Dental Assisting: An Overview of Dental Insurance

Creative Commons image courtesy of Flickr
Creative Commons image courtesy of Flickr

As a dental assistant, you will be working primarily with one or more dentists to perform various procedures on patients. Usually, when patients have a question about their dental insurance coverage, they will be referred to the front desk staff for clarification and explanation. Occasionally, however, you may encounter a question that you can answer on your own. Here’s a simple overview of how dental insurance works.

Annual Maximums
Most dental insurance companies impose a maximum when it comes to the amount of money they will pay each year per member. As it gets toward the second half of the year, many patients begin to approach this maximum. For example, if a patient’s maximum allowance is $1,000 and $800 has already been paid by the insurance company, then a maximum of $200 is left to apply toward other procedures. If a patient says that he or she is “close to the maximum,” this may mean that certain procedure will need to be put off until the following calendar year, or that the patient will need to speak with the person in charge of financing in your dental office.

Similarly, many companies require a member to pay a deductible, or a certain set dollar amount, prior to any benefits being paid in a particular calendar year. Sometimes this deductible is waived for preventative services, such as x-rays or cleanings. Other times, it’s not. In some dental offices, the front desk staff will include a note as to whether or not a patient’s deductible has already been met. If this is the case in your office, you might be able to let your patient know if it’s been satisfied if he or she asks.

Percentages Paid
If your patient has a PPO dental plan, the insurance company will generally cover a percentage of each procedure or treatment performed. A common breakdown is that 100 percent of preventative and diagnostic procedures are covered, 80 percent of fillings and root canals, and 50 percent of major restorative procedures like crowns and inlays. Since all insurance companies differ, however, this is definitely not the case for all patients. A question like this usually needs to be referred to the person in the office in charge of billing and insurance queries.

As a dental assistant, it’s great when you’re able to answer your patients’ questions. While having a grasp of the basic idea behind dental insurance coverage is good, it’s usually not a dental assistant’s job to understand the ins and outs of each plan. Knowing some of the terminology used can help you answer some of your patients’ general questions, and it can also allow you to understand what the front desk staff is talking about in discussions about whether a procedure is covered (or not covered).

Why Summer School Makes Sense for Adult Learners

Creative Commons image by Luke Ma
Creative Commons image by Luke Ma

If you’ve been contemplating returning to school as an adult, you might find that taking your courses in the summer is a great way to get a jump-start on your continuing education. While children and teenagers shudder at the thought of summer school, the warm months just might be the perfect time for you to pursue your dreams of higher education. Why? Take a look at these three reasons:

  • If you have kids, you’ll be “on” while they’re “off.” If you are a parent, you know that the kids take center stage during the school year. From helping with homework to shuttling them to dance practice, you’re juggling their needs with yours all week long. During the summer, there’s some down-time and you can focus on your own homework instead of quizzing your kids on spelling and walking them through their math problems.
  • Later sunsets make night classes more feasible. In the winter, you need to deal with dark evenings, early dinners and chilly temperatures. Most adults need to schedule their classes in the evening, so this can add more chaos to an already busy time. During the summer months, however, the sun sets later, so you’ll have more daylight to help you accomplish everything you need to. You also won’t have to worry about navigating potentially icy roads as you drive to and from your school.
  • Be ready to start your new career in the fall. The fall is a great time for new beginnings when it comes to starting a new job. Summer fun is winding down, the kids are going back to school and there are still a few months left before the holiday rush begins. If you can get your educational goals completed during the summertime months, you’ll be ready to spiff up your resume and find a new job before the end of the calendar year.

At the Sunrise School of Dental Assisting, we offer a summer course that begins in June and ends in September. Just think: You could start classes within the next few weeks and you could be ready to begin working in a dental office before the leaves start turning yellow!

If you think you might be interested in attending summer classes to learn how to become a dental assistant, please contact us at 877.871.6002.

Dental Assisting: What’s Your Career Outlook?

193475106_38440c2df8_zBefore beginning training for a new career, it’s vital that you do some research to find out what the outlook is. You’ll want to know how easy (or difficult) it will likely be for you to succeed, how many people of your chosen career are in any given place, and how likely it is that you’ll be able to make a living. While the specifics vary widely from area to area, a good place to start your search is at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website.

Here is some information, in a nutshell, about the future of dental assisting. Keep in mind that some of the information will be different depending on where you live.

Where Will You Work?

The vast majority of dental assistants work in private dental offices. This can be the office of a family dentist or a specialist, such as an orthodontist, endodontist or periodontist. The offices might be run by one or more dentists, and may include dental clinics. Other potential places to work as a dental assistant include outpatient care centers, physicians’ offices, general hospitals and for insurance companies.

Dental Assistant in the Carolinas

The Sunrise School of Dental Assisting is located in North Carolina and South Carolina. This means that most of our students end up employed in one of these two states, though of course you can take your education with you anywhere. According to the BLS, there are more dental assistants in North Carolina than in South Carolina, overall. That being said, there are more assistants in busier metro areas than in smaller towns, but since most towns and cities do have dental offices, you could certainly get a job in your local area.

What About the Rest of the States?

The good news about learning a trade like dental assisting is that there is a need for it all over the country! In today’s mobile society, there’s a good chance that you may move to a different state. The states with the most dental assistants are California, Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois. The states with the fewest dental assistants are the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Maine, West Virginia, Rhode Island and Alaska. Remember, though, that the bigger cities in these states still employ a good number of allied health professionals, including dental assistants.

With a solid number of dental assistants being needed in the Carolinas and all over the country, now is a great time to think about enrolling in classes at the Sunrise School of Dental Assisting. Please contact us to find out more about our courses and when the next one starts.


Hot Healthcare Jobs in the 21st Century

???????The healthcare industry is booming, and while technological careers can be outsourced or eliminated, people will always need healthcare providers. If you have been looking for a new career that offers security and the potential for growth, choosing one of the allied health fields might be just what you’re searching for. Take a look at this list of healthcare careers that are worth considering.

Medical Assistants
Do you enjoy helping people in a fast-paced atmosphere? Medical assistants help doctors by taking vital signs, going over a patient’s health history and take vital signs. They also assist with charting and various administrative tasks. You can get your certification through a medical assisting program; some doctors may prefer to train their own medical assistants.

Home Health Aides
Another job with good growth potential is that of a home health aide. Duties include taking vital signs, helping patients with tasks around the house, changing their sheets, assisting with grocery shopping or other errands and doing light housekeeping. Clients might range from postpartum mothers to the elderly or people who have had recent surgery. A nurses’ aide certification allows you to work as a home health aide in many areas.

Dental Hygienists
A dental hygienist cleans teeth and looks for evidence of gum disease. They work in dental offices, schools, health departments and other facilities. Dental hygiene is a fast-growing field. Candidates need to have an associate’s degree in dental hygiene. Some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree, but this is uncommon.

Dental Assistants
Dental assistants work with dentists in private offices, hospitals, schools and health departments. They work hand-in-hand with the dentist to perform various types of treatment. They also take dental x-rays, explain procedures to patients and, in some offices, perform administrative duties like making appointments or sending bills to insurance companies. In the last decade, dental assisting careers grew by 37%.

The Sunrise School of Dental Assisting offers a 13-week program that can get you started on your dental assisting career in a matter of months. Please call us to learn more about our program and to find out when the next session starts.

Who Is the Typical Dental Patient?

dental patientIf you are looking forward to working in the dental field as a dental assistant, you might wonder who your typical dental patient will be. The truth is, when you work in a dental office, your “typical” patient will vary each day! Here are some of the characteristics you’ll find in typical patients in various venues throughout your career.

Private Dental Office
If you work in a private dental office, the types of dental patient that you will run into depend on whether you’re working for a general dentist or a specialist. General dentists often see everyone from the very young to the very old. Some patients, particularly those who have dental insurance, will come in regularly for checkups and cleanings. Others might come in more sporadically, or only when they have a toothache.

If you work for a specialist, your patient base might be less varied. For example, if you work for a pedodontist, all of your patients will be under the age of 18, and most will be quite young. You might even have babies as patients. (Some pedodontists also see adults who have developmental disabilities, in addition to children).

Working for an orthodontist will generally expose you to pre-teens and teenagers, but with more adults getting braces, you will probably also see a good number of adults as well. There will also be smaller children coming in who need orthodontic work. Periodontists and endodontists typically see adults, for the most part, though occasionally children do have problems with their gums or need a root canal.

Dental Clinic or Health Department
Some dental assistants work for dental health clinics or the public health department. A lot of the patients who you see coming in might not have dental insurance, and they also might not see the dentist very often. Sometimes dental clinics are the first course of action for people who are in a lot of pain. You will probably also see children in these types of clinics, as some towns offer free or low-cost dental care to uninsured kids in dental clinics.

Dental Schools
Another place that you might end up getting a job is a dental school. All types of patients go to dental schools to have work done; the prices are usually lower than those charged by private dental offices, so a good number might be uninsured. Others who go to dental schools for treatment need extensive work that their insurance won’t cover. You will likely see a lot of variety in the types of patients as well as the types of procedures that are done.

Working as a dental assistant is a rewarding and exciting career, especially if you love working with a variety of people! Contact us about starting on the road to your new career as a dental assistant.

How Can a Career in Dental Assisting Benefit You?

8792464058_5e425b4040_zIf you are looking for a career in the healthcare field, you have a lot of options open to you. When choosing an educational path, it’s always helpful to look at the benefits that a particular career might bring you. Here are some of the ways that a career in dental assisting can benefit you, both now and in the future.

Length of Educational Program
If you have many years to devote to your education, then becoming a doctor or a dentist might not be outside the realm of possibility. If your goal is to start working within a few months, however, then you will need to look for a career path that includes a relatively short amount of time spent learning how to succeed.

When you learn how to be a dental assistant at Sunrise School of Dental Assisting, you’ll be ready to work within a matter of months, not years. Our clinical dental assistant program takes just 13 weeks to complete, and that includes training you for your dental x-ray certification.

Job Versatility
Once you are a dental assistant, you have quite a few options open to you when it comes to applying for and getting a job. Many of our assistants go on to work in solo or group dental practices. These include general dentistry offices, as well as specialty offices, such as those dedicated to periodontics, endodontics or oral surgery.

Others choose to pursue careers in dental clinics or public health offices. You might also choose to work in a hospital or alongside dental students at a dental school.

Pleasant Work Environment
As a dental assistant, you will work in a clean, relatively quiet environment, in most cases. You will be able to both sit and stand throughout your work day; you are not generally confined to one position or one location. You’ll also have a variety of duties and a lot of people to talk to, so this will alleviate boredom.

Another consideration is that working as a dental assistant can work well with the scheduling challenges of parenthood. Most assistants work daytime business hours, but in some cases, schedules can be accommodated to include evening or Saturday hours as well. Many dental assistants get a day off during the week, because a lot of dental offices are closed on Wednesdays or Fridays.

Great Career Outlook
Finally, as with many types of healthcare careers, dental assisting has a cheery job outlook. Most people are aware of the importance of taking good care of their teeth, and as the population ages, more and more people need dental work such as root canals and crowns. This increases the need for qualified dental staff, including dental assistants.

If you are ready to embark upon a new career path and are considering dental assisting, please contact the Sunrise School of Dental Assisting to get started.

Dental Assisting: Making Your Patients Comfortable

CC Image: Germanna CC (flickr)
CC Image: Germanna CC (flickr)

As you get settled in your dental assisting career, you’ll find that a large segment of the population is nervous at the dentist’s office. While at least 10 percent of the population suffers from an actual dental phobia, many more feel unsettled and jittery, particularly when they’re getting treatment that requires a needle or a dental handpiece! You, as your patient’s dental assistant, will be the person who greets them and helps them to feel less nervous. Here are some tips on making your patients comfortable.

Offer Physical Comfort
Dental chairs are usually fairly comfortable, so with a few adjustments, you can have your patients resting with their heads supported and their feet up. How’s that for comfort? It might not be enough if the dental lamp is shining in their eyes. Be sure to shut it off or direct it away from your patient’s face. Also, some people would prefer to sit upright while waiting for the dentist. Ask each patient what he or she prefers; individualized attention is a big part of successful dental assisting. Offer a drink of water when they sit down; nervousness can cause an uncomfortably dry mouth. Finally, if you know that the dentist will be more than a few minutes and you don’t have time to sit in the room, offer your patient a magazine to read while waiting. Grab a few from the waiting room, being sure to choose from two or three different titles so that your patient is not stuck reading about golf if they don’t like the sport.

Remember Important Details
Glance through your patient’s chart in advance so that you’re sure about what treatment is being done on the day of the visit. Nothing is more disconcerting to a patient than hearing a health care professional say that they’re going to be working on the right side when, in fact, they should be working on the left. Be able to answer general questions if they are asked, but if you are unsure, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the patient that the dentist is best-equipped to answer that one. Also, if something major is going on in your patient’s life, such as the birth of a new grandchild or a vacation to Tahiti, go ahead and make a few notes on the chart. This way, you can be reminded about what you talked about last time. This shows your patients that you care about them!

Avoid Sensitive Topics
For a very fearful patient, it might be better to avoid bringing up the treatment that will be taking place. Instead, talk about more neutral topics, such as upcoming summer plans, what you are planting in your garden or even positive celebrity gossip (a singer expecting a new baby is positive; an actor having an affair is not). Do not discuss politics or religion. If your patient brings up one of these taboo topics, then try to discreetly steer the conversation in a different direction. Even if you know your patient outside of the office and you know that he or she won’t be offended, you cannot be sure that other patients in the office will not overhear and become offended, so it’s best to keep these conversations out of the exam rooms!

Since a large part of the job of dental assisting is to make his or her patients feel less nervous, brushing up on your comforting and small-talk skills is an essential part of preparing for your new career. Always follow office policies when it comes to communicating with patients, and ask the dentist that you are working with for additional tips on making your patients comfortable.