Practice Management |6 min read

They Say “Fake It Until You Make It”?

Real-World Insights from AADOM Authors - Sandra Wilkinson

I’ve never found that advice particularly helpful. You’ve heard it before, but what exactly does it mean and how is it possible in dentistry?! Let me sum it up for you, it is NOT and can actually be very dangerous in our chosen profession! If you are just starting out as a dental office manager, I think you have probably already realized this, and if you are a seasoned professional, you definitely know it. The dentist who hired you probably hasn’t, so it’s up to you to find great information and education on how to do what needs to be done and do it right!

Through no fault of their own, most dentists are not educated in the business aspects of their field. As office managers, many of us aren’t either, at least when we first start out in our new roles. Many people I have spoken to over the years were thrown into the position when someone left the practice or the workload was too much for the one person at the front desk. They have no formal training or more often than not, no training at all! When I started my first job as the “official” office manager, I not only had to figure out WHAT needed to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis, but HOW to do it all! Even after participating in a vocational program for “Dental Assisting and Office Procedures” program through my high school, I was left to figure a lot out on my own. What you learn and where you learn it can literally make or break a practice, or at least have a huge impact on its success.

I have seen many levels of this throughout the years. I have experienced firsthand on how my lack of verbal skills in the beginning failed to get new patients through the door and overdue existing patients back into hygiene chairs. Later in my career, I also walked into other practices where the lack of knowledge and enthusiasm of the person before me was obvious.

Amazing people in my career have given me priceless pearls to help guide the practices I work with into a more profitable, enriching and overall, more satisfying experience. We can say, “it’s about the patient” and it. However, it doesn’t hurt when we are able to get a new piece of technology or take the team building trip that was only a dream just a few years ago!

Even at 35 years in this industry, learning never stops! Every conference I attend, every dental office manager online course I take, and every other Office Manager I speak to, I learn valuable nuggets of new information that I can apply to my current situation. If you think you know it all, you will end up hurting your practice at some point.

The importance of the administrative team is grossly underrated. I’ll give you an example. I walked into an office for an interview and immediately noticed the receptionists’ desk was exceptionally clean. I mean NOT A PIECE OF PAPER on it! The practice was on the smaller side with one dentist, one full and one half-time hygienist, with the receptionist acting also as office manager. She was replacing herself and I was left on my own after a few weeks of “training”. Seeing the schedule, I thought I would die of boredom after coming from a multiple dentist, multiple location practice! I also thought the dentist must be independently wealthy to be able to keep this practice afloat! I soon found out why the practice was so quiet.

Well, there were several reasons, but this one was a major factor. The person before me had no knowledge of different dental plans; she assumed all benefits she read in just ONE of the company’s plan designs applied to all who held that plan’s policies. For example, if one major company had a policy with a group number restricting bitewing radiographs to once every 24 months, she assumed everyone who held a plan from that company, no matter the employer and/or group number, had the same restriction and ran the schedule accordingly. Well, first of all, we do dentistry based on patient needs and standard of care, NOT what a dental plan dictates. Oh, how I took this opportunity and ran with it, FAST!

Immediately, more bitewing radiographs were being taken, therefore more treatment was being diagnosed. I started educating the patients on their plans and instead of having a 50% cost share on the crown the doctor diagnosed 3 years ago as they were initially told, it was in fact a 10% out of pocket cost. Patients were scheduling treatment left and right and I looked like a hero, just by having more knowledge than the person before me. Don’t get me wrong, she was a very nice person, did nothing to put the practice at risk legally and patients loved her, but could have done much more if she would have sought out more training! I had increased production and collections by 25% in my first six months! By the time a year went by, the part time hygienist was full time, which the person before me had said was impossible.

The importance of knowledge, continuing education, and a solid network of dedicated, passionate colleagues is more important than ever. If you ever feel that you’re not making an impact on the practice, stop and first reflect on where the practice was when you started. Also, think about what YOU have accomplished along the way of your career. Then, take the opportunity to speak to your colleagues, join a professional organization such as AADOMThis link leads to Home page, or just invest in continuing education. Better yet, ask your doctor to invest in you as it is the ultimate compliment and will only grow their practice! Don’t fake it, just get out there and make it!

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About the Author

Headshot of Sandra Wilkinson

Sandy Wilkinson is a practice administrator for a dental office in Beverly Hills, MI. Sandy’s career in dentistry has spanned over 3 decades. The past 15 years with a boutique practice with unmatched customer service and the highest quality of care. Sandy mentors other practice administrators on how high customer service is essential in private practice and how to achieve it. She received her degree in Management from Central Michigan UniversityThis link opens a new tab to the Central Michigan University website and is a member of the American Association of Dental Office ManagersThis link leads to Home page and earned her Fellowship in 2022. When she is not in the office, Sandy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, baking, and relaxing!

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