Depalma Grey

Business office education

June 1, 2018
Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, descrives how the American Association of Dental Office Managers can help dental hygienists learn what they need to get started in a new career in dental office management.
Dental hygienists can consider a switch to dental office management

Ann-Marie C. Depalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

According to the ADHA, there are a number of professional roles for dental hygienists— clinician, public health provider, researcher, educator, entrepreneur, and administrator. For a variety of reasons, many hygienists are moving beyond the clinical chair into administrative or office management positions. New sets of skills need to be developed in these transitions. These skills can range from understanding the financial goals and metrics of the practice to managing the dental teams.

But where can hygienists who may only have clinical skills learn the basics of today’s complex dental practice management? The American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM) offers new and seasoned practice administrators the keys to unlocking their roles. AADOM is a national organization founded in 2003 by Heather Colicchio. Heather noticed there were national organizations for dentists, hygienists, and assistants, but none to meet the needs of dental office managers.

She designed an organization that fosters a sense of community; serves as an educational resource for all things dental practice management; provides support in operating a thriving dental practice by providing help, answers, and companionship; and organizes a practical approach for continuing education for dental practice leaders.

Heather has assembled a team of dedicated professionals who spearhead the organization of more than 4,000 members. On the local level, more than 60 AADOM chapters have been formed across the country to foster networking, continuing education, and discussions regarding local concerns or issues. Each chapter is sponsored by a variety of dental corporations, and meetings are held quarterly in many states.

Local meetings usually involve sharing best dental practice management ideas, AADOM national information, and presentations. Speakers range from nationally recognized presenters, to local people, to corporate presentations done either in person or remotely. The discussions can motivate practices to achieve the next level in care for their patients while allowing for better team communication. These discussions are often the best part of local chapter meetings. Chapter meetings are also granted CE credits by the national association and, depending on state rules and regulations, can apply to licensure requirements.

On the national level, AADOM hosts an annual conference. With attendance open to the entire team and with continuing education credits available, the conference presenters discuss topics such as leadership, self-improvement, teamwork, practice growth, phone skills, and insurance management.

Similar to other dental organizations, AADOM members are committed to a code of conduct that reflects the professionalism of dental practice managers. Based on professional advancement, respect, ethical behavior, and trust, AADOM members are held accountable to ensure high levels of integrity and decision-making. By attending local and national meetings, members show their commitment to raising the bar for practice administrators.

Moving into a managerial or administrative role gives hygienists a chance to use clinical skills in another venue in dentistry while also moving into a new skill set.

AADOM also fosters constant communication and education. Biweekly webinars educate administrators and team members on a variety of topics from patient engagement to insurance navigation. A members-only email discusses topics of concern that members post regarding situations in their practices. A Career Resource Center is available for posting and seeking administrative positions. A number of dental product companies offer exclusive discounts for AADOM members. For those seeking more advancement and education, AADOM offers the professional recognition of Fellow, and a graduation ceremony is held during the annual conference.

AADOM’s eCampus learning program is popular among members and offers a variety of educational resources. Members can choose from webinar recordings to educational modules complete with tests and certificates. With faculty that range from industry consultants to nationally recognized speakers and providers, eCampus is designed to educate all levels of administrator.

For hygienists moving from a clinical to administrative role, AADOM’s eCampus can provide the educational foundation needed to assume the new role. Components of the eCampus include insurance essentials, foundations of dental practice management, an AADOM orientation, and a forms and resources library.

As hygienists move into administrative roles, the insurance essentials module provides an introduction to dental insurance, how to have insurance conversations with patients, how to monitor the insurance impact on a practice, and the role of an effective insurance coordinator. The foundations of dental practice management topic includes phone skills, understanding basic reporting, and metrics and marketing basics. Some of the foundation topics cover basic information that dental newbies may not understand, but hygienists certainly will.

Modules can be purchased individually or as a set. AADOM recently added specialty networks that delve into the needs of specific types of practices, including pediatrics, oral surgery, periodontics, prosthodontics, endodontics, CAD/CAM, and multispecialty groups. Each group has its own network and educational program.

Hygienists often complain of wanting to get out of the operatory, but they don’t know where to turn. Full- or part-time higher education may not be feasible. Moving into a managerial or administrative role gives hygienists a chance to use clinical skills in another venue in dentistry while also moving into a new skill set. Becoming involved in AADOM provides the education, support, and encouragement needed for a clinical hygienist to transition out of the operatory into administrative opportunities.

For more information about AADOM, visit

Thought for the month: Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them. Jim Carrey

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is the 2017 recipient of the Esther M. Wilkins Distinguished Alumni Award of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygiene/Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie has authored chapters in several texts for dental hygiene. She can be reached at [email protected].