Managing an Efficient and Effective Safety Net Dental Program - Part 1

Managing for Success

Creating, maintaining and managing an efficient and effective safety net dental program is a continuous quality improvement process. The environment in which safety net dental programs operate is dynamic and ever-changing, and programs need to be adept at quickly identifying and responding to new challenges and opportunities. The way to do this is by continuously monitoring dental program performance and responding immediately to negative trends or new challenges to the successful attainment of program goals. Managing for success depends on the ability to generate accurate and timely program data, to analyze that data effectively and to be willing and able to drive change within the dental program in response to that data.

Key Practice Data

The following is a list of the key practice data that dental programs should regularly collect and analyze to monitor performance:

  • Number of visits
  • Gross charges
  • Net revenue (including all sources of revenue)
  • Total expenses (direct and indirect)
  • Payer and patient mix
  • Emergency rate
  • No-show rate
  • Transactions (procedures by ADA code)
  • Percentage of completed treatments
  • Percentage of children needing sealants who received sealants
  • Aging report (amount of money owed to the practice past 90 days by patients and 3rd party insurers)

Programs with multiple clinical sites should generate and analyze this data for each site to understand how well each is doing. 

In Managing an Efficient and Effective Safety Net Dental Program - Part 2, I will discuss evaluating the dental program and creating a culture of accountability.


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Dori Bingham is the Program Manager for the DentaQuest Institute’s Safety Net Solutions (SNS) initiative, which provides technical assistance and practice management consulting to safety net dental programs nationwide. Since its inception in 2006, Safety Net Solutions has worked with over 300 safety net dental programs in 30 states. Prior to joining the DentaQuest Institute in 2006, Dori served as Associate Vice President for External Affairs at Morton Hospital and Medical Center in Taunton, MA. 

To contact Dori, email her at dori.bingham@dentaquestinstitute.org.