It’s no secret that dental assistants wear many hats. With the busy schedule that dental offices keep, many dental assistants also need dental office management knowledge. Heather Colicchio, founder and president of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM), shares some insights on what dental assistants can do in this new environment.


Cross-Training Trends

Often, dental offices cross-train employees so that patients are always cared for – no matter what happens. At AADOM, we have noticed that many more assistants are attending our webinars and in-person courses. By talking with them at meetings across the country, we learned that a well-rounded dental assistant needs to know how the office runs as a business. By learning about the business side, you become more valuable to your team, your doctor, your patients and your practice. Most of the questions we get from dental assistants are about insurance, inventory and compliance.


Insurance Issues

For example, assistants moving into the role of the insurance and treatment coordinators may need some guidance. Start with exploring a patient’s benefits in the computer. From there, check out the insurance information and look at the plan design. Also, ask questions of your insurance expert or hop on the plan’s website to learn more.

The conversations around insurance are important. Listen to the questions that patients have around payment and benefits. You’re in a unique position to hear patient concerns as they tend to feel comfortable with you. Are they asking about cost or are they more concerned with pain? Learning more about the patient is important in any financial situation.


Inventory and Cost Control

Another cross-position duty is inventory control. To start, consider working with your sales representative and your doctor to negotiate pricing. Disposables are a great place to start. Often companies have leeway with their costs. The next step in inventory control is finding out if you’re staying within budget. Consider working closely with your representative to keep costs under control.


Compliance Resources

Sometimes, compliance can sound like a lot of work and may be the hot potato in the office. But this role is important in all offices. By taking courses and embracing the tasks, you can become very valuable to the team. Between OSHA and HIPAA there is plenty of great info.

For example, start with OSHA and medical emergency courses and learn how to make it a habit rather than a chore. Purchase manuals to help you stay compliant. Sometimes, the administration team is in charge of OSHA and sterilization tracking. But, clinical knowledge is often necessary. Assistants who move into this area are valuable!


Skills for Success

Most of all, assistants can take it to the next level by adding business knowledge into their set of skills. Today, many employers want well-rounded individuals who can provide quality care and keep costs down. Between the courses offered by AADOM and the DALE Foundation dental office management courses, today’s dental assistant can become highly qualified in the overall success of the dental practice.



About the Author

Heather Colicchio is the Founder and President of the American Association of Dental Office Management. For more information about AADOM, visit