Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Understanding Unfilled Hours on your Practice Advisor Report

If you have ever had the opportunity to study the Practice Advisor Report in Dentrix before, you know that it is a very powerful tool. There is so much information available in this one report—information like:
  • Unfilled hours for the dentist and hygienist(s)
  • Production totals for the entire practice, production totals based on position in the practice (dentist or hygienist), and production totals by each provider.
  • Numbers of treatment cases presented vs. treatment cases accepted so that you can track your overall case acceptance percentages. 
  • Collection information, broken down by provider and accounts receivable information. 
  • New patient information, including referral sources. 
  • Broken appointment information, including lost revenue from broken appointments and number of broken appointments not reappointed. 
Over the next few weeks we will talk about some things you can do to ensure your Practice Advisor Report is showing you accurate information. Because the report will only be as accurate as the data you have entered into Dentrix.

One of the items listed in the Practice Advisor is Unfilled Hours. Unfilled hours are open time on your schedule. Unfilled hours can cause the practice to lose money because there is not a patient in the chair generating revenue, and the practice is paying overhead expenses as well as the hourly salary for the hygienist or assistant to work. This makes me think of the old saying “Time is money,” which in a dental office is very true. 


In order for the unfilled hours to be accurately reflected in the report, you must have each provider’s working days and hours set up properly in Dentrix. In the Appointment Book, select Setup > Provider Setup. Choose a provider ID, then click Setup. Set the hours for each day that the provider works. Having each provider’s hours properly set up is necessary for the Practice Advisor to calculate unfilled hours correctly.

Unfilled hours are broken down on the Practice Advisor Report by dentist totals and hygiene totals, as well as by individual provider ID numbers. The Practice Advisor also gives a value to those unfilled hours which would be lost potential revenue because there was not a patient on the schedule. 

This can be very valuable information. After reviewing the information, ask yourself, why are the hours unfilled? In my experience, this often happens because the office hasn’t been making a routine effort to reach out to patients and get them scheduled (or rescheduled) for appointments. 

What Can You Do To Reclaim those Unfilled Hours?

You can reduce your unfilled hours for hygiene patients by working on your Continuing Care List regularly. Send e-mails and texts to patients who are due for continuing care through Communication Manager in eCentral. If patients don’t respond, follow up with a phone call.

To reduce doctor unfilled hours, you should work on your unscheduled treatment plans regularly. The Treatment Manager is great tool to use to contact patients with unscheduled treatment plans. Call the patients and explain their treatment and why it is important. Be ready to present them with payment options like CareCredit to make the financial aspect of their treatment easier to accept. 

I find that many times when an office is busy, these lists aren’t worked as frequently. Set time aside every week for a team member to work on these lists to keep a consistently full schedule. 

The Dentrix Practice Advisor provides a great deal of valuable information which can be a powerful tool in evaluating the overall health of your practice. Join me next week and we’ll talk more about another aspect of the  Practice Advisor Report that can help you identify areas of you can focus on for better profitability.

If you have any questions on this topic, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A First-of-the-Year Task To Put On Your Schedule

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about tasks to be done at the end of the year. This week let’s talk about a task that is very important to perform on January 1st (or the 2nd if the office will be closed for New Years’ Day).

Resetting patients’ insurance benefits in Dentrix allows the software to accurately calculate patient and insurance portions. This is also important so that treatment plans and balances due are calculated properly. At the beginning of the year, it’s important that Dentrix calculates the patient’s deductible into their patient portion and that it recognizes a patient has their entire insurance maximum available. This can be a valuable tool in presenting treatment plans to patients. They may be more likely to accept a treatment plan knowing that their dental insurance will pay a portion of the cost.

In order for the insurance benefits to calculate correctly in Dentrix, you must first make sure that you are assigning the benefit renewal month to insurance plans. In the patient’s Family File, double-click the Primary Dental Insurance block. Click the Insurance Data button and assign the benefit renewal month using the drop-down menu.


Assign the month that the patient’s insurance maximum and deductible renew. Many times, this will be January, but there are some plans that renew at the beginning of another month.

Now that you have the renewal month assigned to the insurance plan, you can reset insurance benefits for those plans.  The process of resetting patient’s insurance benefits happens as a part of the Month End routine in Dentrix. 

If you are using Dentrix version G6.5 or newer, you will use the Month End Task Scheduler which is located in the Ledger. The Task Scheduler has taken all the tasks that were performed as a part of Month End and Month End Wizard and has allowed you to determine which tasks are preformed and when. My favorite part of the Task Scheduler is that you do not have to close all your computers out of Dentrix for the Task Scheduler to run.

Resetting Insurance benefits is under the Purge and Reset Category within the Task Scheduler. I recommend that you run this on the first day of each month in order to accurately calculate patient’s insurance benefits. Resetting Insurance Benefits can be run manually at any time by right-clicking on Reset Insurance Benefits from the list of Available Tasks, then selecting Run Now. You can also add this task to your Monthly Queue and it will run automatically based on the parameters you set.



Updating patient’s insurance benefits is very important so that you can properly estimate patient’s insurance benefits and patient out-of-pocket expense. By resetting insurance benefits, you will reset the patient’s insurance maximum and deductible amounts in Dentrix. This is an especially important task on January 1st because many plans renew as of that date. 

Keep your patient’s insurance information up to date and current in Dentrix by resetting patient’s insurance benefits. Doing this will help you to provide accurate treatment plans and account information.

Special Note from Henry Schein One: Dentrix has released an update that addresses issues that are impacting some customers in two areas: (1) resetting insurance benefits and (2) running month end and task scheduler.  The update is available to you now in the Dentrix Update Manager. Even if you have not experienced these issues, we ask that you complete this high-priority update at your earliest convenience (no later than December 28, 2018).  Please note that running the update will require that all users exit Dentrix.


For questions on this or another topic, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

End-of-Year Tasks: Part Two

Last week we talked about making the task of updating fee schedules a part of your annual routine. This week I’d like to talk about another task I make a part of my annual routine. I think it’s important to schedule patients to have their permanent crowns cemented before the end of the year. The reason is that more insurance companies are paying for crowns based on the seat date.  If you wait until January to cement a permanent crown, the insurance company will pay towards the patient’s 2019 benefits, therefore the patient may lose any benefits they had left for 2018. It’s a good idea to contact patients who aren’t scheduled for their appointment to cement their permanent crown and get them into the office before their insurance renews on January 1st.

There are a couple of different ways you can identify which patients need to have their permanent crowns cemented:

Using the Lab Case Manager

If you have been entering cases into the Dentrix Lab Case Manager and changing the case status, you can use the Lab Case Manager and view patients with received cases. (Lab Case Manager > View > Misc. Options. Check the Received Cases box, and select OK.) For more information on the Lab Case Manager and updating the case status, read my blog post from October.

Using a Custom List

If you treatment plan a procedure code for a crown cement, you could also locate patients using Letters & Custom Lists. I’m a big fan of Letters & Custom Lists in Dentrix because it allows me to obtain lists of patients based on a number of different filters. I like the way that I can use the filters to find exactly the group of patients I’m looking for.

To find a list of patients with a treatment planned procedure for a crown cement open the Office Manager. From the toolbar select Letters & Custom Lists > Misc. > Patient report (by filters). Then select the Edit button. In the Letter or Custom List Setup screen, it’s important that all the filters used previously are cleared before you begin. 




Otherwise Dentrix will use those filters and your list of patients will not be accurate. To find patients with a treatment-planned cement crown procedure code, select the >> next to the Procedures filter. In the Search For box, check the box for Treat. Plan. Next choose the beginning and ending procedure codes. 



For example, if the procedure code your office uses for the cement crown is D2999, choose the beginning procedure code D2999 and ending procedure code D2999. You can choose to enter a procedure date range if needed, but it’s not necessary for this scenario. Select OK to save those filters, and then OK again to close the setup screen. Now select Open List Manager. This gives you a list of patients who have a treatment-planned cement crown procedure. You can access the patient’s other Dentrix modules from the List Manager, so it’s easy to navigate to the patient’s Family File, Ledger, Chart and Office Journal.




By scheduling patients to come in for an appointment to cement their permanent crowns before January 1, you can help them to better maximize their insurance benefits. If their insurance plan pays based on the seat date, the crown will be paid based on the patient’s 2018 insurance benefits and the patients 2019 insurance benefits will not be affected. Even if the patient’s insurance company doesn’t pay on the seat date, it can still be very important to schedule the patient to cement their permanent crowns before the holidays. The holidays tend to be the time that we eat more delicious, chewy, sticky foods that can pull off a temporary crown, so it’s beneficial for all patients to have their permanent crowns cemented before the holidays and January 1st.

For questions on this or another topic, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com, and I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

End-of-Year Tasks: Part One

It’s the most wonderful time of the year……to prepare for next year! 

As the end of the year rapidly approaches, there are important tasks that need to be done at your office to prepare for 2019. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about some of these tasks to get your office ready for the new year.

Let’s start by talking about office fee schedules. It’s important to review your office fees on an annual basis. You can evaluate and compare your office fees to others in your area by using a guide like the National Dental Advisory Service Fee Report Book. This can help you to see how your office fees compare to other dental offices in your zip code and if you should consider raising your fees. Raising your office fees can improve the revenue for the practice, but you also don’t want to price yourself out of the market.


Updating the Office Fee Schedule
Once you have made a decision about how you want to update your office fee schedule, you can choose to increase your fee schedule by a percentage or by a dollar amount using the Auto Changes button in Dentrix. Open the Office Manager and select Maintenance > Practice Setup > Fee schedule Setup. Select the fee schedule you want to change, then click Auto Changes. 



You can choose to update all procedure codes, or you can enter a procedure code range. From this screen you also have the ability to increase (or decrease) fees by a percentage or a dollar amount. 



You can also manually edit individual fees by procedure code.  Open the Office Manager and select Maintenance > Practice Setup > Fee Schedule Setup. Choose the appropriate fee schedule, then select View/Edit. Select a procedure code from the list, make changes to the AFTER column, and then click Save.

Updating Insurance Fee Schedules
When you are thinking of updating fee schedules, it’s also important to request an updated fee schedule from all insurance companies your office participates with.  Depending on the insurance company, you may have to call or e-mail the provider relations department or you may have to send a written request. Once you have received the updated fee schedules from the insurance company, you can edit your fee schedules in Dentrix to reflect the insurance fees. 

Open the Office Manager, and select Maintenance > Practice Setup > Fee Schedule Setup. Choose an insurance fee schedule, then select View/Edit.




Select the code you want to edit from the list of procedure codes. For example, if you wanted to update the fee for an adult prophylaxis, select D1110 and click in the AFTER field and enter the updated fee (in dollars). You can move on to the next procedure code to update, or if you’re done, choose Save, then Close.





One thing to keep in mind when you update or edit a fee schedule, is that when you enter or create a new treatment plan for a patient, the updated fees will be reflected. Patients who have an existing treatment plan will not reflect the updated fees. 

Taking the time to update your office fees and requesting information from your insurance carriers so you can update your insurance fee schedules, will result in higher production and collections for the office. I find that making this a part of my end of year routine ensures that it gets done consistently on an annual basis. 

Join me next week when we’ll discuss more end-of-year tasks. 

If you have questions about this or other topics, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Over the Counter Collections

Collecting payment from patients at the time of service is very important. Many procedures we do in the office incur a lab fee and expensive materials and so it’s important for your office to cover its cost. How do you track if you’re collecting at the time of service?

Payment a patient makes for services rendered that day are considered to be over the counter collections. A good goal for your office is for over the counter collections to be 35-45% of your monthly production.

To differentiate over the counter collections verses other payments, you can set up additional payment types in Dentrix. For example, you probably already have cash payment, check payment, and credit card payment set up in Dentrix. But did you know you can also add OCC (over the counter collections) cash payment, OCC check payment, and OCC credit card payment as options, too?

To add payment types, open the Office Manager, and select Maintenance > Practice Setup > Definitions. Select Payment Type in the Definition Type drop-down list. Type the name of your new payment type (for example OCC Cash) in the Definition Text field, and then click Add




Repeat these steps for the other over the counter payment types you want to add. Then train the staff who enter patient payments to use these new OCC payment types when a patient is paying for a procedure done that day.

Once you have the OCC payment types set up, you will be able to differentiate them from other payments on your daily and monthly reports.

The over the counter collections should be monitored monthly. At the end of each month, run a report to show collections based on payment type. A good report for this would be the Payment Summary Report in the Practice Analysis. In the Office Manager select Analysis > Practice, and then select Reports when the window opens. Set the desired Date Range and check the Payment Summary option.



This report will give you all the payments, separated by payment type, for the selected date range. Now you can total all the over the counter collections payment types and divide this by the monthly production. This will give you the percentage of the over the counter collections.

By generating this report on a monthly basis, you have a good gauge of whether you are collecting enough from patients in the office at the time of service. Remember, a good goal is to have 35-45% of your monthly production should be from over the counter collections.

If you aren’t reaching this goal, you may want to examine why:


  • Are patients being presented with a treatment plan prior to the appointment date so that they can be financially prepared?
  • Is someone on the team uncomfortable asking a patient for money and therefore not collecting?
  • Have patients been properly informed about the office policy regarding paying at the time of service?

Addressing any issues in this area can help to improve your cash flow and your bottom line.

You can also view over the counter collections in the Practice Advisor Report. You are able to designate which payment types this report considers over the counter collections. In the Office Manager, select Analysis > Practice Advisor. Choose Practice Advisor Setup then Assign Payment Types as Over-the-Counter Collections. Move the payment type(s) you have set up as OCC into the right pane using the arrow buttons, and click OK to save.



Collecting from patients at time of service helps to maintain healthy accounts receivable. It also helps the office to cover overhead and costs such as lab fees and materials.

Is your office collecting enough at the time of service? Try using the reports I described to find out.


If you have questions about this or other topics, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Keeping Track of Patient Insurance Information

A patient’s dental insurance is ultimately their responsibility. However, we at the dental office often assume some of the responsibility of keeping up with the patient’s insurance because it benefits us in the long run. If you are able to accurately estimate what an insurance plan will pay, you can collect the patient portion at the time of service, avoid future payment problems, and consequently maintain a healthy accounts receivable.

As an office manager, I try to keep up to date with a patient’s insurance benefits, such as frequency limitations and any special coverage clauses. This is important because it goes a long way in helping the patient avoid an unexpected balance.

Take this situation, where knowing a patient’s benefits would be important, for example:

A patient has a bridge placed, but there was a missing tooth exclusion in their insurance coverage, their insurance denies the claim, and they end up with a large unexpected balance. This is not only upsetting for the patient, but it can be costly for your office as well. This balance may remain unpaid for a long time, or the patient may need to make payments on the procedure, which affects the office accounts receivable and accounts aging.

Insurance plan exclusions and frequency limitations should be documented in the Insurance Plan Note. You can enter this information in a patient’s coverage table. In the Family File, double-click the Insurance block, and then click the Coverage Table button.


In the Coverage Table window, click the Notes button to access the Insurance Plan Note.



Enter any information you have from the insurance carrier about plan limitations and exclusions. These should be notes that are specific to the carrier and not individual patients. These notes will display for all patients covered by the plan, and won’t print on insurance claims.



Similarly, it’s important for your office to keep up with how much of a patient’s maximum benefits they have used to avoid an unexpected balance. Now is the time of year when many patients have met their insurance plan maximum. Dentrix tracks how much an insurance plan has paid for a patient in your office, but what about insurance payments to another office?

For example, a patient could have used some (or all) of their benefits at a specialist office, or they could be a new patient to your office, but have previously used some of their dental insurance maximum at a previous dentist.

In a patient’s Family File, double-click the Insurance Block and click the Deductibles button.



 Enter any benefits used or deductible that may have been met outside of your office.



I find that keeping the deductibles met and benefits used for a patient updated is especially helpful in a case where you have referred a patient for a root canal. I know the patient will have used most of their insurance benefits at the endodontist office for this procedure. It’s important for that to be reflected when I print the patient’s treatment plan for a crown and build up on the tooth. By going in to their Family File and adding this information, Dentrix will calculate the correct estimated patient portion for the crown procedure, because it will take into account the insurance benefits that have already been used, and there won’t be any unpleasant surprises for me or the patient.

I find this time of year, it tends to be especially important to track how much a patient has used of their dental insurance maximum. You would need to contact the patient’s insurance company to find out how much the patient has used of their maximum outside of your office. If you use e-Services, you could use the Dentrix Insurance Manager for a quick and easy response.

If you have questions, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Tracking Lab Cases - How I Divide up Tasks

If you send a patient’s case to a lab, it’s very important to have a good tracking system for those cases. It’s important for your office to know which cases have been sent and are being fabricated at the lab, which cases have been received back in the office and are ready to deliver to the patient, and which cases have been completed.

I have found that being able to track the progress of a case is important because when properly tracked, your office can know to not schedule patients for their return appointment before their lab case is back in the office. Unfortunately, I’ve seen patients come in for their scheduled appointment and their lab case has not been returned from the lab. That’s an unpleasant situation for everyone!

Dentrix has a Lab Case Manager which is designed to do this tracking for you. When you create a lab case for a patient, that lab case can be attached to an appointment. While it’s important to track when your lab cases have been sent or received, it’s also very important to keep up with them after you have received them back in your office. Once a case has been completed (seated in the patient’s mouth), change the case status to "Finished." This is important because the Lab Case Manager allows you to view cases by status: Sent, Received, Finished, or Archived.

Make sure that you have a plan for who in the office will change the status of a patient’s case to ensure accuracy in your tracking system. I like to use the “Received” status list view in the Lab Case Manager to find patients that we have a received lab case for, but who aren’t yet scheduled for an appointment. I can use this as a tool to call and get them scheduled.

Here’s an example of how I’ve seen the Lab Case Manager tasks divided well among the team:
  1. When a patient comes in for their initial appointment for a procedure requiring a lab case (such as a crown prep or impressions for a denture) the dental assistant creates the lab prescription using the Lab Case Manager and attaches it to the case. She prepares the case for the lab to pick up. At that point the lab case status is changed to “Sent”.
  2. Either the dental assistant, or the front desk schedules the patient’s next appointment and attaches the lab case to the next appointment in Dentrix. This signifies to everyone in the office there is an outstanding lab case associated with this future appointment.
  3. When the case is returned from the lab, the front desk changes the case status to “Received.” There is an option in this window to choose who the case was received by, I recommend using that option. That way if there’s a question, it’s easy to know which team member received the case.


  4. When the patient comes in for their delivery appointment, the dental assistant changes the case status to finished.
I’ve found when the team understands the process and their role in it, you can maintain a clean tracking system for your lab cases. Don’t ever hunt for a lab case again! You’ll know exactly where your cases are when using a tracking system like the Dentrix Lab Case Manager. 

For more information about customizing the Lab Case Manager for your office, see the Setting up the Lab Case Manager topic in the Dentrix Help.

If you have questions, please e-mail me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.


Charlotte Skaggs, Certified Dentrix Trainer

Charlotte Skaggs is the founder of Vector Dental Consulting LLC, a practice management firm focused on taking offices to the next level. Charlotte co-owned and managed a successful dental practice with her husband for 17 years. She has a unique approach to consulting based on the perspective of a practice owner. Charlotte has been using Dentrix for almost 20 years and is a certified Dentrix trainer. Contact Charlotte at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com.