Job Profile: Dental Office Manager


Making regular trips to a dental office is crucial for everyone to avoid tooth decay, gum disease, and oropharyngeal cancer for good oral health. According to the American Dental Association, 67 percent of adults and 84 percent of children in the United States receive dentistry care at least once yearly. Dentists, hygienists, and receptionists are the friendly faces most patients associate with dental offices, but they're not the only key players. Dental office managers generally work behind-the-scenes to keep operations running smoothly. These administrative heads oversee the office's financial, personnel, legal, marketing, and clinical needs. Under the CEO's watch, dental office managers set the operational policies that ensure patients receive safe, comfortable care that leaves them smiling.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 270,080 administrative services managers in the United States make a mean annual wage of $94,840, or $45.60 hourly. However, administrative services managers employed at primary dentist offices make significantly less with an average salary of $79,040 yearly. Mean salary rises to $105,770 for dental office managers in specialty settings, such as oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Beginning Salary

Newly hired dental office managers with less than 5 years of experience typically land in the bottom 10th percentile with yearly earnings around $46,430. Take note that senior dental office managers can eventually earn upwards of $153,570 though. In comparison, dentists bring home a median annual salary of $158,310. Office managers could advance into executive positions for lucrative income gains. For example, Aspen Dental's CEO claims over $606K each year.

Key Responsibilities

Dental office managers carry countless responsibilities to refine the operating systems used to deliver efficient oral health treatment. Managers will track the practice's numbers and dollar signs to address any issues affecting growth. They'll manage personnel by hiring, training, scheduling, and sometimes firing dental team members. Dental office managers ensure the facility is well-stocked with essential inventory by purchasing teeth supplies. Other important duties include building vendor relationships, advertising services, evaluating staff performance, answering to patient complaints, checking cleanliness, and more. Dental office managers basically handle the administrative functions while dentists focus on keeping patients' pearly whites healthy.

Necessary Skills

Stepping into the dental office manager's shoes will require exceptional communication skills because the majority of time is spent supervising staff. Customer service skills are important for managers to effectively listen and address patient problems. Managers must have leadership capacity for motivating employees and resolving office conflicts daily. Analytical skills are another must-have to pinpoint inefficiencies where the office could save or generate money. Dental office managers need keen attention to detail to organize procedures that comply with OSHA standards and streamline supply purchasing. In today's digital age, managers should also have the computer skills to access electronic health records and use software like Dentrix.

Degree and Education Requirements

Educational pathways to becoming a dental office manager can vary greatly. Earning post-secondary training after a high school diploma or GED is required though. At minimum, new hires must hold an accredited associate degree in medical office management. Some segue into management after education in dental hygiene too. Many dental offices today will prefer candidates educated at the baccalaureate level. Consider earning a four-year bachelor's degree in health administration, business, facility management, public health, or relevant areas. Heading to graduate school for a Master of Health Administration (MHA) is optional but could foster advancement to Chief Executive Officer.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Looking before you leap into dental office management is important because there are rewards and challenges. On the bright side, dental office managers can expect fairly high salaries that surpass dental secretaries and assistants. There are relatively low education requirements, so investing in simply an associate degree could be sufficient. Growing demand for dental care, especially among aging Americans, is sparking the expansion of more dental offices. Managers are immersed in working with staff at all levels, which is ideal for extroverts. Dental office managers also generally have autonomy to propose operational strategies that could improve patient care delivery. However, dental office managers spend long hours facing a barrage of organizational problems that must be resolved. Above-average stress is common, especially when upper management and CEOs demand improvements. Dental office managers have a salary-based role, so overtime hours may be uncompensated. Rising in the ranks also comes with the uncomfortable duty of letting staff go.

Getting Started

Unlike most health administration jobs, dental office managers typically don't need vast amounts of college education. Having the right training with work experience is what matters most. Begin your management career by learning the inner workings of dental offices. This could involve becoming a receptionist, dental assistant, billing specialist, or appointment scheduler. Dental office managers generally need at least 3-5 years of experience before promotion. Working part-time while finishing a bachelor's degree online would be smart. Prospective managers could also pursue special credentialing. For instance, the American Association of Dental Office Managers (AADOM) offers a fellowship program. You'll need 3+ years of experience, over 31 approved continuing education hours, and a $350 application fee. The Practice Management Institute (PMI) also confers the Certified Medical Office Manager (CMOM) designation.

Future Outlook

The United States is poised to experience a serious dearth of dental manpower as the baby boomers reach retirement age. The BLS projects that jobs for dentists will grow by 18 percent and employment of dental hygienists will skyrocket by 20 percent. Demand for dental office managers won't be nearly as high for the forthcoming decade, but the outlook remains positive. Through 2024, the hiring of dental office managers will likely grow as fast as average by 8 percent. They'll particularly play a critical role in helping offices address the impact of changing dental technology and recordkeeping systems. Managers can compete for jobs coordinating the offices of general dentists, endodontists, oral surgeons, orthodontists, prosthodontists, and periodontists.

Overall, dental office managers are health administrators who direct the administrative services of facilities providing oral medicine. From managing staff payroll to handling insurance bills and ordering dental equipment, they wear many hats to ensure the upkeep of busy dentistry practices. Managers save dentists time worrying about meeting organizational goals to center on clinical care. Becoming a dental office manager requires developing an arduous business acumen with the knowledge to coordinate every administrative task inside the practice's walls.

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