Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Entering Batch Insurance Payments in Dentrix

It’s Monday at 5:00pm and it’s been a long day at the office. We often have a lot of mail on Mondays since the office is closed on the weekend and there are a lot of checks to post. We’ve posted all the checks, closed out the day, run a deposit slip and…oh no! We don’t balance. Many times, it’s a small amount, (I’ve been off by a penny!) but it must be corrected. It can be very irritating.

Did you know Dentrix has a feature in the Ledger to help you post batch insurance payments? This can help you to avoid the annoying situation I just described. You enter the total amount of the check, then post to individual patient’s claims. The best part is Dentrix will not let you continue unless the amount you allocated adds up to the total amount of the check.

Open the Dentrix Ledger. You do not have to be in a specific patient’s ledger to use this feature.


First, select File > Enter Batch Ins. Payment. Dentrix will default to today’s date (a).  Then enter the total amount of the check, the payment type, check number and bank branch (b). Select the Insurance Carrier Name and choose the group plan (c). You will see a list of patients under that group with outstanding claims (d).

Select the desired claim to post (e) and then itemize the amount paid for each procedure (f). You have the option to update the payment table, enter necessary adjustments, and enter any deductible used (g). The claim status note is available if you need to make any notes regarding the claim (h).

I like to use the claim status note to indicate why a procedure wasn’t paid. For example, if fluoride wasn’t paid due to an age limitation. This is a quick and easy reference if a patient receives a statement and has a question on why a certain procedure wasn’t paid by their insurance. It’s much quicker than looking for the explanation of benefits.

Once that claim payment is complete, select Post Claim (i). Now you can move on to your next claim. Once you have posted the payment for all claims associated with the check, choose Next EOB (j). If the posted amount and the total check amount don’t match and you don’t balance, Dentrix will give you a warning that the amounts don’t match.



You can review and correct any errors while you still have the EOB in front of you.

The batch insurance payment feature in Dentrix is a time saver and a stress saver. There’re always a million things to do at the end of the day and Dentrix making sure you balance before you run the deposit slip at the end of the day can help make your life a little easier.

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 10, 2018

Setting Expectations for Staff

Regular training is so important. We know this in the dental office. Our doctors and hygienists must take hours of continuing education bi-annually. They’re constantly learning so they can treat their patients with the upmost quality of care. The rest of us, meaning administrative staff and assistants, can also benefit greatly from regular training.



One of the most important members of the front office team in the schedule coordinator. It’s always a good idea to have a training plan for the schedule coordinator so that she is constantly improving her phone skills and perfecting the art of scheduling to maximize practice production.
I’ve found that an effective way to train a schedule coordinator is to observe them as they work, listening to how they communicate with patients over the phone and in person at the check-in desk. Give them positive feedback and tips on where they can improve.

Additionally, an important part of training you schedule coordinator, for me is to letting them know what I expect.

Here’s list of four things I expect a schedule coordinator to be able to do, and what I do to help them be successful:

Multi-Task
The schedule coordinator must be able to multi-task. The phone is ringing, patients are checking in and out and they must be able to effectively handle these situations. This is important to find out in the initial interview. Ask the potential team member about their multi-tasking skills. If they are a person who likes to focus on one task at a time this may not be a good position for them. Set that expectation at the initial interview.

Answer the Phone
I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easier said than done. It’s important for the schedule coordinator to be well spoken and use proper grammar. They are typically the first person a patient speaks to and they are a representative of your entire office. Again, find out if they’re the right person for the position when you initially interview them.

Schedule Appointments
Another no-brainer, right? However, scheduling appointments effectively is a lot more difficult than most would imagine. There are nuances to scheduling depending on the doctor. For example, the doctor may want more difficult high production procedures scheduled in the morning and less taxing procedures in the afternoon, so they aren’t doing difficult procedures at the end of the day when they’re tired. I recommend spending time with the schedule coordinator, helping them to understand each provider they will be scheduling for. When you're working with a new schedule coordinator, do this daily. Explain how providers would like appointments scheduled and why. Look at future days in the schedule with them and point out what looks good and what doesn’t. This will help them to learn what the office expects in the schedule. You can also use Perfect Day Scheduling in Dentrix to create time blocks for specific providers and procedures. This can also be helpful when scheduling.

Be Able to Say No 
Many times, patients want to dictate to the office when they want to come in. While I always want to accommodate patients, the schedule coordinator controls the flow of the day. It’s important for them to be able to guide the patient to an appointment that works well for the office, as well as for the patient. To help your schedule coordinator with this, you could create a phone script for them to refer to. When I have a schedule coordinator that struggles saying no, I sit with them and have them listen to the way I speak to patients. This can help them to learn what to say and how to say it.

As an office manager, it’s important to give your team the tools they need to succeed. Work with your individual staff members. Let them know of your expectations, and look for opportunities to give positive feedback on the things they are doing well, and things you have noticed that could be done better.

Provide regular training opportunities. You can do mini training sessions in your morning huddle. This is a good time to talk about what they did great yesterday or what may have gone wrong. Positive reinforcement is a great training tool. When the team gets a pat on the back, they’re remember to keep doing something the right way. Taking the time to set expectations, and then setting aside time to observe and train your team can improve the patient experience in your office.

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 3, 2018

How I Handle Cancellations

When patients come to the front desk following an appointment, they often will schedule their next appointment. But because that appointment can be six months or more in the future, they may at some point between now and then have the need to cancel or reschedule that appointment. Dentrix can handle appointment cancellations in different ways based on the situation. Here are two different ways to cancel or reschedule an appointment and my thoughts on when it’s appropriate to use them.

Breaking an Appointment 

Breaking an appointment is what I consider to be a negative cancellation--if the patient is a no-show or cancels within 24 hours of the appointment. Each time an appointment is broken, it counts as a missed appointment in the patient’s Family File. Dentrix tracks the date of the last missed appointment and keeps a running total of how many appointments the patient has missed.



When scheduling appointments for patients, the Missed Appointments number is a good reference for the office to look at because you may not want to give a patient with lots of missed appointments a prime appointment time, like late in the afternoon.

When you break an appointment, the patient’s appointment is moved off the schedule and Dentrix places it on the Unscheduled list. You can use the Unscheduled List as a resource to fill holes in your schedule. If the patient wants to reschedule their appointment at the time they are canceling, I would still recommend breaking the appointment first, so that Dentrix tracks the missed appointment. Then schedule the patient a new appointment.

When you attempt to schedule an appointment for a patient who already has an appointment on the Unscheduled List, Dentrix will alert you that the patient has an unscheduled appointment and ask you if you would like to view the patient’s appointment list.


It’s important to answer “Yes” to this message.  Choosing “Yes” opens the Family Appointment List for the patient where you can view any unscheduled appointments.


Choose the <Unscheduled Appt> from the list and click the View Appt button. The appointment information window will appear with the unscheduled procedures. Then you can choose to Pinboard the appointment and reschedule the patient.

The reason it’s so important to answer “Yes” when Dentrix asks if you would like to view the patient’s appointment list, is because when you reschedule the appointment the way I described above, the appointment will be moved off the Unscheduled List. I find that many offices are just creating new appointments instead of rescheduling them through the appointment list and it results in their Unscheduled List being inaccurate. Patients continue to be on the Unscheduled List for appointments that have already been rescheduled. The Unscheduled List is not a functional tool for the office when this happens.

Wait/Will Call

If a patient calls and can’t make their appointment two weeks from now, I don’t consider that to be a negative cancellation because the patient is giving the office plenty of notice. If the patient can reschedule, you could simply move their appointment to the Pinboard and find another open time for their appointment. If they are unable to reschedule at this time, use the Wait/Will Call option. Double click on the patient’s appointment, then in the appointment information window, select Wait/Will Call.


This will remove the patient’s appointment from the Appointment Book and move them to the Unscheduled List. This gives you the ability to follow up with the patient to get them rescheduled. When you view the Unscheduled List, it shows whether the appointment was broken or marked as wait will call. 


When you are contacting patients to reschedule, I recommend contacting the Wait/Will Call patients first, since they had given you advance notice when they cancelled their appointments. Dentrix does not consider appointments marked as Wait/Will Call to be a missed appointment in the Family File, so use this feature when it’s not a negative cancellation.

Try using these Dentrix features for the different types of cancellation situations you have in your office. I recommend using the Break Appointment option when patients no-show or cancel within 24 hours of their appointment. I recommend using Wait/Will Call option if the patient is unable to reschedule at this time and they have given the office at least 24 hours’ notice. 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, September 26, 2018

How to Handle Partial Insurance Payments

Insurance companies are becoming more and more particular about the type of attachments and documentation they require to process a claim. For example, I was in an office recently that had submitted a claim for a crown with a periapical film. Typically, this type of x-ray would be adequate, but the insurance company sent an explanation of benefits back to the office stating that to process a claim for a crown, the office must submit both a periapical film and a bitewing x-ray.

These types of situation happen daily. Sometimes, when you send an insurance claim for a crown and a crown build-up, the insurance company may pay for the crown build-up, but not the actual crown until additional information has been received. If the insurance company is paying for one procedure now and waiting on additional information before it pays for the second procedure, you should post the payment for the crown build-up when it’s received and not hold the payment until all the procedures have been considered.

When this happens, you want to keep the crown procedure as an outstanding claim to the insurance for two reasons: 1) you can continue to track the outstanding insurance claim for the crown using the Insurance Aging Report in the Dentrix Office Manager, and 2) if you were to post the payment for the build-up and post a $0 payment to the crown, the patient’s ledger would reflect a larger patient portion of the balance than is actually due.

Dentrix has a solution for these types of situations. When you receive a partial payment for an insurance claim, split the primary claim to post payment to the paid procedures and leave the procedure that requires more information as an outstanding claim.

There are a couple of advantages to splitting the claim:


  1. If you were to post the payment for the build-up procedure, but post to a $0 payment for the crown, the entire claim would then be closed. It will no longer appear on the Insurance Aging Report, so you lose the ability to track it and it could easily slip through the cracks. By splitting the claim, you are still able to track it.
  2. Splitting the claim keeps the original narrative in the remarks for unusual services. You may need to refer to the narrative on the original claim if you have to appeal the claim, and by having a record of the original narrative you’ll know what you wrote and what information you may need to add if further action is required by the office. 
  3. The original sent date will be accurate, and any claim status notes you made on the claim will remain with the claim. I wrote a blog post in August about the value of using insurance claim status notes. Once you’ve spent time tracking insurance claims and making notes, you would want to ensure those notes are saved.

To split a primary claim, open the patient’s Ledger. Click once on the claim you want to split so it is highlighted. Then select Insurance > Split Primary Claim.  Select the procedure(s) to be moved to the new claim, then click the down arrow to move it to a second claim.



Once the procedures are split into individual claims, you can post payments to the claims as you normally would.

The ability to split insurance claims is a feature that I find particularly useful that many offices aren’t aware of. Splitting claims helps to keep accurate claim tracking during times when insurance companies request additional information.  If you have 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.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Give Your Hygienists Tools for Success

Hygienists play an important role in a practice. They can be an asset as producers for the office. As office managers, if we can give the hygienists tools to be more efficient with the software, they could have more time to spend on patient care, explaining treatment, and ultimately creating more production for the practice.

During the patient’s appointment, there are certain tasks we expect a hygienist to perform. One important task is to chart the patient’s existing restorations and treatment plan procedures. Having a hygienist chart and treatment plan effectively can help the front office create a treatment plan to present to the patient. I think it can be helpful for the hygienist to chart and enter treatment in the operatory, that way the front office team has an opportunity to review the patient’s treatment plan before the patient comes up front.

Here are a couple of ways to help your hygienist chart and treatment plan more effectively.


  1. Procedure Buttons
    Procedure buttons can save the team so much time when they’re charting. Think of these buttons as short-cuts. Instead of having to scroll through procedure categories to search for a specific procedure code while they have a patient in the chair, it’s much faster to select an icon from the procedure buttons list.
    As an office manager, you may be very familiar with the ADA codes and where to find them, but typically hygienists are not. Procedure buttons can help hygienists to select the correct code for the procedure. I’ve seen offices chart a crown code for the wrong type of material because the hygienist wasn’t familiar with the ADA codes. Creating procedure buttons can help to decrease these types of errors.

    In Dentrix you can create a customized set of procedure button
    that works for your office. Once you’ve created the customized buttons your office uses the most, they are accessible from any workstation in Dentrix, meaning the team can chart existing restorations or treatment plan procedures quickly.

  2. Auto-State Button 

  3. The Auto-State button in the Patient Chart provides a fast and convenient way to chart procedures. The hygienist can chart multiple procedures that will have the same status (treatment plan, existing, existing other) using less mouse clicks.
    To use the Auto-State button, choose the light switch icon in the Patient Chart and then choose the procedure status, for example, EO (existing other). Dentrix puts a box around the selected status. Once activated, all the procedures you chart will be assigned this status.

    Think of the Auto-State button like the Caps Lock button on your keyboard. Once you turn it on, all the letters you type are capitalized. Similarly, once the Auto-State button is turned on, all the procedures you chart will be assigned to the selected status.

    During Dentrix training I suggest to hygienists they use the Auto-State button. It’s especially beneficial for new patients. They can use the Auto-State to chart all the patient’s existing restorations, then switch to the treatment plan status when the doctor comes in to do the exam.


  4. Probing ShortcutsAccurate probe depths are an important part of the patient’s record. Regular probing is important to catch signs of periodontal disease. Many offices have their hygienist probe patients once a year. Here are a couple of tips to share with your hygienist that can make the process of probing quicker. 
    Many hygienists use the number pad on their keyboard to chart probe depths. They can also use the keyboard to chart, bleeding, suppuration, and bone loss. When the cursor is on the tooth and surface they want to chart bleeding for, they simply need to press B on the keyboard (and S for suppuration and L for bone loss). Using the keyboard saves the hygienist from having to switch from the keyboard to mouse, which saves time when periodontal charting.

  5. Clinical Note Templates
    Using clinical note templates when writing notes is a huge time-saver. My favorite part about using templates is that they are completely customizable. They can be as detailed (or not) as you want them to be. Using clinical note templates ensures that all the clinical notes for a procedure are consistent throughout the office. That way you can be sure the clinical notes your doctor wants are included.

    For more information read this Dentrix Tip Tuesday post: Adding Clinical Notes using Templates and Prompts.
Hygienists are producers for the office. If we can give them ways to use Dentrix more efficiently and save them time, they can spend more time on patient care discussing procedures that can profitable for the office.  If you have questions on this topic or others, 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, September 12, 2018

Questions To Ask When Scheduling an Emergency Appointment

Dental emergencies are always going to happen. How we handle scheduling those patients can dictate the entire day for the office.




For example, I visited an office recently where the doctor had four patients scheduled back to back for an emergency exam and X-ray. He only had 30 minutes scheduled for each of these emergency patients. One patient needed an extraction and two others needed a root canal. He didn’t have enough time to treat the patients within the 30-minute appointment and they had to be scheduled for another day. It was a stressful situation for the doctor, frustrating for the patients, and unproductive for the office.

I’ve found that if you ask certain questions when scheduling an emergency appointment, you can schedule an appropriate appointment length.

For example, if a patient has a broken crown, chances are they’ll need a new one. If you schedule enough time to do the new crown that day, the patient doesn’t have to come back for a separate appointment, and the office increases production.

Here are some of the questions you can ask a patient on the phone to better plan for their emergency visit. While I would never suggest trying to diagnose a patient over the phone, you can ask certain questions to give your clinical team more information and be better prepared.



  1. What type of symptoms are they experiencing and are they in pain?
    I would always schedule a patient who’s in pain the day they called. But often when they call, they aren’t in pain, for example they may have chipped a tooth. If they’re not in pain, it’s not a true dental emergency. I may try to schedule the patient the next day or at a time that is more convenient for the office.

  2. Is the pain constant? And is there sensitivity to hot or cold?
    These questions can help you determine if it may be an endodontic situation. If you refer out for root canals, it may be a good idea to find out what availability the endodontist has.

  3. How long has the tooth been bothering them? Where is tooth located?These questions give the clinical team an opportunity to look at the patient’s chart and X-rays ahead of time to be better prepared.

  4. If a crown came off, do they have the crown? Is the crown broken or intact?
    This helps to determine if it will be a re-cement or new crown and can help you gauge the amount of time to schedule.

  5. How old is the crown?
    This gives the administrative team an opportunity to research the patient’s insurance replacement periods.

  6. Did the tooth have a root canal?
    If an endodontically treated tooth is broken it may not be restorable. This may result in the patient needing to have the tooth extracted, so you can schedule the appointment length accordingly.

Asking these types of questions up front when the patient calls can be a little more time consuming, but it saves time and stress when the patient is in the office. I think it’s important to be as prepared as possible when treating patients. Getting more information from the patient helps the front office team and the clinical team provide the best treat possible to the patient. Document the information you gather during the phone call in the Office Journal so that each member of your team can access the information when they need it. 

If you have questions about this or other topics, please email 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, September 5, 2018

Scheduling Patients with Outstanding Treatment - Beat the End of Year Rush

Now that we’re headed into fall, it gets me thinking about all the things that need to be done at the office before towards the end of the year. There’s always a push at the end of the year for those patients who want to get treatment done that the doctor diagnosed months ago, and patients who want to use their outstanding insurance benefits before they renew in January.

This can be a very productive time for the office, but also a stressful one. You must find appointment times for all these patients. I recommend that you start scheduling those patients now. That way you can control the flow of your schedule. You can spread the patients out over the next few months, instead of trying to jam them all in December. December tends to be a shorter work month with the holidays and many patients will be out of town. It’s more beneficial for your practice to start scheduling these patients now, in the fall.

You can find all the patients with outstanding treatment in the Dentrix Treatment Manager. The Treatment Manager is available from both the Appointment Book and the Patient Chart.


The Treatment Manager allows you to generate a list of patients that have outstanding treatment plans through filter options.



I like to generate a list of patients that is filtered by procedure code range. This allows me to search for a specific procedure codes like a crown or bridge and get an idea of how many patients have those procedures treatment planned, but not scheduled. Another reason I would search for a crown or bridge is because those procedures take two appointments two weeks apart. Many insurance companies pay based on the seat date so it’s important to get both appointments completed before the insurance renews.

Another useful filter is a minimum treatment plan dollar amount which can help you find high production cases. High production cases will result in higher revenue for the practice, so I like to contact those patients first.

You could also use filters to view only patients whose insurance renews in January. These patients are going to be motivated to schedule an appointment before their insurance renews on January 1st.

Once you have set your filters and generated a list of patients, you can display the insurance benefits each patient has remaining, letting you know which patients might be more likely to schedule. 

The Show Columns option allow you to choose which type of information is displayed for each patient. For example, if you wanted to contact patients with treatment plans and outstanding insurance benefits, I would recommend viewing columns for: 
  • Patient Name
  • Last Treatment Plan Date - shows you the last date treatment was diagnosed.
  • TP Total Amount - allows you to see the total amount, so you can contact the higher production treatments plans first.
  • TP Dental Ins Estimate - shows you the estimated insurance portion of the treatment plan. You can use this to educate your patients. For example, I could explain to a patient that the estimated insurance portion for the treatment plan is $1000. If the patient doesn’t use that benefit before January 1st, they will lose these benefits.
  • TP Patient Estimate - gives the patient portion of the treatment plan.
  • Pri Dental Ins Benefits Rem - shows the amount of primary insurance maximum remaining.
  • And if your office accepts secondary insurance benefits, you could also view Sec Dental Ins Benefits Rem as one of your columns.

Once you have the list of patients that fit the filtering criteria you’ve set, it’s nice to have all this information in front of you so you can answer any questions they have regarding their treatment plan when you contact the patient. The Treatment Manager also allows you to select a patient’s name on the list and go directly to other Dentrix modules like the Patient Chart, so you have easy access to their clinical notes if the patient asks you a clinical question. 

By starting this process now, using the Treatment Manager to filter patients who have outstanding treatment plans and whose insurance renews in January, you can contact patients and explain to them the advantages of using their insurance benefits before it renews.  By starting early, you have more control of your schedule, and can spread the production out over the next few months instead of trying to squeeze all the patients in December. If you have questions about the Treatment Manager please email 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.