You’re unlikely to find a successful, thriving dental practice that suffers from disorganization. Whether your business is in its first or its thirtieth year, running a practice is hard work, and the efficiencies and margins that define success depend on operations that are cleanly run, simple and organized.
Increasing practice efficiency, patient satisfaction and your bottom line can all benefit from doubling down on tidying up your storage and processes. So while office organization is an (often very frustrating) challenge, it is a crucial component of a successful dental practice,
Benefits of an organized dental office
The office is both the nerve center and the operational body of your practice. In a single visit, you can be responsible for storing everything related to the patient — files, impressions, data, records — as well as having the space and time to move them in and out, clean equipment and tools, and process their visits. You have to clean teeth and collect payment, and you have to store x-rays and schedule new appointments.
Improving organization improves all of the examples above, but it also can increase:
- Patient satisfaction – Patients are looking for seamless, efficient visits—and longer wait times (a common byproduct of poor organization) can impact patients’ experiences.
- Efficiency – The better your organization, the more efficiently you can operate. Even something as simple as moving your instruments chairside all at once can decrease your operational time per patient, freeing up time to help more people.
- Profits – Satisfied patients become repeat customers. Efficient dental offices see more patients in a day. Organizing can facilitate both—double-boosting your bottom line.
Plus, proper organization improves our positive perceptions of spaces. A 2016 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology discovered that clutter has a negative impact on our comfort. In a climate where more than one-third of patients have a fear of dental treatment, practices must make every effort to make patients feel safe and at home. A nervous patient’s anxieties can often be at least partly alleviated by the presence of a professional, clean, and seamless experience.
4 ideas to boost organization—and productivity
Equipment and tools have to be transported, cleaned, stored, and moved around the office for every patient. Keeping these well organized can keep your practice on the right track:
#1 Label everything
If you’re looking for peak efficiency, it’s time to dust off the labelmaker. Labeling instruments, materials, and bins can help everyone in your office quickly hunt down the tools they need. Consider labeling:
- Individual instruments – Tape that changes color after sterilization could help you easily separate clean tools.
- Shelves and cubbies – a labeled scaler is useless if it doesn’t find its way home. Consider adding labels to every tool’s corresponding storage areas.
- Procedure “packs” – Creating dedicated, labeled, and pre-loaded bins with all the tools you need for any common dental procedure (for example: cleanings, fillings, or impressions) can speed up your preparation time between patients. Your hygienist or assistant can just grab their relevant kit and head in.
Making items quicker and easier to find can limit time spent sifting through the dental supply closet. Over the course of a day, tiny hiccups and delays add up. Conversely, the time saved through organization also adds up — dentists and their staff having an occasional moment to reset between patients and procedures can drastically improve the patient experience.
#2 Overhaul your storage
Everything in your office may have its place—but, does that place make sense?
If items overflow from their assigned locations every time you get a dental supply shipment, or multiple items have to live in the same cubbies, it might be time for a storage-area overhaul.
Organize your supply room, procedure stations, treatment rooms, and sterilization room like you would organize your kitchen. Putting the mugs in the cabinet right above the coffee pot just makes sense—take the same approach as you find a home for your materials.
- Group like items (or items commonly used in tandem) together
- Make sure that all of your stock can fit in one place (items shouldn’t overflow)
- “Decant” small materials from delivery boxes into smaller containers to save space
#3 Optimize your sterilization area
While your sterilization area is hopefully hygienic, it still may not be efficient. Consider separating your sterilizing space into a few distinct quadrants, one each for:
- Hygiene instruments
- Dental tools
- Patient products
- Lab cases
Make it as easy as possible to identify dirty and clean instruments—and streamline the sterilization process. Running tools through the autoclave multiple times because you aren’t sure if they’re clean can significantly slow down your workday and introduce unnecessary frustration.
#4 Take advantage of digital dentistry
Analog dentistry practices take time and leads to more clutter occupying your workspace or storage areas:
- Taking physical impressions is time-consuming (and uncomfortable for patients).
- Providers must wait for physical impressions to arrive at a dental lab.
- Lab technicians must turn the physical impressions into digital images in order to make implants and other products.
Numerous advancements in dentistry exist to shorten these turnaround times—particularly intraoral scanners, CAD/CAM dentistry technologies, and 3D printers. And all of these tools are available to today’s dentists. For both scheduling efficiency and reducing the amount of supplies kept on hand, digital dentistry is one of the most significant organization efforts dentists can undertake.
While you don’t have to jump into end-to-end digital dentistry right away, consider implementing one of Dandy’s digital tools above to speed up workflows, increase efficiency, and lower costs.
Streamline operations with Dandy’s end-to-end digital dental solution
Dandy is all about efficiency—that’s why we’re helping dental practices shift into the digital age with our end-to-end dental lab solutions. We offer intraoral scanners, CAD/CAM software, 3D printing tools, and the training and support your dental office staff needs to use them effectively.
We can basically make your office more efficient (and less cluttered) in short order with our user-friendly tools, tech, and customer service, which all combine to drive better outcomes for your practice. Learn more about going digital with Dandy today.
Journal of Dental Hygiene. Do Waiting Times in Dental Offices Affect Patient Satisfaction and Evaluations of Patient-Provider Relationship? A Quasi-Experimental Study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27340187/
Journal of Environmental Psychology. The Dark Side of Home: Assessing Possession “Clutter” on Subjective Well-Being. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272494416300159?via%3Dihub
Cleveland Clinic. Dentophobia. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22594-dentophobia-fear-of-dentists