Practice Management

The Increasing Importance of the Office Manager’s Role in the Success of Contemporary Dental Practice


Ron Weintraub


January 1, 2018

January 1, 2018

The average dental practice has become more sophisticated, complex and demanding of administrative guidance in order to be successful. Given that care providers must be significantly engaged in the clinical aspects of the practice in order to enable financial viability, the myriad of support details under the responsibility of administrators has exponentially risen to the level of most non-clinical duties. With a clearly written job description, the Dental Office Manager (DOM) enjoys a desirable allocation of work and the time that it can be achieved in a professional manner, which is particularly important for the dentist and hygienist participating at this level of operation of the practice. Most importantly, the well-defined role of the Office Manager is stated in a job description and has the potential of preventing uncomfortable interface with office staff, benefit clinicians and staff members, and being perceived by patients as part of a well-rounded operation.


A partial list of duties of the DOM in a formalized written protocol should include the following:

The DOM must supply basic direction to all employees and liaise with the principal(s) and clinical team to ensure that the practice is running at optimum efficiency. The DOM must understand the expectations of all the team members’ roles/duties.

General Skills

• Know how to prioritize;

• Be proactive when it comes to the needs of the practice as a whole;

• Motivate the staff in a non-confrontational manner;

• Have communication skills.

Specific Skills

• Supervise the work of schedule coordinator;

• Hiring skills: Writing appropriate ads for electronic and print publication and interviewing skills to hire support staff;

• Implement, identify and organize training programs for staff;

• Manage, monitor performance and include evaluation and feedback;

• Monitor and record expenses and control monthly budgets of clinical and administrative inventory;

• Analyze practice vital signs and implement policies to improve financial health of the practice; uncover problem areas before they become critical;

• Arrange all team and specific team meetings monthly: administrative, clinical and hygiene;

• Assign office tasks to the clinical personnel during down time;

• Take charge of payroll and accounts payable.


The DOM should have a clear, unbiased view of the administrative team members’ relative strengths and weaknesses and be able to allocate various duties accordingly.

The DOM can also keep long-term control of each administrator’s bookings in an attempt to maximize each of the disparate schedules, i.e., a multi-hygiene provider practice should not have one hygienist booked for three weeks in advance with no room to accommodate usually preferred patients while the other hygienist has two or three schedule gaps going forward. For instance, the DOM can supervise and arrange with hygienist No. 1 to ask his/her patients “just this time” to book the next appointment with colleague No. 2 in order for the patient to stay on the critical time line of hygiene treatment. This activity alone can generate significantly more hygiene production from previous potential downtime and goes a long way to offset additional HR costs to employ a DOM.


The administrative staff appreciates being led in the chain of command by someone whose responsibilities include being able to make decisions in a host of situations; for example, schedule changes, laboratory interface, replacement of sick staff members, and communication with potentially disruptive patients who appreciate that their concerns are viewed important enough to be handled by a manager and yet, they would be uncomfortable speaking directly with the dentist or hygienist. Another benefit of having a DOM is relieving stressful barriers between clinicians and other staff members, thereby, producing a positive environment. In addition, a DOM eliminates the need for clinical staff to shift from being engaged in treating and supporting the patient base. Among the things detracting staff from their main duties are dealing with time off, scheduling, internecine issues among staff, and other administrative duties. The DOM has a much broader view than other staff of the totality of the kinetics of the office and is, therefore, the best person to respond to and avoid disruptive issues.

Not only are large sized-offices able to benefit from having a DOM, but small to medium-sized offices can also afford and enjoy the presence of a DOM by combining a few different roles and allocating them to the Office Manager. For example, Treatment Coordinator/Office Manager or part-time Receptionist/Office Manager can be combined as long as the existing staff recognize that they are accountable to the DOM.


The title of Dental Office Manager should not be conferred upon a long-standing receptionist who is unable to fulfill most of the requirements of the professional Office Manager. It is also counter-productive for the Office Manager to act as a receptionist/greeter/dismisser which will negatively affect the DOM’s ability to discharge other vital functions of the role because of a chronic shortage of administrative personnel. This is akin to having the co-pilot of an aircraft serving lunch. Essentially, DOM are necessary to discharge high value tasks for which they are hired rather than to spend the majority of time dealing with chronic staffing shortages in the face-to-face administrative area.

Employing an Office Manager is a win-win situation. A DOM can help the administration of the office run smoothly, pave the way for the clinicians to deal with the clinical aspects of the practice, and create a harmonious workplace for employees and patients to enjoy their experience. These benefits more than justify the addition of the role of DOM in most offices.