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Communication in the Dental Office: Part 2 - Effective Telecommunications (AGD 550)

Presenter: Betty Ladley Finkbeiner


In the past decade much has changed in the use of telephones. The telephone in its many forms still remains the most important instrument in the dental practice. It is important that the dental staff makes a positive lasting impression when a call is made or received in the dental office. Despite the rapid changes in technology over the years, the importance of telephone communication in business still remains. The advantage of actually speaking to your patients and co-workers in many cases is often more effective, personal, appropriate, and time-saving than written communications such as email or texting.

The dental staff receives and places a myriad of telephone calls each day.  The dental professional speaks with a variety of people both inside and outside the dental practice to transmit information, place orders, schedule and confirm appointments, manage travel, or perform one of many other tasks common to the dental practice.  The dental professional must use proper techniques when answering or placing calls either by land line or by smart phone. In addition, the dental professional must be aware of the constantly changing forms of telecommunications and be able to apply their use for the dental practice.

This course is designed so the reader will review basic telephone techniques, conduct an inventory of personal skills to determine if one’s technique needs modification, offer suggestions for resolving conflicts on the telephone, and aid new staff in improving telephone techniques and integrate new forms of telecommunication into the practice.

Electronic telecommunications have grown and changed dramatically in recent years.  The term refers to the science and technology of communication that occurs via the electronic transmission of impulses by satellite, cable, telephone, radio, television, or computer. Wireless technology, or Wi-Fi, has enhanced the communications capabilities in the dental practice by providing the ability to eliminagate bulky, sometimes hazardous cords or the need to be tethered to a desk. Modern dentistry utilizes a variety of telecommunication systems, including but not limited to various types of telephone systems, such as key systems, smart phones, hands-free telephones, answering machines, pagers, and facsimile machines (FAX).  Such systems have provided endless communication capabilities to enhance patient care.  With such systems, however, patient confidentiality must always remain constant.

In a realistic sense, telecommunications in the dental office refers to the different types of telephone systems and communication tools that are commonly used. These may include standard line systems, smart phones, hands-free phones, conference calls, answering machines, and pagers.

The most used form of telecommunications in the dental office is the telephone. A countless number of telephone calls are received each day.  The manner in which these calls are received can impact the success of the practice. A telephone call that leaves a patient dissatisfied can result in the loss of patient rapport. The opposite occurs when the patient feels he or she has received professional courtesy. This patient will look forward to future contact with the office. 


Betty Ladley Finkbeiner, is a Faculty Emeritus of Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, MI where she served as Chairperson of the Dental Assisting Program for over three decades.  She began her career as an on-the-job trained dental assistant for the late Joseph S. Ellis, DDS in Grand Rapids, MI and later became a CDA and an RDA in the state of Michigan.  She received Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the School of Education at the University of Michigan.  She has served as a consultant and staff representative for the American Dental Association's (ADA) Commission on Dental Accreditation and as a consultant to the Dental Assisting National Board.  She was an appointee to the Michigan Board of Dentistry from 1999 - 2004.

Ms. Finkbeiner has authored articles in professional journals and several continuing education classes, and co-authored several textbooks including:   Practice Management for the Dental Team, Comprehensive Dental Assisting: A Clinical Approach, Review of Comprehensive Dental Assisting, and a handbook entitled, Four-handed Dentistry: A Handbook of Clinical Application and Ergonomic Concepts.  She has co-authored videotape productions including Medical Emergencies for the Dental Team, Four-handed Dentistry, An Ergonomic Concept, and Infection Control for the Dental Team and lectured to dental school classes and at many dental meetings.  She received the ADAA Journal Award for the September/October 2009 article on Managing Cultural Differences in the Dental Office.  Currently retired, she continues to write, lecture and provide consultant services in ergonomic concepts to practicing dentists throughout the country.


Upon completion of this course, the dental professional should be able to:

• Define telecommunications.
• Explain the application of telecommunications in a dental practice.‚Äč
• Define time zones in the United States and apply the importance to the dental practice.
• Describe various types of telecommunication systems available for use in the dental practice.
• List tips for efficient telephone management.
• Describe types of and precautions for use of answering services in the dental practice.
• Describe smart phone uses and etiquette.
• Explain the use of text messaging.
• Explain the use of Digital Conferencing Technology.
• Describe techniques for maintaining patient confidentiality during telecommunications.


The ADAA has an obligation to disseminate knowledge in the field of dentistry.  Sponsorship of a continuing education program by the ADAA does not necessarily imply endorsement of a particular philosophy, product or technique.

The ADAA cautions participants taking this course on the hazards of using limited knowledge when integrating new techniques into their practices.

Credits earned upon completion of the course may be used to meet DANB’s Recertification Requirements.


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