Time is money – Part I – Dental Burs

How are your duplicatable systems in your dental office?

In dental practice, time is money!!!

I am astounded as I travel around visiting dental offices at the number of dentists that happily sit there in a treatment room with a patient watching a dental assistant get products out of drawers and cupboards.

To me this makes no sense whatsoever!!

Let’s look at it logically.

  1. We know patient Mrs Smith is having two fillings done today. We know which teeth, and which materials will be used.
  2. We know which materials Dr Jones uses, and we know what other pieces of equipment Dr Jones uses in preparing teeth, and in placing and polishing the filling.

So knock me down with a feather!! Why shouldn’t Mrs Smith expect that Dr Jones’s dental assistant should have all the ingredients out and ready in advance for her appointment?

Time and time again this is where I see the meter running while Dr Jones and Mrs Smith wait [patiently, I presume] while the dental assistant assembles and gathers things from drawers right there in front of them.

Aside from the cost of wasted time to the dental practice billings, it makes no sense at all for Mrs Smith to be sitting in that dental chair with her mouth open or not, for one second or minute any longer than she has to. It’s sending a message of inefficiency right there to Mrs Smith!!

Recently I’ve been visiting with one office where systems are poor, at best!

Here’s one glaringly bad example: When the doctor needs a bur to prepare a cavity, he has on his bracket a stand of say 6-8 burs, that may or may not match up with a stand that he used on the previous patient. Here lies frustration Number 1.

When the doctor needs a bur not on the stand, he has to ask the DA for that bur. She then opens a drawer. In that drawer are a multitude of burs, hundreds in fact, in stands and in packets, blunt as well as new. Some are even in sealed steri bags of assortment…. definitely no system!

The process of obtaining one bur can take anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds per bur, at best! Imagine how much time adds up every time a bur needs to be changed? Add that time up for one filling. Now multiply that number by fillings per appointment, and then again, by appointments per day? The number of minutes wasted is staggering!!

This is an absolute true time waster!!

It would be simpler if the practice set up a series of say eight identical pairs of bur stands, one high speed one slow speed with every bur necessary for a filling appointment. The doc would have these two stands on his bracket beside his drills. Then, as he is drilling, he can be thinking in advance, that he needs to change his drill bit. He doesn’t have to then stop, articulate, wait for, correct if needed, and receive with grace, the next drill needed.

This simple change in protocol would mean consistency, from patient to patient.

Also, having the stands on the bracket saves time as the doc can pick up a bur much, much quicker than he can ask for one, in most cases…

I’ve found one of the best ways to build efficiency is to have the simple procedures and appointments documented with what you want to do, and to happen, and what things you need, exactly, to help you achieve this outcome. This document, for each procedure, becomes as it evolves, the practice operation and procedure manual.

Without systems, written down systems, guidelines and procedures,  each appointment becomes its own individual event. This wastes time.

And time, sadly, is money….

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