How to Keep a Dental Operatory Organized and Stocked

April 4, 2022

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Dentistry is a critical service, which—pre-pandemic—was used by 65.5% of US adults. It requires the ability to provide great patient care at a high turnover, and minimizing time spent on menial tasks allows dentists and dental assistants to spend the majority of each day providing quality services and maximizing production rates.There are simple ways to streamline your dental operatory that require some pre-planning but can be managed digitally once all of the pain points are uncovered. Collaboration between dental practitioners, the organization of dental tools, and a quick-turnover system for resetting your operatory between patients must be established before you begin drilling deeper into your setup and streamlining your work—ensuring the well-being of both patients and practitioners.

Carefully Consider Placement of Dental Tools

The placement of tools and your dental assistant’s supplies can determine how long a patient remains in your care and whether they leave the operatory satisfied or not. Although, of course, the odd ‘tricky customer’ is to be expected. It’s worth taking the time—either when designing the layout or reorganizing the room—to consider where items should be placed for the most fluid patient care.Having an effective dental operatory setup means that clients will be relieved of unnecessary discomfort while both the practitioner and dental assistant create a cohesive workspace that supports their physical well-being.The dentist needs everything at arm’s reach; the most frequently used tools easily accessible from the saddle; the less frequent supplies stowed away in unobstructed draws and cupboards to be accessed at any time. This can avoid overreaching and minimize the potential aches, pains, and musculoskeletal problems that dentists may otherwise suffer from further down the line—carpal tunnel syndrome being a major long-term concern.As alluded to, some patients find the dental experience rather daunting, and minor considerations like the placement of suction tubing—in relation to the patient’s position and even the decoration of the operatory, will ensure the experience is as comfortable as possible.

Prepare Your Dental Operatory in Advance

Dental operatory organization isn’t a mere tidiness exercise. It requires knowledge, preparation, and planning to operate a well-equipped consultation room, and a strategic layout will only make it much smoother. Simplifying and standardizing everything will display your competence to the client, ultimately making them feel more comfortable. With all tools and supplies in specific places, the operatory will run effortlessly, and it will be much easier to know when something is out of place or supplies are low.Consider taking an inventory approach to this task and begin every morning by checking that every item is in its place. There is no universal blueprint for this. The organization of your practice depends on how the team works, so spend some time considering the best possible spread of tools and find out how to arrange your dental assistant’s tools more efficiently as well.What will you always need to start the day? Is it likely that you’ll need a dental drill or other infrequent tools next to you at all times? While these may seem like simple questions, they are valid ones to ask at this stage.For example, the tools that are used less frequently may be placed on a specific side of your tray, compared to those that are used consistently, such as inspection mirrors, explorers, and forceps.

Discuss Setups With Your Dental Assistant

Who will you be sharing the workspace space with? It’s important to discuss organization and preparation with your dental assistant to ensure a common understanding of daily tasks and how you might manage your stock.Why? Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to explain where to find the mouth prop, syringe, or even a fresh pair of surgical gloves mid-way through a consultation?Your dental assistant is the person that will be handing tools and supplies to you during a check-up. While that person is the supporting act, he or she (or they) plays a critical role in the seamless delivery of the service, assuming the position of the ‘go to’ person for almost everything.Having in-depth discussions about this to find the best way setup will:

  • Allow easier access dental assistant tools and find treatments and utensils at a glass
  • Create a consistent process that both the dental surgeon and assistant can follow every day
  • Ensure that co-workers are only carrying out the tasks they are qualified for
  • Minimize the long-term risks that come with constant straining or reaching

The International Journal of Advanced Health Sciences suggests that four-handed dentistry becomes a common practice to eliminate unnecessary movement during the exchange of dental tools. This is achieved by operating in zones specific to each person to avoid crossover—excess movements—and makes the treatment process more efficient. A quick and effortless dental appointment is sure to put a smile on your client’s face!

Keep Your Dental Operatory Stocked

If you found a cavity during a consultation, you wouldn’t hesitate to fill it. So, why wouldn’t you do the same with a gap in your dental supplies?Waste no time in thinking you have ‘plenty’ if it is an item that is frequently used daily in your dental practice and doesn’t run the risk of expiring before use. Maintaining a constant stock of materials ensures that you’ll have everything you need on a day-to-day basis. Similarly, your dental assistant should understand the stock-taking requirements correctly, prioritizing more frequent items.Perhaps you may have come across scenarios like these?“I’ve used a lot of gauze today?” There’s a constant reserve readily available for this type of scenario.“We’ve multiple clients booked in for tooth extractions today!” No problem, this was planned for by ensuring a constant stock of Lidocaine and other materials that are required for this procedure.You never know when you might need something—even those infrequently-used items. But also, from a hygiene perspective, items shouldn’t be gathering dust. It’s a prolonged process—a craft even—to create a suitable inventory management system.

Organized Operatories Help With Supply Procurement

With a well-organized dental operatory setup, a standardized approach to daily tasks—that eliminates stress and strain from the consultations—and a set inventory for tools and consumables, the final stage is digitization. Now that the initial processes are in place, you can begin to alleviate menial tasks, such as the procurement of dental supplies, with the help of digital tools specifically designed for dental procurement.The groundwork has been completed in-house, so now, the adoption of a dental inventory management system will enable cost savings for your practice through intuitive price comparison or simply by creating a leaner inventory process.Adopting a solution like Method Procurement means that different stages of the purchasing process are managed through a single, easy-to-use platform that is capable of carrying out multiple tasks for your operatory:

  • Supply cost comparison across multiple vendors
  • Management of purchase orders
  • Approval of supply requests
  • Analysis and management of budgets and inventory

Leveraging Method’s digital procurement solution, dentists can track these processes seamlessly, spending less time on operations management and focusing heavily on quality patient care. The solution is already at work with other practices, tackling inaccurate inventory, reducing shipping costs, minimizing capital held up in inventory, and simplifying the stock-taking process.

Keep Your Operatory Stocked With Help From Method

Looking to get your teeth into a digital inventory management solution? Method Procurement allows you to access the platform in advance with a Personalized Demo to suit the needs of your dental practice.Arrange now, and you’ll gain better insight into ways streamlined digital procurement can help you simplify repeated tasks while saving on the cost of your dental supplies.

More Resources on Inventory and Supply Chain Management

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