in a Dental Front Office?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2016
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A dental front office is the administrative and business center of a dental practice. Depending on the size of the practice and the number of its employees, the activities in the dental front office range from scheduling appointments to processing insurance claims. Employees in a dental front office are typically administrative personnel, though some may have additional training or certification in insurance claims processing or dental office administration. In small practices, a dentist may rely on a hygienist or dental assistant to manage some of the administrative work.

Dentists and dental hygienists care for the oral health of their patients. While much of their activity takes place in the back office and rooms established for the private treatment of patients, a dental practice is also a business. Front office staff typically manage much of a dental business, though in some cases a dentist may also contract some aspects of administration, such as the processing of insurance claims or the preparation of transcriptions, to outside vendors.

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Dental front office staff is typically the first point of contact for new and returning dental patients. Patients typically must first contact the office receptionist or manager to schedule an appointment. New patients may be asked to submit insurance information at the time they schedule an appointment so that an insurance specialist can verify coverage. Once the patient arrives at the office, the dental front office staff will likely handle patient check-in. Office staff will also maintain the patient waiting area.

Many dentists still receive payment directly from clients for services, so at least one member of the staff may be responsible for maintaining financial records and billing clients. This activity may be combined with responsibility for managing insurance issues, though that is not true in every dental office. In large practices, front office staff may be active in generating new business for the practice via various marketing efforts, including direct mail promotions.

Other duties of front office staff may be to interact with vendors and suppliers. For example, a front office manager may be asked to be the contact person for landlords and maintenance workers. He or she may also be responsible for purchasing supplies for the office, including dental equipment. Front office staff may be in charge of completing, maintaining, and transferring patient files and records. If the dentist accepts insurance, someone in the dental front office will typically be responsible for processing insurance claims and educating patients about their insurance benefits.

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