Dental offices are projected to add nearly 820,000 new jobs from 2008 to 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, and dentists aren't the only professionals who stand to benefit from that growth. A growing demand for dental care due to increased public awareness and a greater ability to pay for services should create more work for dentists in coming years, and dentists in turn are expected to rely on support staff to meet that demand, the BLS reports.
Technology is another driver of demand for dental services, a 2011 survey from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry reports. Innovations ranging from smartphone applications to computer-aided dentistry are decreasing the amount of time spent on procedures and increasing patient comfort and safety. The survey found 63 percent of responding cosmetic dentists predicted at least moderate growth for their business in 2011.
As dental offices become more reliant on technology to chart, manage dental records and set appointments, dental office managers stand to play an increasingly important role in the industry and can be aided by online health care degrees in dental office management.
Dental office manager duties depend on practice size
A dental office manager's role, and the education necessary to do the job, is shaped by the size and structure of the dental office. Some dental office managers are expected to have direct dental knowledge while others are expected to have only management knowledge and skills.
In smaller dental practices, dental office managers often perform the duties of dental assistants in addition to administrative tasks while larger dental offices typically have dedicated office staff. In smaller dental practices, office managers may be expected to take care of everything from personnel issues to budgeting, scheduling and billing. Office managers in larger practices or group clinics may supervise the personnel in charge of these functional areas.
Campus and online degrees in dental office management
Campus and online educational programs are available for all levels of dental office management. Certificates and diplomas, which generally take a year to complete, provide entry-level skills through basic office coursework and general dental processes and procedures.
A two-year associate degree in dental office management usually offers a curriculum heavy in business management and science courses, although some programs also require a dental assisting certificate as a prerequisite. Coursework can include:
- Privacy guidelines
- Database management
- Patient relations and customer service
- Dental terminology
- Records management, including a knowledge of electronic health records
A four-year bachelor's degree in health care management can offer a solid liberal arts education along with specific coursework in public health issues, health care marketing and health care delivery systems, which can be applied to dental office management, particularly in larger offices or facilities.
Online degrees in dental management are available for dental assistants who may wish to move into management roles or transition to a more lucrative job in a bigger practice.
Dental office management skills and qualities
Dental office managers need a combination of organizational skills to perform their business duties and people skills to communicate effectively with patients and other dental professionals. Dental office managers should feel comfortable with a diverse patient population, have a strong desire to help their patients and be genuinely concerned about their welfare, particularly in stressful or painful situations. As managers, they also need the leadership qualities necessary to make staffing decisions, administer office policies and inspire a team of coworkers. Additionally, dental office managers can voluntarily become certified through the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) by taking a national qualifying exam.
Dental office management salaries and job projections
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2010 annual salary range for the middle 50 percent of dental assistants was $27,400 to $39,920. Salaries for individual dental office managers can vary based on level of responsibility, education, the size of the dental office or facility and geographical location. Salaries also tend to increase based on the number of dentists or physicians in a practice.
According to the Department of Labor, employment of office managers in physician's offices is expected to grow 34.1 percent between 2008 and 2018, while dental assistant jobs are projected to increase by over 100,000 jobs for a growth rate of 36.9 percent during that same period.
At a glance:
- BLS projects employment growth of over 34 percent for dental office management careers
- Dental office managers have varying job requirements depending on the size of the practice in which they work
- Dental office managers can earn certificates, associate degrees or bachelor's degrees