Lights, Camera, Action!  The Integral Role of a Dental Assistant for Medical Billing in Dentistry

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What is one of the hardest jobs of a dental practice? I’ll give you a clue: They have their hands in surgery, hygiene, lab, exams, post-op appointments, and admin. They are kind of like a one-person show with many different skills rolled into one.

One of the hardest jobs of a dental practice is that of a dental assistant. And, in my view, dental assistants play the star, hero, victim, and even the detective of the dental practice. This makes them well-suited for an integral role in medical billing for dentistry.

Here are the five areas where dental assistants and medical billers for dentistry can work together:

1. Investigator

Assistants are the avenue through exams because the information they obtain from the patient prior to the doctor’s arrival is vital to medical billing and prompts the doctor to get additional information to clinically diagnose the patient. Investigators ask questions in a manner that provides medically necessary details that aid medical billers to maximize benefits for our patients.

2. Medication Mediator

This means our dental assistants dig deep into health histories for items that could be causing a breakdown of the oral cavity. This is HUGE! Sometimes we have a patient that thinks they are going crazy…They brush three times a day and floss at least twice a day, yet they need 3 fillings and 2 crowns? When the DA sees they have asthma and they have used an inhaler for 10+ years, they are now able to ask questions about the possibility of having a dry oral cavity (Xerostomia). That would likely be the causality, or at least opens up the conversation to the possibilities of overall health affecting their dental health.

Questions the DA can ask in this example:

A) Does the amount of saliva in your mouth seem to be too little, too much, or have you not really noticed it?
B) Do you have difficulty swallowing?
C) Does your mouth feel dry when eating a meal?
D) Do you sip liquids to aid in swallowing dry food?

3. Relationship Builder

DAs are tremendous relationship builders…from admin to hygiene to doctor. It is another role they play in securing trust for the patient, all the while relaying valuable information to the team.

What does this look like exactly?

A new patient comes in. After their exam and x-rays, the doctor determines that initial periodontal therapy (scaling and root planing) is the best treatment option. The DA notices that the patient has Type II Diabetes and the doctor confirms the presence of periodontal disease. One caveat is that the patient is highly dental phobic and states “if she cannot do it all at one time, she will not do it”. Enter stage left…the relationship builder DA. They make sure the treatment coordinator contacts the traveling GA doctor and that due to diabetes, the doctor believes the combination is affecting the patient’s A1c. The DA also makes sure the hygienist who sees the patient for care knows the background. This has built a relationship that will be kept by the patient for years.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

4. Fact Finder

This is where the rubber meets the road because, without the listening ears of our DAs, there might not be any facts to list. Many times, I have heard our patients chatting to the DAs for 10-15 minutes about everything in their life. Then, when the doctor comes into the operatory and asks how the patient is, all you hear is “I’m good”. That is when the real hero, the DA, steps up and gives the doctor the background on what has been going on and empowers the patient to now speak freely to the doctor.

5. Treatment Sleuth

Once our doctors diagnose and they speak with the patient about the best treatment options, our DAs step in to review the procedure with the patient. DAs can sense if patients are apprehensive, fearful, blown away, or in a state of shock. A DA preps the treatment coordinator on what to expect and, honestly, many no’s have become yeses because I understood what the patient was thinking from my DA.

  1. So, the roles our DAs play for medical billing for dentistry are:
  2. Investigator
  3. Medication Mediator
  4. Relationship Builder
  5. Fact Finder
  6. Treatment Sleuth

Remember, all parts in a movie are important and integral to telling the story. The same is true for how our DAs make medical billing so much easier for insurance specialists!

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