8 steps for increasing the productivity of dental assistants

Dental assistants can make a huge difference in the productivity of the dental practice. Teaching them these eight easy steps will make the pracitce run smoother throughout the day, and make patients happy too!

Nov 14th, 2014
Dental Office Training

A dental waiting room is one of the least likely places most people want to spend their time. No matter what their age, most people would rather do almost anything else than sit and wait for their appointment to begin.

A close look with some of the people waiting in the reception area will give you an idea on how true this premise is. How many of them keep glancing at their watches? How many of them tinker on endlessly on their phones? Waiting for an appointment always feels like an eternity, and it’s a challenge that dentists and their assistants should overcome.

Dental offices today aren’t just competing with the quality of services they offer. The efficiency of performing these services also matters. Schedules and appointments often come through the practice’s dental assistants. Like anyone in the front lines of a business, dental assistants should appear knowledgeable and professional when dealing with patients.

To improve productivity of dental assistants, here are eight things to keep in mind:
Find out how long procedures really take. DO NOT GUESS. Study and determine the exact time you need to perform several dental procedures. Many dentists tend to underestimate the time spent on certain procedures because they focus only on the time their patients spend on the dental chair. On the other hand, dental assistants may overestimate the time because of some protocols they need to do before the procedure. True chair time will only be determined if the dentist and dental assistant perform an audit. Telling the patient the correct chair time will be convenient for both staff and patients.
It’s always better to train dental assistants for expanded duties. Dental assistants may not be licensed to do what dentists do, but the law allows them to perform certain tasks related to the procedure. With proper training from dental assisting schools, they can be trained to become efficient assistants while dentists do dental procedures. The office’s lab tech can also train the assistants on how to get good impressions, make temporaries, and pour and trim models. This training will help the dentists get the best team for the practice. *To learn what dental assisting duties are allowed and prohibited in your state — and the education, exam, and certification requirements to perform these duties — visit DANB’s Meet State Requirements page or check with your state dental board.
Stop being myopic. Shift paradigms. Global paradigm inside your dental practice simply means awareness regarding what’s happening in the entire area. Many dental teams are myopic in nature; they only see the patient in front of them. Having someone that can effectively turn things inside the clinic will improve time management for everyone. Delegation of certain tasks, such as performing the hygiene check or numbing the next patient, improves efficiency.
The hygienist should always be ready. The hygienist should always take the patient’s oral assessment. The most effective time for the hygienist to perform these assessments is the first 15 minutes of an appointment. To avoid a long wait, the hygienist should perform necessary tests and evaluations on patients before they sit in the chair. Getting things done before chair time will give the dentist a clear medical background of the patient, and the patient will spend less time in the chair.
Everybody should know their role in the practice. Each member of the dental team has a role to perform. Establishing this will help with the seamless transition from the dental support team to the chair.
Get the rightsupplies and equipment. Starting a practice requires more than just a dental license. A practice doesn’t operate without supplies and equipment. These resources should be managed regularly to maintain safety, and this is something the dental assistant can do.
Have efficient and trained dental assistants for every chair. The dentist does not need to do all the work when a patient sits in the chair. The law allows trained dental assistants to perform some tasks. Most dentists practice the two-seat paradigm to effectively manage appointments. Having qualified and trained dental assistants to assist in every chair will save time during procedures. *To learn what dental assisting duties are allowed and prohibited in your state — and the education, exam, and certification requirements to perform these duties — visit DANB’s Meet State Requirements page or check with your state dental board.
Handle emergencies effieciently. There are ways to efficiently handle emergency appointments without ruining the rest of the schedule. Have a fixed schedule for emergency patients – spare a dedicated hour or less every day. Do not take time away from regularly scheduled patients, because their time is also important.

When both dentist and dental assistants are trained to effectively handle patients, it results in more happy patients. Being efficient in the practice calls for proper training and teamwork. Establishing effective time management depends on every person involved. Making the practice efficient without compromising the quality of the services will keep patients satisfied, and will be a sure avenue toward increased productivity.

Cynthia Witson, RDH, graduated in 2011 from Loma Linda University, school of dentistry. She has passion for excellence, which is to help patients achieve healthy smiles with oral health care solutions and lifelong cosmetic procedures. Follow her onTwitter!

More in Scheduling