Organising and Setting Up The Dental Treatment Room

The dental treatment room, or operatory, is the room where patients receive their dental treatment, as provided by the dentist or the dental hygienist.

The key purpose of the treatment room is to provide treatment to the patient comfortably and efficiently.

And one of the most efficient ways of being efficient is to provide treatment in the shortest possible time.

Nobody wants to sit in a dental chair having treatment for one minute longer than they have to.

As a dental team, we have the ability to control the amount of time a dental procedure takes to complete.

And one of the key factors that affects the amount of time a procedure takes is preparation.

When you have prepared well, then things go well.

When you have failed to prepare, you have actually prepared yourself to experience some form of failure.

This preparation can be something simple, such as having all instruments and supplies out and at easy reach, rather than having to open a drawer, or a cupboard, when the instrument is needed.

I marvel at how some dental offices actually store instruments and supplies that are needed for dental procedures in areas of the practice that patients are not treated in.

So that when those instruments and supplies are required, the dental assistant has to physically leave the treatment room and go gather [and assemble] the items for use.

This is not good.

It is better to have all instruments and materials that will be needed [and also could be needed] ready and available in the treatment room for when they are needed.

And not only should they be in the treatment room, but they should also be out [that means NOT in a drawer and not in a cupboard].

Why should the patient be kept waiting for instruments and materials to be removed from places of storage?

You wouldn’t like going to a restaurant and sitting down at a table and not having silverware [cutlery] or side plates and glasses?

After all, you are in a restaurant to eat a meal, and a knife, fork and spoon is usually what you would expect to see ready and waiting for you.

Similarly, if a patient was attending a dental practice to have a composite resin restoration placed, then they might expect that the filling materials, bonding materials and matrixes and polishing materials would be laid out in preparation, along with any local anaesthetic, and Miller’s forceps with articulating paper already loaded.

Yet, despite dental practices having this ability to pre-plan and pre-set, I still see practices where dental assistants are fishing into drawers for polishing discs and for articulating paper, while patients sit open mouthed and waiting in the dental chair.

And that does not make any sense to me whatsoever.

As I used to ask my staff:

“How many extractions have you seen me perform in the steri-bay?”

And because the answer is always: “None”

 Then I ask:

“Well why are we keeping elevators and extraction forceps in the steri-bay, when there’s a higher chance that they’ll be needed in the treatment room?” 

Or, back in the day, when it was time to place retraction cord, it seemed a lot more logical to me to have the necessary cords available, out and pre-cut, ready for application and insertion, as opposed to having the dental assistant go fishing in the drawer for the bottles, and go hunting in the steri-bay for some scissors, and then painstakingly measure and cut the required lengths of cord, while the dentist waited patiently holding the patient’s mouth open….

One of my dentist friends tells the story about doing a locum session at a  dental practice, where the patient in the dental chair required a pulpal extirpation, which had not been planned.

So he asked the dental assistant for an endo tray, explaining what the patient was needing.

And the dental assistant left the treatment room….

And the dentist waited….

And waited…..

And waited some more….

The dentist then excused himself from the patient and went in search of his missing dental assistant.

He found her, in the instrument steri-bay, assembling the endo tray, one cotton roll and one endo-file at a time…

Taking an eternity.

While the patient and the dentist waited…

In this case, having the endo instruments, or an extirpation tray prepared and ready and at hand would have allowed the team to seamlessly swing across into action without delay, in a highly professional manner.

Not having the endo-tray ready made the whole dental office look amateurish and unprepared.

And this is what patients remember.

Patients will marvel at your seamless systems and how your dental procedures flow effortlessly, and this comes as a result of being well prepared in advance for everything we know is going to happen, and more, in the dental operatory.


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