Six Common Mistakes Dental Managers Make

Heather Colicchio


As dental practice managers, we often have internal fears of making huge mistakes related to things like insurance fraud, accidentally breaking employment laws, or managing those past-due patient statements. Fortunately, these are extreme examples.

Mistakes this huge aren’t something most office managers deal with every day. On the other hand, there are common flubs that a practice manager can make and may not even be aware of. Here are some of the big ones.

Being Afraid to Ask for Help

Unlike other dental professionals, office managers rarely go through the same training program together and leave with an instant network of peers. As such, they tend to be independent learners and researchers, expanding their own career and knowledge on their own schedule.

Unfortunately, this means a lot of practice managers don’t have others to turn to for advice. They may even be afraid or too embarrassed to ask someone else for help. If they can’t find the answer on the internet, they may need to use a trial-and-error approach to finally find a solution that works best. Sadly, this can be costly and time consuming, not to mention exhausting.

If you know you need input from someone else in the field, it’s vital to be a part of a professional organization and/or study group where you can gain words of wisdom and opinions from other successful professionals who walk in your same shoes.

Falling Behind on OSHA and HIPAA Training

When it comes to licensing and dental practitioners, your dentist, hygienists, and assistants all need specific numbers of continuing education hours each year. Some even require jurisprudence updates to make sure everyone is aware of the current legal changes in their states.

But your entire team, including those who aren’t physically treating patients, also need to have proper annual training regarding workplace safety and patient confidentiality. 

If you’re not sure where to start, network with your peers or consult with a credentialing service who can come in and provide appropriate training to make sure everything and everyone is in order. The last thing you need is a surprise inspection by the state to derail normal operations until you’ve gotten everything straightened out.

Thinking There’s Nothing Else to Learn

Dentistry is ever changing. Whether it’s new technology that’s being developed or streamlined processes that you can incorporate in your practice, there’s nothing stagnant about running a dental office.

A dental practice manager needs to be a constant learner, in tune with the networks and resources to know and understand the latest trends and tips as soon as they’re available.

Sadly, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. If you feel like you’re going around and around in the same patterns each month, take a moment to pause and think out of the box. When you are part of peer networks and actively attending professional development events, you’ll hear about the big trends before everybody else does. 

Not Taking Time Off 

Everybody needs some R&R now and then. Whether you’re in need of a few mental health days or have been dreaming of that cruise for years now, there’s no “good” reason why you can’t take advantage of the vacation time you’ve accrued. Even if you’ve made a habit of only taking vacation when the dentist is out of the office, you’re entitled to some personal time when you need it.

If you’re nervous that everything will go downhill when you’re gone, re-evaluate your staff training and cross-training protocols. When other team members are empowered by learning new operational skillsets, you can step away for a limited amount of time while the wheels keep turning behind your back. 

Don’t overwork yourself. Managing a dental practice is a fulfilling but highly stressful job at times. If it means arranging to take a long lunch one day per month to squeeze in some self-care to get your blood pressure down, then do it!

Initiating Personnel Changes 

Depending on the office you work in, the dentist may have a bit more say-so when it comes to hiring and firing. After all, he or she is the one who cuts the check at the end of the day.

But if your team is overworked and stressed because there’s truly a need for an additional team member, it is the office manager’s role to get the owner (dentist) on the same page as the team and find a way to afford an additional salary with current overhead costs. 

Remembering Lessons Learned

Are you a repeat offender? What mistakes that you conquered in the past do you keep going back to—inadvertently, of course? When you remind yourself and share your struggles with others, it helps you stay focused on what’s important at the end of the day. 

Ms. Colicchio is the founder and president of the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM), the nation’s largest professional organization for dental office managers and practice administrators. She is passionate about small business and entrepreneurship. She also is excited by visioning and building and by seeing ideas come to life, especially when these ideas empower others. One of her unique strengths is connecting people to achieve their individual and combined goals. She appreciates quality collaboration and thrives working with a talented team of professionals both inside her organization and within the dental industry. She can be reached at

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