What Are The Different Roles In A Dental Office?

Dr. Christopher Li Etobicoke - Li Family Dental

By Dr. Christopher Li

June 29, 2021

dental hygienist, dental office, dentist, oral health

When you visit your dental office, you might be surprised at how many different people you encounter. From the receptionist to the dental assistant and the dentist to the hygienist, your dental office clinic has a team of people working to improve your oral health. Here we look at the different roles in a dental office, so you get to know more about what each person offers.

Dental Office Receptionist


The receptionist is a very important team member as they are usually the first person you encounter. Whether you call in to set up an appointment or arrive at the office for treatment, the receptionist is the person who ensures every patient receives the attention they require. They act as a go-between for the patient and the dental care team, ensuring your calls and questions are answered and your appointments are scheduled and confirmed. Without this vital step, you wouldn’t have the care you need. The receptionist handles the following tasks:

  • Managing all incoming phone calls
  • Greeting patients arriving at the clinic
  • Booking, cancelling, and rescheduling appointments
  • Calling to set follow-up appointments based on your treatment plan
  • A liaison between patients and the dentist
  • Answering your questions via phone calls when your dentist is not available
  • Assisting with payments and insurance issues
  • Acting as a liaison between insurance companies and patients in some cases
  • Keeping appointments moving smoothly to avoid delays and wait times
  • Offering instructions prior to dental appointments when needed
  • Keeping the dental care team on time and on schedule including notifying them of cancellations or emergencies that arise

The receptionist is like the glue that keeps everyone in the office working as a team and ensuring each patient receives the timely care they deserve.

Dental Office Manager


The Dental Office Manager is responsible for managing the staff and business side of the office. This role is often “behind the scenes” ensuring the office is operating efficiently. Their day-to-day duties are varied and can range from hiring or terminating staff to the collection of bills, and from taking care of ordering office or dental supplies to making recommendations to the owner to improve efficiencies. The Dental Office Manager is responsible for the following tasks:

  • Working with the owners to ensure goals are met based on performance indicators
  • Dealing with collection of outstanding bills
  • Making financial arrangements with patients
  • Setting goals such as how many appointments are required to earn enough to keep the business successful
  • Keeping an eye on “Patient churn” to identify potential issues with service that can lead to patient loss, or identifying opportunities through ongoing success with new patients
  • Assigning tasks to receptionist and assistants as required
  • Monitoring quality of work and informing staff of performance issues when needed
  • Setting priorities for team members such as confirming appointments, filling schedule holes, keeping the schedule more organized to avoid gaps, etc.
  • Hiring and firing staff
  • Supporting the entire team as required
  • Training and career growth for team members
  • Addressing technology issues and upgrades

The role will vary from office to office, but in general, the office manager keeps the office running. They also ensure staff are performing up to the standards of the office, following protocols, and that the business remains profitable.

Dental Assistant


Dental assistants are trained and certified professionals who must complete an accredited dental assisting program and acquire their dental x-ray certification. They are responsible for some of the most important tasks that keep you safe and prepare you for your treatment, including:

  • Sterilizing and disinfecting instruments
  • Setting up instrument trays
  • Preparing materials
  • Assisting with dental procedures
  • Assisting dental hygienists
  • Recording treatment information
  • Exposing dental x-rays
  • Collecting and recording medical and dental histories
  • Providing postoperative instructions
  • Caring for dental equipment
  • Keeping track of supplies
  • Taking dental impressions

Dental assistants ensure you remain comfortable throughout your visit and that every detail required for your hygienist or dentist to complete your treatment is addressed.

The Dentist


Your dentist is the primary dental caregiver at the dental office. Dentistry is a regulated profession requiring a license, a BDS/DDS/DMD degree and NDEB certification. Dentists ensure the oral health of every patient with a long list of responsibilities including:

  • Providing instruction and treatment designed to prevent oral health problems
  • Detection and management of patients’ oral conditions
  • Recommending and performing the necessary treatments to maintain and/or obtain optimum dental health including:
    • Restorations such as fillings and crowns
    • Correction through orthodontics
    • Reconstruction for tooth loss and oral tissue issues
    • Some forms of surgery such as extracting wisdom teeth
  • Assistance in detecting disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke as well as oral cancers
  • Providing cosmetic dental treatments to improve the appearance of your smile

Dentists use their education and experience to identify the unique problems of each patient and provide suitable dental plans to help them reach optimum oral health and a picture-perfect smile.

Dental Hygienist


The dental hygienist must also be registered and complete a dental hygiene diploma or bachelor program. Their role is to clean a patient’s teeth while also helping them follow a home care routine based on their oral health needs. A dental hygienist’s role and training allow them to perform the following:

  • X-rays
  • Dental impressions
  • Cleaning and polishing teeth
  • Applying fluoride
  • Assessing your oral health and recommending the best at-home routine to improve your technique so you can maintain optimum oral health
  • Recommendations for the best toothbrush and oral care products based on your oral health needs
  • Providing special tools to help you achieve optimum oral health
  • Participating in aspects of your dental checkup together with your dentist
  • Helping to reduce the appearance of stains so you have a brighter, whiter, healthier smile

Your hygienist is an important link to overall dental health as they provide the cleaning you can’t achieve even with an excellent home brushing and flossing regime. Despite your own at-home routine, you still need a professional to get to those hard-to-reach areas where plaque and tartar can build up. Only professional scaling and polishing will remove all tartar and plaque, helping you avoid issues such as gum disease, dental decay, and tooth loss.

As you can see your dental team works together to create a pleasant experience while keeping your oral health in check.

To see how our team at Li Family Dental works seamlessly to provide you with the best experience possible, give us a call 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.


Dr. Christopher Li

About the author

Doctor Christopher Li, DDS
Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.  Dr. Chris loves sharing information with his patients and everyone who has teeth about how to care for their teeth, avoid tooth decay, and the treatments available to help them overcome their tooth pain or other dental issues so they can enjoy life and food to its fullest!

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