Belle DuCharme

CDPMA, Dental Training Consultant

How Dental Assistants can help with Dental Insurance Claims

Dental assistants are the eyes and ears of the dental care field.  The assistant sees and hears all that is happening before during and after any given procedure.  Because the dental assistant is necessary for the success of the process, their role is often downplayed when it comes to clinical record keeping.

The role of the dental assistant can vary depending upon the directions given by the dentist in charge.  Working under direct supervision the dental assistant is not allowed to do certain tasks unless given specific instructions by the clinician.  Many times, the assistant will concentrate on all functions that have been communicated and will not venture outside of those job duties.

According to the training book, Modern Dental Assisting 9th edition by Bird and Robinson, page 407 paragraph 6, the role of the dental assistant in the patient examination and treatment planning is made clear.

The dental assistant:

  • assists the patient in the completion of patient information forms
  • Takes and records vital signs.
  • charts and documents the dentist’s findings during the extraoral and intraoral examinations
  • exposes and processes intraoral and extraoral radiographs
  • takes extraoral and intraoral photographs
  • organizes the patient’s record
  • prepares for the case presentation

To qualify for the case presentation, the assistant must choose the corresponding CDT codes so that the treatment plan will reflect all completed procedures and those planned for following appointments.  In many practices, this task is delegated to the front desk business staff, bypassing the dental assistant. Wrong. Removing the dental assistant from this duty disrupts the connection of clinical accuracy and doesn’t help the dental assistant complete their function to the proper care of the patient.

Many dental assistants never learn the connection between clinical findings and the supporting documentation necessary to get a procedure on a dental claim paid.  This is not their fault but is the fault of the dentist and management. If they did know they would support the dentist in writing better clinical notes and would oversee that each procedure had the required documentation.

In this modern dental world, there can be no separation between the “front and the back” causing disconnects in the flow of information necessary to create accurate and proper clinical records.

There have been countless articles written about creating narratives from the clinical notes written by the clinical staff.  These narratives are required along with proper radiographs, periodontal charting, and other diagnostic tools. For training, please see the link to the following article:

Often in practices, short cuts are taken because there is limited time to train the staff in the use of the dental software, answering the phone, collecting at the desk, filing claim forms, and the list goes on.

Dedicated time to training staff must be a monthly event.  Not only will it support the positive growth of the team and the practice but will improve the care of patients and help to create better relationships for all.

Training involves reading and interpretation and the application to the practice systems.  

The following is a list of training materials that I feel are important to the development of the team:


  • Practice Management for the Dental Team by Finkbeiner and Finkbeiner (the latest edition available)
  • Coding with Confidence by Charles Blair, DDS latest edition 2019
  • Administration with Confidence-the go-to guide for insurance administration current edition 2019
  • Modern Dental Assisting by Bird and Robinson  latest edition
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • The Toyota Way 14 Management Principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer by Jeffrey Liker


Anyone in a leadership role within a dental practice should see that continuing education happens for the entire team and that emphasis is placed on creating a better experience for the patient.  

Moving from mediocre to exceptional requires a little more love and little more effort and a bit more time, and it is worth it when you see the results in the eyes of the team and the patients.

Dental Billing Tips and News for Pros; Edition #136


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