FYI

Dentist blog from Delta Dental

Author: Delta Dental (Page 2 of 25)

Dental office managers and AADOM: advocating for the backbone of your business

Lorie Streeter has been in the entertainment world since she could walk, making appearances on “The Gong Show,” “The New Mickey Mouse Club” and even opening for major musical acts like Rascal Flatts. She also has three decades of experience in the dental industry, including 12 years as a dental office manager. This may seem like a strange career trajectory, but according to Streeter, who still manages to moonlight as a performer, it actually isn’t that unusual.

“There’s no dental office manager school,” Streeter said. “These people fell into the profession just like I did and made a career out of it. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.”

She was singing in a nightclub when a dentist friend offered Streeter a day job at his practice. She accepted and now 30 years later, her career has taken a turn toward advocacy for others in dentistry’s front office roles, as the vice president of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM).

Since its inception in 2005, AADOM has aimed to champion the people filling this crucial and sometimes overlooked role. Needless to say, Streeter knows a thing or two about what it takes to run a dental office and the best ways to offer support to the people who do.

So you want to be a dental office manager…

There are more than half a million dental office managers in the United States, according to a 2020 study by Zippia, and a large majority of them are women. The study also revealed that most practices require an associate degree and that candidates with experience with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, patient care, daily operations and finance are the most desirable in the field.

“A day in the life of a dental office manager is a screamingly loud carnival ride of adventure,” Streeter said. “My very first day of work, the assistant came up and she had this big orange book with all the information on the teeth. She set it on my desk and said, ‘Here, learn it.’ I was scared, but I did.”

At any given moment, a dental office manager may be multitasking as your insurance liaison, scheduling manager, HIPAA compliance officer or staff supervisor. Often times, it’s a combination of all four, plus various other duties. For dental assistants who move into to this role, some of these responsibilities may be second nature. For those just entering the world of dentistry, however, learning medical terminology and the ins and outs of insurance may be a whole new skillset to tackle.

“I think as clinicians, there’s always a procedure that they can follow,” Streeter said. “For an office manager, the cards fall differently every day, and they’re touching all aspects of the practice. It’s always something different.”

Nailing down all of the most important qualifications for dental office managers is one of the challenges faced in the profession. Every practice is different and the size and needs of an office can vary greatly from location to location, so there isn’t much of a one size fits all job description for the role. That said, some skills are universally appreciated.

“AADOM did a study that found that most office managers are perfectionists,” Streeter said. “It isn’t a bad quality to have when you’re trying to juggle a lot of tasks in a day. The No. 1 skill that I think a dental office manager needs is patience. Patience for your team, for yourself, for your doctor, for the schedule.”

A need for advocacy

Since there’s no particular school to prepare someone for the job of a dental office manager (as in other aspects of dentistry), the opportunity to meet peers, learn and grow only arise once someone has taken the plunge with their career.

“We tell AADOM members that they’re not on an island,” Streeter said. “At my first dental job, there were several other practices nearby, but if I had a question about insurance or something, I couldn’t just go next door and ask their office manager. They were competition.”

The organization not only advocates for dental office managers but helps link them with others in their role, Streeter said. It’s as much a social network as it is resource for development and growth.

“AADOM removes the barrier,” she said. “We give them an opportunity to talk to their peers and connect. They can answer each other’s questions.”

Room to bloom

Dental office managers are the backbone of many practices. They’re the face of the front office while keeping everything running smoothly behind the scenes, and yet, they’re often stretched thin with limited options for educational and growth resources.

So, what’s the best way to show your office manager your appreciation? Streeter suggests that a little understanding can go a long way.

“A lot of times an office manager might seem frustrated, overwhelmed or stressed,” Streeter said. “That’s only because we’ve been on hold with insurance for two hours or something got denied that the doctor already finished — all of those challenges. Having some empathy for your multitasking office manager is so important.”

As for growth opportunities, investing in your staff can be an investment in your practice. Streeter said that’s where AADOM comes in. The organization offers an annual conference packed with educational talks and networking opportunities. It also offers a vast assortment of online courses for everyone — from those new to the industry to office veterans looking to learn something new.

Lorie Streeter of AADOM
Lorie Streeter of AADOM

“The magic of AADOM is the people looking for it,” Streeter said. “It’s the office managers who are looking for a sense of belonging and an association that only serves them… AADOM caters to anyone who touches the front of the office. One course can change your mindset about doing something, and we have some of the best educators in dentistry working with office managers all the time.”

By empowering people in the role, Streeter hopes to flourish the careers of those considering dental office management and those already in it. She says that creating more resources and advancement opportunities is a huge step towards that goal.

“Energy goes where attention flows,” Streeter said. “Once our team put a spotlight on office managers, we managed to professionalize the role. Years ago, offices didn’t look at the office manager as an opinion leader or someone with an important role in the process, but now they’re an entire target audience. The office manager role is far more understood than ever before and far more valued.”

Upcoming Provider Tools webinars in May

Are you ready to improve your productivity by attending one of our convenient one-hour Provider Tools webinars? You’ll learn:

  • How to set up your account
  • How to use Provider Tools to manage patient interactions
  • How to submit claims in real time and track them
  • How to sign up for direct deposit

You’ll also be able to learn more about Delta Dental – Virtual Consult, a new virtual dentistry tool that you can use for one-on-one video appointments with patients.

Don’t miss out — register for one of these webinars today:

Delta Dental’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation renewed

Delta Dental Insurance Company’s NCQA Credentialing Accreditation has been renewed through March 2024.

“Achieving NCQA Credentialing Accreditation demonstrates that Delta Dental Insurance Company has the systems, process and personnel in place to conduct credentialing in accordance with the strictest quality standards,” said Margaret E. O’Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

NCQA is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health care quality. NCQA’s Credentialing Accreditation is a quality assessment program that focuses on consumer protection and customer service improvement.

NCQA has reviewed and accredited Delta Dental Insurance Company’s Credentialing functions only. For complete details on the scope of this review, visit www.ncqa.org.

Is your office listing up to date in the directory?

With more and more people receiving COVID-19 vaccines, you may be adjusting scheduling availability for your office to handle in-person visits.  Be prepared for a busier spring and summer for your practice, as patients return for care and open enrollment season begins.

Take a moment to ensure your office information is correct in the Delta Dental directory. Please check your listing and provide any updates, such as office hours, languages spoken by staff, and more.

You can easily revise listing information in Provider Tools. Or you can update it via a form and return it by email or by fax.

For current and potential patients, the directory is a trusted resource. They can use the Find a Dentist search tool to easily locate your office and plan visits.

Quality dental care is essential for people to stay healthy as they return to normal lifestyles. Make it easy for them to connect to your office, whether it is through the online Delta Dental directory or popular websites. 

Here are links to update your information on heavily searched sites:

Yelp

Facebook

Google

Apple

Spotlight: Travis Tramel, RDHAP

Travis Tramel, Ph.D, MA, RDHAP didn’t always know what he wanted to be. What he did know, however, was that whatever he ended up doing would be rooted in service. He’s spent his life serving others, so when he found a career where he could focus on just that, he knew it was his calling.

Becoming a Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice (RDHAP) requires special training that focuses on prevention. RDHAPs provide services such as cleanings, sealants and screenings to patients in remote locations or limited mobility. Tramel saw this path as an opportunity to educate and enhance health in his community.

As the CEO and founder of GeriSmiles Dental Health Foundation, a mobile dental hygiene practice in Riverside, California, Tramel works with children of all backgrounds to preach the importance of good oral health and ensure that his community is off to the right start. Now 21 years into his career, he says the same things still make him smile: empowering people with the knowledge and tools they need to better their lives.

What made you want to be a Registered Dental Hygienist in Alternative Practice?

My story is different and crazy. Growing up, you don’t know the different levels of health care staff. You just go to the dental office and get your teeth cleaned. It wasn’t until a recruiter came from Loma Linda, California to our undergrad school in Alabama — Oakwood College, at that time. They told us that in dentistry, you could be a dentist or you could be a dental hygienist.

Everybody wanted to be a dentist because they fix root canals and they fix broken teeth. The recruiter got up and said, “I’m a hygienist and I fix the whole body. I’m the bacteria stopper. I stop things in their tracks before they do damage to something else.” That was a different way of looking at things.

I thought that preventive maintenance was neat. I like being at a point where I could keep you from getting into trouble. I realized that if I could help people by being preventive, I can help them in the long run.

How did GeriSmiles Dental Health Foundation come to be?

When you’re a hygienist, you spend a lot of time telling people, “You need to floss more. You’ve got a 4-millimeter pocket over here. Your gums are still bleeding.” You start wondering if you’re being effective.

I was getting to the point where patients were saying, “I don’t want the education on it. Just clean my teeth and let me go.” When you begin to get those answers, you ask yourself if you’re being heard and if your job is still needed. When you hear that day in and day out, you start burning out. 

I talked to a friend of mine about if after 15 years if I should change careers. That’s when she said, “Why don’t we become mobile hygienists?” She had already done the research. We went up to San Francisco to do a program and my eyes were opened to the actual needs of dentistry, especially hygiene, in the public health sector. 

My practice’s name, GeriSmiles, actually came from “geriatric smiles.” When you look at our aging population, no one is there to help them prevent [dental disease]. When they’re in nursing homes and assisted living, they’re usually in that stage where they’re about to lose it all. You’re trying to fix something that’s already broken. So I started looking at how we can prevent issues that can help them going longer. I was going to nursing homes and hospice homes, but you can only see about eight patients a day.

When it comes to being preventive, we realized that we wanted to do more work with kids. Sometimes parents don’t have time to take off of work to take their kids to a 10-minute cleaning. That’s when GeriSmiles went from “geriatric” to “Dr. Geri.”

In 2017, I went into the school system. Now I focus on eight school districts with our mobile dental programs where we work with K-12. Whoever wants a cleaning gets it, because I believe that if we can help the kids and help the parents understand that a five-minute cleaning can save them. We can find issues and still keep kids in school.

What do you love about your career?

I love that I teach the public about oral health care. I get to meet different people every day and it allows me to be community-minded.

As my own boss, I get to educate the public and go to city council and school board meetings. But, I also don’t look at myself like anybody’s boss. We’re equals. I just sign the paychecks. No work is underneath me, from assisting to billing to hygiene work. All my staff will tell you that I’m in the trenches with them. I help them set up, and I help them break down. We are for the public and we’re family.

What does service mean to you?

Service to me is always helping those who need it most. Even though you think you may not need it, take it. If the service is being offered, utilize it. When we give up ourselves to others, we get blessed by just blessing them. My patients are uninsured or on Medi-Cal — those who can’t pay me. To see the smiles on their faces and help them, it means the world to me.

My family volunteered every weekend growing up. My mother ran soup kitchens and would feed anywhere between 200 and 300 people every Sunday morning. If you were hurting, if you needed clothes, she’d take them off her back and give them to you. Service is in my blood.

My mother was in education and my father worked for the State of Georgia. Sometimes you look at your own situation and you know that you don’t have a silver spoon either, but later you realize that you were helping those who really needed help. Give yourself in order to bless someone else. To me, that’s what dentistry is all about. Patients come to you because they need something or are in pain. In my hands, I have the gift of hygiene and the gift of service. I can always use those to help somebody when they’re down low.

How did COVID-19 affect your work?

On March 5, 2020, I got notified that outside providers were no longer needed on school campuses. I got emails saying, “Hey, we don’t know where this is going to go, but at least for the next two months, there will be no dental services on our campus.”

It was like a dagger that just pierced my heart. I’m looking at my staff of 20 and thinking, “What do we do for paychecks? What do we do for bills?” Your head is spinning, as a CEO.

We used our savings and got a loan, because I wanted to make sure my staff’s households were not interrupted. I helped them through the next two months, until unemployment kicked in. We were blessed to not have to suffer, but they’re my family. They’ve been with me since Day One. They never leave me hanging and it wasn’t time for me to leave them hanging — when we needed each other the most.

Luckily, some of the private schools were still meeting, so we were able to serve them. Preschoolers need to be screened within 45 days of starting school, as well. Since they’re virtual, it gave me the idea to use Zoom to do online screenings until the schools reopen and we can return.

Tell us about a time that made you feel especially proud of your work.

I have a special dental cellphone for patients to call and at 9 pm one night, my phone goes off. I don’t normally have it on that late, but I answered it and they said, “Hi, you were at this school today.” I got nervous that something bad had happened, but she said, “I’m calling to thank you. I don’t know what you said to my son today, but when I gave my son his after-school snack, he said, ‘Mom, I no longer want to eat those. The dentist told me they are bad for my teeth and could cause a cavity.’ I gave him a granola bar instead and when we got home, he ran to the bathroom and pulls out the toothbrush packet he got and brushes his teeth. Then he took the toothbrush and ran to his room. When I asked him why, he said, ‘This is my special toothbrush, and I don’t have to share it!’”

For her son to make those changes immediately made her say, “I am impressed with your program. Please keep doing what you’re doing.”

Now when I’m at the schools, I ask if the kids have brothers or sisters and I give them kits for their family members, as well. You never know who’s sharing or who’s suffering. We are 100% self-funded. If they have insurance, we bill. If they don’t, we still treat them. We treat all kids equal.

What do you do in your free time?

I love to travel and see the world. I want my kids, who are 17 and 13, to see things that I didn’t see growing up… We like international travel and seeing different cultures and how they live. We don’t do touristy things. We like to go into the deep country and really learn about the culture.

We love hiking, cycling, scuba diving, touring and educating. It’s all fun to me!

What’s the best thing you watched in recent memory?

The best thing I watched? Well, you can look at COVID two ways: a downfall or a blessing, because it made you cherish life more. Especially your loved ones. It caused us to sit down and talk to our family members, love them and respect the time we have together. It made us cherish the moment we have now. It’s an opportunity to grow and to change. I think that’s the best thing I watched.

Congratulations to Travis Tramel on being our Dental Health Partner of the Month! You can learn more about his mobile practice on the GeriSmiles Dental Health Foundation website.

Access thousands of patients with NY Select

Gain access to over 200,000 NY members with 100% benefits for covered services when you enroll as an NY Select dentist! When you participate in the NY Select network (formerly known as NYPPO), you can help provide your fellow New Yorkers with dependable, quality dental care.

This network is specific to New York state and is the only in-network option for members of two large union health plan/funds:

  • DC37 is the largest public employee union in New York City, with 150,000 members serviced by the District Council 37 Health & Security Plan. DC37 members help make New York run by working in over 1,000 titles — everything from accountants to zookeepers.
  • 32BJ is a branch of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that is headquartered in New York City. The Building Service 32BJ Health Fund services over 75,000 of New York’s property service workers.

DC 37 and 32BJ’s NY members are benefited 100% for covered services with NY Select participating dentists.

Delta Dental ensures that members are able to find your office by providing special dentist directories especially for DC37 and 32BJ patients.

Everything you’ll need for administration, including how to register for direct deposit, view treatment history and obtain claim status, is available in your Provider Tools account. 

Simply log in or register to access these handy tools:

  • Reference Library: Find your Dentist Handbook and other information.
  • My Patients: Obtain eligibility and benefits for current and new patients.
  • Submit Claims: Transmit free, real-time claims and attachments.
  • My Account: Update your directory profile to ensure patients can find you.

Interested in participating in the NY Select network? Please contact Delta Dental Network Development Representative John Wilson by email at jwilson@delta.org or phone at 628-260-4764.

Not sure if you’re already participating in the NY Select network? Or currently participating and have questions? Please contact our Provider Concierge by email at providerconcierge@delta.org or by phone at 800-592-0156.

Please note: The NY Select dentist network is separate from Delta Dental PPO™ and Delta Dental Premier®. Please review your NY Select contract and fee schedule for additional information.

« Older posts Newer posts »

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑