How to Switch from Dental Assistant to Dental Front Desk

So you’ve mastered the art of Dental Assisting and now you want to move to the front desk.  Good for you!  Making the switch can be scary but don’t let that stop you.  Here are my tips on moving from back to front without stressing yourself out.

Focus on what you do know instead of what you don’t know.

Don’t zero in on everything you need to learn.  You’re going into this with a solid dental background.  You already know how the day should flow from the back.  Just bring that up to the desk with you.  The back can’t do their job without the front, and there’s no reason for the front to exist without the back.  So whatever you’re learning to do up front, think of it in relation to the back and work backwards!  Schedule patients as you’d like to work that scheduled day if you were in the back.  Get information over the phone from patients that you found helpful having as an Assistant.  Working backwards this way will make you feel more comfy and confident.  And, you’ll learn things a lot faster than if you had the mindset that you’re starting it all from scratch.

Don’t freak out about the money.

I can’t tell you how many times a Dental Assistant has told me that they would love to work at the front desk but they’re afraid to ask for money.

First, you will not ask for money.  You will create treatment plans, explain the cost of treatment and let patients know what will be due on the day of their appointment.  There will always be those deadbeats who weasel their way out of paying.  Forget them.  They’ll end up in collections and you’ll dismiss them from your practice.  The majority of patients understand that they need to pay for their treatment, and they appreciate having advance notice of what they owe.

Second, beginnings are always scary.  You were terrified the first time you took an impression.  You might have even been nervous the first couple of times after that.  But, you overcame your fear and now you could do it in your sleep. And that’s what will happen with asking for money.  I promise you, it’ll become just another part of your day.

Don’t straddle the fence.

Once you decide to work at the desk, make the switch completely.  Working in an office where you’re part time at the desk and part time at the front is a bad idea for a bunch of reasons.

  • You’ll become overwhelmed and only put half of your effort into each of your jobs.  Instead of being a help, you become a nuisance because you’re always leaving things half-finished for someone else to complete.
  • You’ll become the office scapegoat.  Whenever something isn’t restocked, reordered or put back where it belongs, you’ll be blamed.  And rightfully so because you won’t have the time to do both jobs and do them well.
  • You’ll become bitter.  One minute you’re an outcast because everyone’s frustrated with you.  The next you’re the hero because someone needs you to cover for them so they can take a day off.

I’m not saying it can’t be done.  But it’s a very special office with a very unique situation if it actually works and works well.  If you still feel strongly about keeping your hand in both, work part-time in two separate offices.  Trust me on this; if you’re working full time in one office,  it’s best to commit to one position and stick with it.

Embrace the Chaos.

As a Dental Assistant, you work on a schedule.  Sure emergencies pop up and procedures can take longer than expected.  But for the most part, you have a good idea of what your day will bring just by looking at your schedule.

That’s not the way it works at the front.  A schedule doesn’t dictate your day because you no longer have a schedule.  You track everyone else’s schedule.  While you’re doing that you’ll be checking patients out while also checking patients in.  All while the phone is ringing.  Then the patient you’re checking out will tell you they have new insurance.  All of this will happen while you’re trying to work on recare, take care of the mail and confirm for the next day.

Don’t sweat it!  It’s just a day in the life.  You just need to switch your mindset from a scheduled plan to taking things as they come.  One thing that never changes though is that your patient is always your first priority.  The patient in front of you or the patient on the phone with you always takes precedence over everything else that needs to happen at the desk.

Be kind.

Once you learn the process of things at the desk, you’re bound to start finding some bugs in the system.  All these light bulbs in your brain will start to go off and you’ll think of all sorts of great ways to improve the office.  That’s fabulous!  You’re probably spot on and your ideas will benefit everyone.

Be careful how you go about pointing out the rough spots though.  Your intent should be to make things better.  So always do a double-check and make sure you have a legit problem and a proposed solution before you bring anything up.  And then only chat about these things with your Office Manager and your Doctor.  This is really important because if all you do is finger point and complain to everyone else, then you’ve made yourself part of the problem, not part of the solution.  Drama is the enemy of the office!  If you can’t be kind, be quiet.

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