Spotlight: Oral Health Care Team Roles In A Dental Office

How many different people on your oral health care team do you see when you arrive for your dental checkup? A well-run dental clinic has a whole team of people working hard behind the scenes to make sure your visit is safe, comfortable, and on time. For example, do you know what the difference is between a dental assistant and a dental hygienist? Keep reading:  here we look at the different roles in a dental office, so you get to know more about what each person offers.

Dental Office Receptionist

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The receptionist is usually the first person you meet upon entering the dental clinic for your appointment. The dental receptionist is the one who ensures every patient receives the attention they require. They act as a go-between for the patient and their oral health care team, ensuring your questions and concerns are answered and your appointments are scheduled and confirmed. Without the receptionist, your experience at the dental clinic wouldn’t be near as seamless. The receptionist handles the following tasks:

  • Managing all phone calls
  • Greeting patients arriving at the clinic
  • Booking, cancelling, and rescheduling appointments
  • Calling patients to schedule follow-up appointments based on their treatment plan
  • Acting as a liaison between patients and the dentist
  • Answering questions via phone calls when the dentist is not available
  • Assisting with payments and insurance issues
  • Acting as a liaison between insurance companies and patients in some cases
  • Keeping appointments moving smoothly to avoid delays and wait times
  • Offering instructions prior to dental appointments when needed
  • Keeping the oral health care team on time and on schedule, including notifying them of cancellations or emergencies that arise

The receptionist is the glue that keeps everyone in the office together, working as a team and ensuring each patient receives the timely care they deserve.

Dental Office Manager

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The Dental Office Manager is responsible for managing the business side of the clinic. This role is often “behind the scenes” ensuring the office is operating efficiently. The Dental Office Manager’s day-to-day duties are varied and can range from hiring or terminating staff to the collection of bills, and from taking care of ordering office or dental supplies to making recommendations to the owner to improve workflow efficiencies. The Dental Office Manager is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Working with the clinic owners to ensure goals are met based on performance indicators
  • Dealing with collection of outstanding bills
  • Making financial arrangements with patients
  • Setting goals such as how many appointments are required to keep the business successful
  • Keeping an eye on “patient churn” to identify potential issues with service that can lead to patient loss, or identifying opportunities through ongoing success with new patients
  • Assigning tasks to receptionist and assistants as required
  • Monitoring quality of work and informing staff of performance issues when needed
  • Setting priorities for team members such as confirming appointments, filling schedule holes, keeping the clinic more organized to ensure a seamless patient experience
  • Hiring and firing staff
  • Supporting the entire team as required
  • Training and career growth for team members
  • Addressing technology issues and upgrades

The role will vary from office to office, but in general, the office manager keeps the office running. They also ensure staff members are performing up to the standards of the office, following protocols, and that the business remains profitable.

Dental Assistant

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Dental assistants are trained and certified professionals who must complete an accredited dental assisting program and also acquire their dental x-ray certification. They are responsible for some of the most important tasks that keep you safe and prepare you for your treatment, including:

  • Sterilizing and disinfecting instruments
  • Setting up instrument trays
  • Preparing materials
  • Assisting with dental procedures
  • Assisting dental hygienists
  • Recording treatment information
  • Exposing dental x-rays
  • Collecting and recording medical and dental histories
  • Providing postoperative instructions
  • Caring for dental equipment
  • Keeping track of supplies
  • Taking dental impressions

Dental assistants ensure you remain comfortable throughout your visit and that every detail required for your hygienist or dentist to complete your treatment is addressed.

The Dentist

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Your dentist is the primary dental caregiver on your oral health care team. Dentistry is a regulated profession requiring a license, a BDS/DDS/DMD degree and NDEB certification. Dentists ensure the oral health of every patient with a long list of responsibilities including:

  • Providing instruction and treatment designed to prevent oral health problems
  • Detection and management of patients’ oral conditions
  • Recommending and performing the necessary treatments to achieve/maintain optimal dental health including:
    • Restorations such as fillings and crowns
    • Correction through orthodontics
    • Reconstruction for tooth loss and oral tissue issues
    • Some forms of surgery such as extracting wisdom teeth
  • Assistance in detecting disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke as well as oral cancers
  • Providing cosmetic dental treatments to improve the appearance of your smile

Dentists use their education and experience to identify the unique problems of each patient and provide suitable dental plans to help them reach optimum oral health and a picture-perfect smile.

Dental Hygienist

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The dental hygienist must also be registered and complete a dental hygiene diploma or bachelor program. Their role is to clean a patient’s teeth while also providing guidance for following a home care routine based on their oral health needs. A dental hygienist’s role and training allow them to perform the following:

  • X-rays
  • Dental impressions
  • Cleaning and polishing teeth
  • Fluoride application
  • Assessing your oral health and recommending the best at-home care to improve your technique so you can maintain optimal oral health
  • Recommendations for the best toothbrush and oral care products based on your oral health needs
  • Providing special tools to help you achieve optimum oral health
  • Participating in aspects of your dental checkup together with your dentist
  • Helping to reduce the appearance of stains so you have a brighter, whiter, healthier smile

Your hygienist is an important link to overall dental health as they provide the cleaning you can’t achieve even with an excellent home brushing and flossing regime. Despite your own at-home routine, you still need a professional to get to those hard-to-reach areas where plaque and tartar can build up. Only professional scaling and polishing will remove all tartar and plaque, helping you avoid issues such as gum disease, dental decay, and tooth loss.

As you can see your oral health care team works together to create a pleasant experience while keeping your oral health in check.

For the Bradford Family Dentistry experience, give us a call 905-775-5307 or request an appointment by clicking here.


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dental office, dental team, oral health care team


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