Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A Few Thoughts on Patient Retention

Retaining patients in your dental practice is just as important as acquiring new patients. Think about all the effort you put into acquiring new patients through numerous marketing strategies and by becoming contracted with insurance companies. To maintain and grow active patient numbers, your practice also needs to be putting effort in retaining established patients. 


Here are some ideas to help you keep the patients you already have.

Pre-Schedule Future Appointments

For hygiene recall appointments, try to pre-appoint patients as much as possible. This will help to avoid them slipping through the cracks when it comes to scheduling. Even if the patient is hesitant to schedule an appointment six months in the future, reassure them that they will receive appointment reminders through phone calls, email messages, or text messages. And if the day or time isn’t convenient, they can always reschedule. I especially recommend that patients who prefer a particular time schedule in advance. Many patients want the first appointment or the last appointment of the day because it’s more convenient with their work schedule. Those appointments tend to be popular, so I always try to pre-appoint those patients. 

Have a Plan to Contact Unscheduled Continuing Care Patients 

For those patients who absolutely can’t pre-appoint their next hygiene appointment, you should have a solid system in place to follow up and make sure they get scheduled and stay on their recommended continuing care frequency. Dentrix Patient Engage has great options for continuing care reminders via text and email, which tend to be more convenient for patients than a phone call. 

Know Your Patients

Personal relationships can help patients to want to stay with the same practice. A patient might say that he never wants to see a different hygienist because he loves the way the hygienist always remembers that he loves getting his teeth cleaned with the Cavitron, and the hygienist always asks about his son who plays football. 

Of course, it’s challenging to remember all these things about your patients, but when you do, it makes them feel special. Make notes in the Patient Notes in the Family File, to help remind you of personal details about each patient. Save a patient picture in Dentrix to help you to put a face to the name of your patient. That way when the assistant goes to the waiting room to seat her patient, she can make eye contact with the patient, instead of looking around the waiting room, guessing who their patient is. The patient will feel like everyone in the office knows and cares about them. 

Perfect the Handoff

The handoff when dismissing a patient from the back office to the front desk is often where patients can get lost in the shuffle. It’s important that the clinical team communicate to the administrative team the procedures that were completed today and when the patient needs to return to the office. I like using Patient Route Slips or Patient Visit Forms for this. The procedures done at today’s visit can be noted on the Patient Route Slip or Patient Visit Form. This is helpful especially if the administrative team are on the phone or busy with another patient. The next visit information can also be noted here. When possible, the clinical team member should verbally hand the patient off, in addition to the written information. This reinforces the personal connection and emphasizes to the patient the importance of their next visit. 

For example, the hygienist could verbally handoff to the front desk by saying “Mrs. Smith is checking out for today. She’ll need to come back in six months for her continuing care, and Dr. Jones would like to see her within the next two weeks for her restorative treatment.” This will remind the patient of the need for her next appointments and create an easy transition for the administrative team to schedule those appointments. Allowing the patient to leave the office without this type of handoff can result in unscheduled treatment plans and unscheduled continuing care appointments.

These are just a few ideas to help you retain your established patients. By retaining the patients you already have, and acquiring new patients through various marketing techniques, your practice will continue to grow. Don’t lose patients by allowing them to slip through the cracks!

Email me at vectordentalconsulting@gmail.com if you have questions.


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, June 9, 2021

Hiring a New Team Member

Many offices all over the country are having a difficult time finding new team members. There is a high demand for qualified dental office employees. Are you currently looking to fill an open position in your office? 


Consider posting your employment opportunity in different places for higher visibility. You may have already posted the position on an employment website like Indeed, but have you also posted on social media outlets like Facebook? Sometimes you can find new team members by posting your ad in additional places you haven’t tried before.

If you’re trying to hire an assistant or hygienist, check with your local assisting and dental hygiene schools. They may have recent graduates who are looking for employment, or they may have students who will be graduating in the near future. 

Your local supply reps can also be a great resource if you are looking for a new team member. I suggest reaching out to your Henry Schein Field Sales Consultant and let them know you’re hiring. They may have just the right person in mind that would be a good fit for your office. 

Once you’ve received some applications, schedule an interview with qualified applicants. Following the interview, if you feel they are a qualified candidate for your position, I suggest you have your other team members meet with the applicant as well. If it’s a potential new administrative employee, have them meet with your administrative team. If it’s a new assistant, have the applicant meet with your other assistants. I’ve found that new employees seem to integrate more smoothly when the rest of your team has already had a chance to spend some time with them. Also, giving your team members an opportunity to voice their opinion about potential new employees can help to create a more unified team. 

Once you’ve decided on a new hire and offered them the position, take the time to train them. Let them know what is expected of them and provide them with the tools to excel. There are many tools available to help them learn Dentrix if they are new to the software. You can start by visiting the Dentrix Resource Center. Log in with your office customer ID and ZIP code. Once logged in, you can search the Dentrix Knowledgebase or enter the Training area where you’ll find Dentrix Mastery Tracks. Register to create a personal learning account for the Dentrix Essentials course which contains videos and lessons on various topics which can teach new employees different areas of Dentrix based on their position in the office. 

At the moment, it can be challenging to find qualified applicants. Consider posting your employment opportunity in as many places as possible to reach the most potential employees. Once you begin to interview, involve the rest of your team in this important decision. When you find the right candidate, it’s very important to train them and provide them with the tools for success!

Email me with questions 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.  

Thursday, May 27, 2021

More Dentrix G7.4 Insurance Features to be Excited About

Last week, I wrote about some of the exciting new features in Dental Insurance Benefits and Coverage in Dentrix G7.4. There’s honestly so many awesome new features, I couldn’t write about them all in just one blog post. This week, I’m going to tell you about how you can use the new Deductibles/Maximums window and (my favorite) the Exceptions window!

In Dentrix, there has always been a place to enter in patients’ maximums and deductibles. However, you’ve never had the option to customize that information, until now.

Insurance plans are constantly changing the way they consider patients’ benefits. There are plans that now consider different procedure categories under different maximums. For example, an insurance plan may have no maximum for diagnostic and preventative procedures, but will have a maximum for basic and major procedures. 

A patient could have insurance coverage that has a separate orthodontic maximum that’s not considered part of their general calendar year maximum. Plus, there could also be a separate orthodontic deductible. 

Now, in Dentrix G7.4, you have a designated place to enter that information. And best of all, you can track the maximum used and deductible met. It’s important to note that this information won’t be factored into estimates in Dentrix, and you will still need to manually enter the amounts used. And the Deductibles/Maximums window is the place to do that.

For example, let’s say a patient has a standard annual deductible of $50, and an annual maximum of $1500.  They also have a lifetime orthodontic deductible of $100 and a lifetime orthodontic maximum of $1000. It’s so exciting to now have a dedicated place to enter this information and track how much has been used. Now, when your patient comes in for a prophy and exam, fillings, and/or clear aligner, you can track those maximums used accurately. Before this new feature, offices found creative ways to track this information in places like the guarantor notes, patient notes, or insurance claim status notes, which wasn’t ideal or consistent from staff member to staff member. Now you have a single place to document that information that’s very easy to use. 


You can also document detailed plan information like frequency limitations and age limitations in the Exceptions window. I love this new feature because I always used to suggest to offices that they enter this type of information into the Insurance Plan Notes. I recommended doing that instead of simply referring to an insurance breakdown in the Document Center, because Insurance Plan Notes apply to all patients covered under that plan, so you wouldn’t have to type those notes again if it’s an existing plan in your system. The Exceptions window has made huge improvements to that process. 

Here are three of my favorite things about the new Expectations window. 

  1. You no longer have to type long sentences. There’s an easy-to-use menu to allow you to select applicable plan details, like tooth limitations (primary, permanent, anterior, posterior), age limitations, frequency limitations, downgrades, and waiting periods.  
  2. Exceptions apply to all patients covered under that plan, so once you’ve entered the information for the plan, you’re good to go!
  3. By clicking the Insert Exceptions Template button on the right side of the Exceptions window you can quickly import a template that is pre-populated with common procedures and plan details that you can easily customize. 

Team members responsible for entering exceptions in to Dentrix can simply work their way through this template and enter plan details. No more excuses for forgetting to enter the information. I’ve had a situation where the hygienist wanted to do scaling and root planing for a patient in the office, but the administrative team hadn’t entered in the information pertaining to how often the procedure could be performed, or how many quadrants could be done in a day. This promptly brought the day to a halt while the hygienist had to wait while the front desk contacted the insurance company in order to provide the patient with an accurate estimate. By using the Exceptions Template, things can’t be missed. 

The new features in the Dentrix G7.4 Dental Insurance Benefits and Coverage are so exciting because they not only help you track customized deductibles and maximums, but they also allow you to enter customized exceptions details in a designated place in Dentrix. By using these features, you can provide patients with more accurate estimates with less time contacting insurance companies because you’ll have all the information you need in one place. 

Register for the 2021 Dentrix Insights Digital Summit and attend the session titled “Reduce Coverage Surprises and Claim Delays with New Tools in Dentrix” for a more in-depth look at updated insurance features in Dentrix.

If you have questions about the new insurance features in Dentrix G7.4, 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, May 19, 2021

Some of My Favorite New Insurance Features in Dentrix

One of my favorite Dentrix G7.4 new features is the Insurance Benefits and Coverage window. I wanted to share with you what some of these new features are, and why I think they are going to make things so much easier in your office. 

First, there’s a new option to enter a web page for the insurance company. Double-click a patient’s Insurance block in the Family File to open the Insurance Information window, and click the Insurance Data button.

The reason I really like this option is because I often find myself going on the insurance website to verify coverage or check the status of a claim. By having the web page address entered and saved as part of the Primary (or Secondary) Insurance Plan Information, I don’t have to look somewhere else for it. 


Next, there’s the Insurance Plan tab within the Dental Insurance Benefits and Coverage window that provides you with specific, dedicated places to enter lots of important insurance information.


  1. You can enter the date that benefits begin for both the subscriber and the patient. The reason this information is important is because it will help you to know when any applicable waiting periods have been met.
  2. There is a field to enter when the carrier was last contacted and who in your office contacted the carrier. This is important because if you notice the last update was three years ago, you’re definitely going to want to re-check the insurance benefits and update them in Dentrix. It’s also helpful to know who in your office contacted the carrier. Sometimes you may have a team member that finds entering and understanding insurance to be challenging. If that team member updated the insurance plan, you may want to double-check her work to see if she needs some more training.
  3. You can now make note where the insurance plan has out-of-network benefits, and which providers in your office are participating and non-participating with the insurance plan. I really like this new feature for offices with more than one doctor, when one doctor is participating, and one is non-participating. In a practice I worked with recently, the father and son are both doctors in the same office. The father is on his way to retiring and working less hours. He doesn’t want to participate with any insurance plans. However, the son is just beginning to build his practice and so he’s signed contracts with several insurance plans. The option to enter in- and out-of-network benefits would be a great new feature for this office because Dentrix will now have the ability to calculate patient estimates correctly for both doctors.
  4. New appointment-related details are going to make a huge difference in your day-to-day workflow. You now have the option to enter whether there’s a waiting period, if there’s a maximum age for dependents, if there’s a missing tooth clause, and if crowns and bridges are paid on prep date or seat date. Although these details won’t be factored into estimates, a new and exciting warning system will help you to avoid scheduling appointments that conflict with the plan details. For example, if you’ve entered that an insurance carrier has a missing tooth clause and you try to schedule a bridge appointment for a patient who has this insurance, Dentrix displays a warning right in the Appointment Book, to alert you to the insurance plan details. I’m sure we can all think of dozens of times during our dental careers that this new feature would have been such a huge benefit! I think this will make a huge difference to our work lives on a daily basis!
I’m excited about all of these new features. Being able to enter an insurance carrier’s web page will save you time instead of having to look for it outside of Dentrix.

The information found under the Insurance Plan tab in the Dental Insurance Benefits and Coverage window provide you with a dedicated place to enter important plan information. The ability to enter non-participating benefits will be especially helpful for multi-doctor practices. 
And the new appointment warnings are going to make a huge difference when scheduling patients’ appointments.

Register for the 2021 Dentrix Insights Digital Summit and attend the session titled “Reduce Coverage Surprises and Claim Delays with New Tools in Dentrix” for a more in-depth look at updated insurance features in Dentrix.

Please join me again next week when we’ll take a look at the new features for maximums and deductibles, and my personal favorite, the exceptions window! If you have questions about the new insurance features in Dentrix G7.4, 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, May 12, 2021

Reduce Claim Denials and Delays with Automatic eClaims Attachments

It’s always a challenging part of a dental office manager’s job to get dental insurance companies to pay for procedures in a timely manner. Insurance companies will use any excuse to delay paying, and there’s often additional information and/or attachments that are required for certain procedures to get them to process a claim. 

With the constant changes in dental insurance, knowing what types of information are required for each insurance company and for each procedure code can be difficult to keep up with. 

For eClaims customers, Dentrix G7.3 added a new feature that will automatically attach images to claims whenever it can, or notify you that an attachment is required if it cannot attach the files automatically. Each insurance company can have its own attachment requirements, which can be entered and saved in Dentrix. 

The Automatic eClaims Attachments feature can benefit your office in a couple of different ways. 

You may have administrative team members that don’t have the experience to know exactly which types of attachments are needed for each procedure. Even with seasoned team members, constant changes in insurance requirements make it difficult to keep up with requirements.  

Failing to provide required information to insurance companies can cause delays in payment. These delays can be significant. If a claim for a crown usually takes four to six weeks to be paid by insurance, and the necessary attachments aren’t provided when the claim is initially submitted, the insurance company can often take an additional four to six weeks once they receive the attachments to process and pay the claim. It’s best to provide the information when the claim is originally submitted to avoid these delays. 

The Automatic eClaims Attachments feature eliminates the need for team members to have to remember which insurance company requires certain types of attachments for procedures by having automatic attachments set up by insurance company and by procedure code. 

Having this information attach automatically ensures it is sent with the original claim, avoiding payment delays. Plus, you’ll save time by not having to add these attachments to claims manually. 

As you discover other procedure codes that may require an attachment, you can customize and add attachment requirements based on the needs of your office and trends that you notice with the insurance companies you work with. 


For example, I worked with an office recently that said they have to send an X-ray for an occlusal filling for a particular insurance company. It would be a good idea for them to add this information into Dentrix so that when a claim for an occlusal filling is created, the X-ray will automatically be attached.

Having Dentrix automatically add required attachments can save time by automating the process for you. It eliminates the need for team members to know the different types of attachments required by insurance companies, which may be very challenging, especially for newer employees. Most importantly, by automatically adding attachments, you’ll know all required attachments are sent with the initial claim to avoid delays in claim payment. 

Register for the 2021 Dentrix Insights Digital Summit and attend the session titled "Reduce Coverage Surprises and Claim Delays with New Tools in Dentrix" for a more in-depth look at this topic.

If you have questions about automatic claim attachments, 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, May 5, 2021

Reports You Can Generate to Find Insured Patients

There are different reasons you may want to analyze which dental insurance plans patients have in your practice. 

Maybe you are considering dropping one of the plans you are in network with due to a low fee schedule. It would be important to first evaluate how many active patients have that dental insurance plan, and if you would be losing those patients if you were to drop that plan.

Another reason you may want to evaluate how many patients have a particular dental insurance plan is if a specific plan has competitive fees and a great payment history. You may want to try and attract more patients with this insurance plan. You could find out where the covered patients are employed and do some marketing to try to gain more patients from that employer. 

There are several different reports you can run in Dentrix to find the number of patients that are covered under a particular insurance.

Insurance Carrier List

One report to consider is the Insurance Carrier List. This list will provide you with options to view basic insurance plan information including maximum and deductibles, a list of subscribers, a list of all insured patients, or a combination of this information.


Letters and Custom Lists

If you prefer to generate a list for a range of insurance plans you could use the Patient Report (by Filters) in Letters and Custom Lists. By using this report, you could get a number of patients for a range of plans within an insurance carrier. For example, if you wanted a number of all MetLife patients, you could generate a list by a range of insurance plans beginning with the first MetLife plan and ending with the last MetLife plan entered in your system. 

If you only want to include active patients on this report, and not inactive patients or non-patients (which may be the insured but not a patient), be sure to only select the Patient option under Status in the Letter or Custom List Setup dialog box. 


The results from this type of report can be shown in the List Manager. The List Manager is a great way to view the information because you can select a patient from the list, and then open other Dentrix Modules from the list and view additional patient information.

However, in the example I gave earlier, if you are simply looking for a number of patients with a MetLife plan, I would suggest opening the list in Excel. That way you can scroll to the bottom of the list and quickly find the number of patients (by looking at the spreadsheet row number). 

Utilization Report for Dental Insurance

The Utilization Report for Dental Insurance is a great report to evaluate your office fee compared to the fee an insurance plan is allowing you to charge. This may be a good report to generate if your practice is considering dropping an insurance plan. 



The Utilization Report shows you detailed information regarding procedures performed, the total number of patients seen (based on the date range you enter) and the fees charged. 

There are several reasons you may want to view reports regarding what insurance plans patients have. Your office may be considering dropping an insurance contract due to low reimbursement, or you may want to attract more patients with another plan if their insurance has competitive fees and is easy to work with. 

With Dentrix, there are a few different reports you can generate to obtain the information and evaluate the data to make the best business decisions for your practice. 

Email me with questions 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, April 28, 2021

Tips for Using the Health History Module More Effectively

Updating and entering a patient's health history is a very important part of what your assistants and hygienists do during a patient’s appointment. Here are some tips you can share with them so that they can use the Dentrix Health History module more efficiently.

For your clinical team to be able to enter medical conditions, allergies, and medications, your office must first have a database of these items to select from. You’ll find that medical conditions and allergies are typically already in your system. Patient-reported medications will need to be entered in Health History. This gives your office the opportunity to decide how medications should be entered. For example, you could enter the brand name of the drug and use that for generic forms of the drug as well, or you could enter both brand name and generic drug names. Create a database for your practice based on the needs of your office and your doctors' preferences.

Assigning Health History Items to Patients

You can enter medical conditions, allergies, and patient-reported medications individually by selecting the Health History item you want to attach to the patient from this list of options; or you can attach multiple Health History items to a patient at once by selecting the Add Multiple option. 


Selecting to add an individual medical condition, allergy, or medication is a good option when you only have one item to enter.

But if you need to enter more than one medical condition, allergy, or patient-reported medication, use the Add Multiple option. This would be the best way to enter health history information for a new patient or a patient who has had a lot of medical changes that need to be entered. By using the Add Multiple option, your assistant and hygienist can save time by selecting all applicable medical conditions, allergies, and/or patient reported medications from a single location at once. 


It’s important to note that if a patient has already been assigned a medical condition, allergy, or medication in their Health History, it will no longer be available on the list of medical conditions, allergies, and medications to choose from.

Inactivating Health History Items That No Longer Apply

You should work towards having a comprehensive health history for your patients. Train your clinical team to inactivate medical conditions, allergies, and medications that no longer apply to the patient instead of deleting them. This way you'll have a record that this condition did apply to the patient in the past. When inactivating a medical condition, allergy, or medication, you have an option to add a note, which I would recommend. An example of a note on an inactivated patient-reported medication could be “Patient no longer takes blood pressure medication. Blood pressure is controlled through diet and exercise.” Be sure to include the date of the note and the initials of the staff member making the note.

Copying Health History Items to Clinical Notes

There is an option to copy the patient’s Health History to their clinical notes. This is a time saver for your clinical team when writing their notes because they don’t have to type in all the patient’s medical conditions, allergies, and/or medications. It also ensures accurate clinical notes because they won’t forget to enter anything into the clinical note. When copying Heath History items to a clinical note, you have the option of including only current items, or including inactive items as well.


Having an accurate health history for your patients is a critical part of their care. Share these health history tips with your clinical team so that they can enter health histories more efficiently. Email me with questions 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.