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A question for dentists: would you recommend working in an administrative position in a dental office before starting your own practice?

Hello! My name is Jennifer, and I am a pre-dental student at Virginia Commonwealth University. I was wondering if any dentists would advise pre-dental students to seek administrative positions in dental offices to learn more about the "business" side of running a practice. My general dentist told me that when he started his own practice, it was a huge struggle for him to become an expert in areas such as billing, insurance, etc. This really got me thinking. (I suppose it would be a lot easier if you were to join a group practice where there are already people in place who are in charge of those administrative duties.) I will be taking a gap year between the end of my undergraduate studies and dental school, so I was hoping to find a position during that time period that is 1) paid and 2) within a dental office. I would prefer to become a dental assistant so that I can add to my clinical experience, but in case I can't land an assisting position, I was wondering if you all would recommend a front desk position (or something along those lines). Thank you so much for your time! #dentistry #dentist #dental #administrative #administrative-work

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Steven’s Answer

I agree with Dr. Pinney--you can learn a lot--and a lot that you will not learn in dental school (if my ancient experience is any guide). You may well find yourself after graduation in a practice in which all the administrative duties are already set up for you. That's great, and after all you would be better off doing clinical dentistry rather than learning the nuts and bolts of administration. But you will see much more of this at the front desk. You'll interact with patients, other doctors' offices, labs, suppliers, and most of all insurance companies. This is very important stuff.
But while you're learning, try to determine if you are in a well-run and ethical practice. You'll probably be able to figure it out after a while, but be cautious--not all dental practices are well-run, and not all dental practices have the highest ethical standards. The term "dental team" is a cliche, but everyone ideally should be on the same page, trying to do the best dentistry for the patient in the most pleasant environment for everyone as efficiently as possible.

Good luck!

Mr. Bornfeld, Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions. Your piece of advice on being aware of the kind of practice that is being run will stick with me forever. Also, I am glad to hear that coming home to family brings you more comfort than anything. Family is extremely important to me, and the last thing I would want to happen is for me to get sick of them! ;) Thanks so much again. I really appreciate you helping out aspiring dentists like me! Jennifer Jennifer A.

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Neil’s Answer


Given your situation, I would say that an administrative position would be very beneficial. In fact, my personal opinion is that, in the long run, it would likely benefit you more than a dental assisting position. Both will provide you with some good experience, but your dental skills will be honed in Dental School and beyond. Since you'll have almost no "hands-on" administrative training in Dental School, having been in that position may serve you well.

Mr. Pinney, Wow, I cannot thank you enough for responding to both of my questions! I honestly did not expect to hear back from anybody, let alone this quickly. Your answers are extremely insightful and helpful. I am even more confident now that I am on the right career path. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to respond to pre-dental students like me! Jennifer Jennifer A.

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