Dental Staffing

High Five to the Dental Administration Team: The Gatekeepers

We talk about the Clinical Team all the time, and I think it’s time to give some applause to the Team at the front. These are the first and last members of the Dental Team the patients see, and their work is critical to the success of the Practice. We’ve often referred to them as “the Front Desk” but really, they are the Gatekeepers.

They are the hard-working men and women that hear all the stories about why someone is going to be late or why they’re cancelling or why they failed their last appointment. They’re really the front line; they take all the phone calls, the good ones and the bad. I’m certain they could write a book about the conversations they’ve had with patients.

Recently, we visited over one hundred Dental Offices in Southern Oregon and delivered a gift to thank them for a job well done. And with one exception, we were consistently greeted with warm and welcoming smiles. And that one exception, we had her laughing by the time we left. It’s a great soft skill to be able to greet patients every day who’d undoubtedly rather be somewhere else.

So, you’re going to be late? Wouldn’t it be fun, just once, to be able to say “ok, but we’re not going to be able to do our best work because we can’t be late for the patient who’s scheduled after you”. What I do enjoy is the Office Manager’s decision to dismiss the patient who chronically fails appointments or cancels at the last minute. Make no mistake, these patients affect everything, including raises and bonuses.

Then there’s the complaints about the treatment their insurance didn’t cover. I’m a strong believer that patients should understand their own benefits. The Gatekeepers do an excellent job estimating what the insurance companies will or will not cover; that doesn’t mean there won’t be procedures that the patient needs that are denied. You can’t simply skip a necessary step in the procedure because it’s not covered by your dental insurance.

How about the ‘emergencies’ who can’t come in immediately. Guess what: then it’s not an emergency! Or the patients who leave their children unattended expecting the Gatekeepers to babysit while they’re getting treatment. There aren’t many offices that do inhouse financing, and on those rare occasions when this is granted and the patient reneges, the Gatekeepers have the unpleasant job of collecting the past due account.

I always wince when I visit an office that doesn’t have an Office Manager. The primary function of the Office Manager is to allow the Dentist to focus on Dentistry. Although they regularly meet with the owner Dentist, they handle all the issues that would otherwise distract the Dentist from turning the handpiece. They handle accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll, screening interviewees, reviews, discipline, dismissals, inter-office conflict and many issues I’m certain I’ve forgotten.

The Gatekeepers handle more than the Clinical Team knows or imagines. So, do me a favor: the next time you walk into work, give them a high five and a big Thank You. The Gatekeepers are just as responsible for the success of the practice as the Clinical Team and the skill of the Doctor.

If you’re looking for that one Dental Administrative Professional to consistently greet your patients with a smile, go to Post your Dental Practice profile, create an ad and find the perfect person to make that first great impression!



“You only have one chance to make a GREAT first impression;
Thankfully it’s in the hands of our Gatekeepers”
- Deborah L. Marynak, DDS (modified from author unknown)