Getting the picture

Throughout the UK a revolution has started that will change dramatically the role of dental care professionals (DCPs). Over the next 10 years these changes look set to bring new and exciting challenges for dental nurses, hygienists and therapists in general dental practices.

Training and preparation to enable DCPs to develop their roles in patient care is already underway, but the British Dental Receptionists’ Association (BDRA) feels an important aspect of shaping this new style dental team has been over looked.

This is the recognition of the role that support workers play in providing a wide range of non-clinical customer care aspects to dental businesses, that patients as customers are increasingly demanding.

As changes intended to modernise general dental practice are now coming into force, this is the time to look at the title and role of the receptionist. In respect of the title, we need to ask ‘is the title receptionist broad enough to give a true picture of the work role?’ And ‘is the current work role broad enough to provide the services required by both patients and clinicians?’ These are the very points that I explored during the BDRA’s presentations at this years’ BDA Conference.

Some may consider that calling people by fancy names is nothing more than window dressing and would prefer work roles to be understated. However, others would agree that the term receptionist in many practices is an inadequate description of the work the people in this role do. It’s like referring to the QEII as a boat, or to Gordon Ramsey as merely a cook.

Patients place importance on the work titles used, using them to establish what each team member does, based upon their title.

No receptionist I have ever met is purely a receptionist; they always have an extensive role in their practice, which often includes being responsible for duties, such as:

• Patient support

• Cashier responsibilites

• Maintaining the practice’s appointment book

• Stock control

• Mediation between dentists and patients

• Practice promotion

• Team liaison.

To fulfil this role receptionists need an extensive range of generic skills and a real understanding of dental treatments and procedures.

Traditionally the role of receptionist has been entrusted to a senior nurse, but nowadays practices often prefer to recruit receptionists for their customer care skills and provide in house training to help them develop dental knowledge.

Now is the time to look at this developing picture and find a work title that better fits the bill, and sits well with dental professionals and patients. The BDRA is holding discussions with its members and colleagues on this matter at the moment.

Dental practices offer increasingly sophisticated ranges of treatments and services. The new wave of Dental Spas across the UK have been warmly embraced by patients for their broad span of cosmetic care options and their customer centred approach to patient care.

Furthermore patients have readily perceived higher treatment costs as value for money because they feel valued and in control of their spending.

This perception has been created in the Dental Spa environment by developing the reception role and extending it to incorporate patient liaison responsibilities. This helping to enhance every aspect of communication with patients.

If you have a view on the potential developments for the receptionist role into a new role in tune with the modernised dental care environment, please share it with the BDRA, by emailing us at, or by phone on 08700 801924.

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