How to Switch from Dental Assistant to Dental Front Desk

Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann

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! I started my dental career as a Dental Assistant when I was in High School and I really enjoyed it! But after about ten years, I felt like I needed a change. That’s when I transitioned to the front desk. I know firsthand that making the switch is scary. But don’t let that stop you! You can absolutely do this! Here are my tips on how to switch from Dental Assistant to dental front desk with as little stress as possible.

Focus on what you already know.

Try not to get overwhelmed by 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. Whatever you’re learning to do at the front, think of it in relation to the back and work backward! Schedule patients as you’d like to work that scheduled day as an Assistant. Get information from patients that you found helpful having as an Assistant. Focusing on what you already know gives you comfort and confidence. And, you’ll learn new things a lot faster than if you had the mindset that you’re starting from scratch.

Don’t freak out about 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 is due on the day of their appointment. There will always be people who complain about fees or try to get out of paying. Don’t let that worry you. 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 can do it in your sleep. And that’s what will happen with the money part of your job. 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 in the clinic is a bad idea for many reasons.

  • You’ll get overwhelmed because there’s too much to do! Follow-through is a huge part of being a Dental Assistant and working in the front office. Even if you’re super organized, you may not have the time to complete tasks for both jobs.
  • You’ll be the office scapegoat. Whenever something isn’t restocked, reordered, or put back where it belongs you’ll get the blame. This is probably justified because you won’t have the time to do both jobs, and do them well.
  • You’ll get bitter and burned out. One minute you’re an outcast because everyone’s frustrated with you. Next, you’re a hero because someone needs you to cover for them.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. But it’s a very special office with a unique situation if it actually works well. If you still feel strongly about keeping your hand in both, work part-time in two separate offices. In my experience, if you’re working full-time in one office it’s best to commit to one position and stick with it. I’m not implying that we can’t jump in and help each other out now and then. But working both positions regularly is a tricky business.

Embrace the Chaos.

As a Dental Assistant, you work on a schedule. Emergencies pop up, and sometimes procedures take longer than expected. But for the most part, you have a good idea of what your day will bring 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 check some patients out while simultaneously checking others in. All while you’re answering the phone, working Recare, opening the mail, and preparing for the next day.

Breathe! It’s just a day in the life in the Dental Front Office. Change your mindset to working within a broader timeline. Make a plan for what you need to accomplish each day, stay organized, and write things down. You’ll get it all done, it just won’t always be at a set time.

One thing that will not change from back to front, 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 anything else that happens at the desk.

GOOD LUCK making the switch! If you have any questions, feel free to comment here or shoot me a message! 

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