If you like a varied day, have a nice smile and love meeting people, you might consider working as a dental receptionist.
A combination of customer services and general administration work, this job involves running the non-medical aspects of a dental surgery.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Dental receptionists work at the 'front line' of dental practices, as the first point of contact over the phone or on arrival. You will be booking in new patients, greeting visitors, sorting out appointments and undertaking other non-clinical tasks of an administrative nature.
Other duties and responsibilities of the role include:
- Dealing with calls from patients and calling them if appropriate.
- Writing to them where necessary to chase payment or sending out reminders that they need to be seen for routine check-ups or further dental treatment.
- Using a diary/computerised diary system to book, switch and cancel appointments.
- General administration tasks, such as photocopying, scanning, faxing, printing and sorting/filing/sending forms.
- Handling payment from patients (cash, cards and cheques).
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The finer details...
Administration tasks are usually undertaken by more than one person in any dental surgery, so you will likely be working as part of a pair or a team. This provides potential opportunities for flexible working, part time or full time hours and job sharing. Although the availability of these hours depends on the requirements of your employer and the particular vacancy you go for.
A full working day/week would probably be Monday to Friday from 9am until 6pm. But some practices start the day earlier or stay open later, especially private ones, and some are now open at weekends too, so make sure you check.
In terms of career progression, you could be promoted to a senior position such as head receptionist or office manager.
Occasionally, practices advertise posts for dental receptionist/trainee dental nurse positions. This would enable you to train on the job as a dental nurse, involving theory and practical study, while working as a receptionist too.
Money, money, money
Dental receptionists can earn between £17, 000 and £23, 000 per year for full time hours. Some can be offered overtime, profit sharing or bonuses but this is rare.
However, salary depends on qualifications, experience and the type of dental surgery you work for. Although pay increases for the first five to ten years in the job, it then tends to remain at the same level, despite the experience which is gained through ongoing employment. NHS dentists pay broadly similar pay scales to private ones.
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The good points...
You will work closely with health professionals and be treated as a valued member of a team, helping to deliver an important service.
You will also have ready access to dental treatment, and should be able to get seen quickly in an emergency.
... and the bad
Patients can sometimes become rude or difficult, especially when they are in pain or if a mutually suitable appointment time and day cannot be agreed.
Not everyone likes to go to the dentist (in fact, most don't!). So you might find yourself on the receiving end of any disgruntled patients' attitudes or comments, particularly if they are unhappy about paying for treatment they didn't enjoy!
Is there study involved?
Some receptionist vacancies are filled by those without any qualifications, and it may be possible to do the job without formal academic certificates.
However, some employers prefer you to have GCSEs in English and maths or science. Knowledge of computers and basic IT skills would be desirable, such as word processing, and being able to send emails and use the internet.
If combining a desk role with clinical duties, such as dental nursing, additional training and studying would obviously be necessary.
Courses approved by the General Dental Council include the Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing and the National Diploma in Dental Nursing (NEBDN). Both can be studied part-time alongside working in a surgery. Training takes between 12-18 months but ongoing professional development is a requirement of dental nursing.
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
A smart appearance, an organised manner and the ability to stay calm under pressure would be welcome in this role.
Great spoken and written communication skills would be advantageous, alongside a cheery empathic but firm nature.
You should have a professional, caring, friendly confident approach to work, colleagues and patients. It's important to be understanding, as you could be dealing with people who might be very nervous or in a lot of pain.
A personal interest in teeth, dentistry or oral hygiene, and a flexible personality, as well as being able to adapt to unexpected change in the daily diary.
It might be beneficial to have a nice healthy smile of your own. A good set of nashers could definitely help promote the surgery you work for!