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For the most part, a dental consultant is just what it sounds like—a person who is qualified as an expert in the dental care industry. However, this definition barely scratches the surface of the true nature of the profession. In fact, a dental consultant may be quite knowledgeable about the practice of dentistry, but without ever examining a set of real human teeth firsthand. For that matter, a dental consultant is much more likely to be a whiz with compiling spreadsheets and organizing meetings than operating a drill or polishing tool.
First, there is the corporate arena to consider. In this environment, a dental consultant may serve as a coordinator between a company’s human resources department and its dental insurance plan provider. The scope of activities involved in this capacity range from benefit analysis to cost-effectiveness evaluation. This person may also work toward resolving network issues, including reviewing the education and history of participating dentists, as well as assessing the standard of care each provides. In this role, in particular, a dental consultant may be called upon to mediate cases where conflict or ethical issues have emerged.
Not surprisingly, a great number of dentists and oral surgeons seek the services of a dental consultant to assist them in developing their practice and improving their bottom line. In this regard, the consultant will function as a business manager and coach. This may involve day-to-day operations, including staff recruitment and training, and collection protocols to reduce open receivables. It may also extend to implementing marketing strategies targeted toward increasing client base and retention, as well as offering guidance on promoting elective or cosmetic procedures.
Many of the above scenarios are above the typical scope of expertise and experience afforded most dentists and oral surgeons. However, some dental consultants were once practicing dentists, or even dental hygienists. Obviously, this level of experience is a plus to clients, as well as to their patients. In addition, the job requires a keen eye for detail, an aptitude for creative marketing, and excellent communication skills. In fact, many people who provide dental consulting services also conduct seminars and other speaking engagements.
Most dental consultants operate independently, although some also form or join consulting groups. Depending on the specific area of consulting services to be focused on, many individuals obtain certification training. In the U.S., for example, the American Association of Dental Consultants offers certification training programs and referral services for consultants who wish to concentrate on servicing dental insurance plans. The American Association of Dental Legal Consultants, on the other hand, represents consultants who specialize in forensic accounting and in providing expert witness testimony connected to legal cases involving the field of dentistry.