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Typical Day For a Dental Business Assistant

For the first time in my 40 plus year dental career, I find myself in an office with team players. Our office has 2 dentists (each work 2 columns with expanded function dental assistants), 4 columns of hygiene and 4 of us at the front desk. Communication and cooperation is what makes this a great office to work in.

Beginning of the Day

We have patients scheduled 8am-5pm Monday – Friday with lunch from 1pm-2pm. As front office staff we arrive at 7:30am. There is a LOT to do first thing in the morning so let’s get started. Begin by reviewing all messages. Our patients can reach us via telephone, text messages or emails. All must be checked, and any schedule changes noted. We have our morning huddle at 7:45am where we all review the schedule, noting any schedule changes, problem areas, any patients who may need extra attention, review financial arrangements, and doctors tell us time slots where we can put any emergency patients.

The dentists review production and collection goals for the day previous as well as any major services scheduled/prior authorized. This is important to our staff because once we hit a certain dollar amount in collections our staff receives a bonus. Every team member is aware of production and collection goals, and we all work together to achieve this goal. Our senior dentist then gives us the inspirational thought of the day. Always upbeat – setting the tone for the day. Team huddle breaks and all patients are seated on time.

COVID-19 Protocol for a Dental Business Assistant

Since COVID we have very few patients waiting in the reception area. Clinical staff seats patients upon arrival and they review address, telephone, email address changes, insurances, and medical history update in the operatory. If there are any changes, the clinical staff immediately notes it all in the computer. We are not 100% paperless but are well on the way.

Processing Payments and Mail

Out in the business area we are working like a well-oiled machine. We use a clearinghouse to process insurance claims, receive payments by EFT (electronic funds transfer), virtual payments (insurance companies send payment via credit card), and there are very few that still send manual checks, all which need to be posted to the patient ledgers and reconciled to bank statements as well as daily deposits.

Since our office is right next door to the post office, we receive our mail by 9am.  Payments are posted and any mail from specialists go directly to the dentists. They review all mail then note any patients that need to schedule for treatment. This is especially true after a patient sees an endodontist or oral surgeon. Sometimes a prior authorization needs to be sent for dentures, partial, bridges, or crowns. Our dentists note times needed to schedule or any information we need. These correspondences are scanned into the patient files.

Patient Review

Our computer software program confirms our patients via telephone, text messages and email. That report needs to be reviewed and any patient who does not confirm receives a personal call from the business assistant. Our schedule is reviewed two days in advance – this gives us time to fill in any changes or canceled appointments. Financial arrangements are reviewed in advance and noted on the schedule, so the clinical staff is aware. No treatment is started until financial arrangements are confirmed.

When prior authorizations come in from insurance companies, they are reviewed to see if all patients are scheduled, and finances are confirmed. Most insurance companies take 30 to 45 days to process prior authorizations, even with electronic submissions. We schedule patients out 30 days and if the prior authorization comes back earlier, we can always move the patient up. When we schedule, we give an estimated patient responsibility. This is reviewed again when the authorization is received. We note patient responsibility on the patient ledger making check out time much smoother. Clinical staff walks each patient to the business area to dismiss. We can then make sure the next appointment is scheduled and all monies due are collected.

Since we use electronic processing for insurance claims, these are sent to the clearinghouse several times a day. Any errors come back in red making it very easy to see errors and correct immediately. We had “clean claims” pay in as little as two days!! When you use the correct code for each procedure, clean claims are possible. Most common errors are using anterior codes for posterior teeth, or child prophy code for an adult (each insurance company is different -some use age 12 as an adult while others use age 13). Always remember – do what you bill, bill for what you do.

Challenges of the Day

The most frustrating part of my job is filling short notice cancelations. To make this less stressful, keep a “quick fill” list on hand. Fortunately, we have patients who are retired or work swing shifts and are available to come in on short notice. This list is also good for patients who missed several appointments – instead of giving them a regular scheduled appointment, put them on a quick call list and call them when the office has time. Sometimes it is not always that patient’s fault.

We have several patients who are healthcare workers or emergency responders, who get called to work with little or no notice.  One way to word this to your patient is: “I know your schedule can be unpredictable so how about I put you on my quick call list and call you when we have an opening. Or how about if you call me when you have a day off and I will do my best to work you into the schedule?” This way you are showing that you understand their schedule and are trying to help them.

End of the Day

Once the last patient is dismissed does not mean we get to leave too – not yet anyway. End of day procedures need to be run. Schedule for the next day needs to be filled and confirmed. We need to verify that all patients have been checked out. Our software program changes the appointment a grey color when they are checked out – a quick glance shows who is not completed. After the end of day report is run then you need to make sure the deposit matches the day sheet. All monies must be accounted for. Once everything balances then put on the answering service and call it a day. It starts all over again tomorrow.

Blackstone Career Institute

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Written by: Colette Jesikiewicz CDPMA, FADAA

Colette Jesikiewicz joined our Blackstone team in 2020. She is a graduate of the Expanded Function Dental Assisting program at Luzerne County Community College, Nanticoke, PA. Mrs. Jesikiewicz received her national accreditation as a Certified Dental Practice Management Administrator from the Dental Assisting National Board and her Fellowship in Dental Business Management from the American Dental Assistants Association. Her past experience in the profession includes chairside assisting, receptionist and office manager. She currently holds the position of Dental Administrative Assistant at Fortis Institute, Scranton, PA. and Administrative Service Coordinator for the DentalCare program at Jewish Family Service, Scranton, PA.  She looks forward to guiding students through their training in our Dental Office Assistant program.