This Everyday Dental Situation Could Easily Have Been Handled A Whole Lot Better

Are your front office people just putting names into slots?

I hope not.

Sadly, this phenomenon recently happened to a dentist I know really well.

Here’s what happened.

My friend had a thirty-minute space in his schedule just prior to his 1:00pm lunch break.

He also had a forty-five minute time available straight after lunchtime at 2:00pm, before he began seeing his scheduled afternoon patients.

When his last patient before lunch arrived and was brought down at 11:15am, the 12:30pm slot prior to lunch was still empty.

So here’s what happened.

At 12:25pm, while my friend was still completing the retraction for what had been a difficult single tooth crown preparation, the phone in his treatment room rang twice, much to his and his assistant’s surprise, to indicate to them both, that their next patient was outside waiting.

This is how the next patient is announced at his practice. It’s done by using the phone, rather than by someone walking down to let the dentist know.

What was surprising to my friend and to his assistant both was that neither of them had been advised by the front desk that a patient had been put into the vacant 12:30 slot.

So the two-ringing phone was quite a surprise.

And although my friend likes to think that he has mythical super powers, he knows for a fact that he is not Nostradamus.

And therefore he is unable to predict the future.

So while he was simply cruising along, taking his time to ensure that his crown prep and impression were truly world class, what would have been nice, he thought, was if someone from the front desk had gotten up and walked down to ask him where would have been a good spot to put the emergency patient.

[And a true emergency it really was not. The patient appointed had an inflamed wisdom tooth, and could easily have been put in, under advisement, into the vacant appointment time after lunch.]

So my friend, assuming that the pre-lunch spot was still vacant, had been taking his time. And as a result, had now put himself and his patient, as well as his assistant, and his waiting patient, under the proverbial pump.


But for no good reason.

Because had he been asked, my friend would have directed the front office lady to schedule the wisdom tooth patient in at 200pm, straight after lunch, and then everyone would have lived happily ever after.

And nobody would have been the wiser.

And nobody would have been unnecessarily stressed, all of a sudden.

My dentist friend pointed out, and rightly so, that his monitor in his treatment room was displaying radiographs of his patient being treated, as it should have, and therefore did not display the appointment book.

When different compartments of a business start to operate as silos, and not as integrating components, then these sort of faux pas will occur and keep occurring.

And it’s purely and simply because of the technology being available to allow this operation in isolation to occur that it does occur.

A situation like this would never have happened at my practice, because we encouraged verbal communication over digital communication within the practice as much as possible.

Despite the existence of a digital alternative…

So, at my practice, even if the appointment had been slotted in at 12:30pm, as it had been for my friend, what would have happened is that when the receptionist had come down to let me know of the booking, she would have been advised by me that the booking needed to be moved to the 200pm slot to fit in better with what was happening at that time.

But really what would have happened at my practice is that my receptionist would have slotted the wisdom tooth patient in at 2:00pm anyway, and then let the patient know that there was a possibility of coming in sooner. She would have then informed the caller that she just needed to check on a couple of things, and would get back to her if the earlier time did become free.
Then the receptionist would have come down and checked with me to see if the 12:30pm slot was more suitable.

It’s everybody’s role in the Dental Office to think about everybody else there, and what would work best for everyone.

Miscommunication, as well as missed communications, create lose-lose situations in our practices.

Breaking down the silos, and taking a step away, back to the good old days when people actually spoke to each other rather than texted and emailed, might just be a good thing in some instances at the Dental Practice.

And here is one of those instances, where two rings was not worth a thousand words…


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