Proper inventory control and organization are among the cornerstones of a successful dental office. Unfortunately, as a dentist, it’s easy to get caught up in patient care and practice management and let supply management slip through the cracks.
Here are a few tips on how to organize dental supplies to maximize efficiency, drive cost savings, and ensure optimal patient results.
Decide What and How Much You Need
Before organizing your stock, you must decide what and how much to order. Not having enough dental materials can disrupt operations, but having too much can result in reduced cash flow, expired products, and unnecessary waste.
- Identify common stock issues: Consider any inventory issues your practice has had in the past months. If you frequently run out of certain items or throw out expired products, you should adjust your ordering priorities.
- Create a dental supply list: Make a complete list of everything you have in stock. For each item, note the type, brand, material, quantity, price, expiration date, location, special storage requirements, and an approximate amount you need per month. Update the list regularly, so you know what to order and when.
- Organize your stockroom: Consider adopting the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method that grocery stores use to organize perishable goods. Keep items of the same type in one place, and put supplies with shorter expiration periods at the front and newer stock in the back. This way, you can see how much you have of a specific item at a glance.
Use Labels and Tip-Out Bins
In dentistry, keeping things on countertops and the shelves of cabinets is a surefire recipe for chaos. Dental supplies and tools are often small and medium-sized. It’s best to contain them rather than keep them loose.
Regarding how to organize your dental supplies, you can use traditional tubs or a tray system, but tip-out bins are an even better solution for storing smaller dental supplies such as burs, mouth mirrors, composite kits, and more.
Commercial tip-out bins are made of sturdy, easy-to-clean plastic and have clear sides so you can easily see what’s inside. Unlike pull-out bins that require the installation of a track rail, tip-out bins attach to the wall to maximize floor space. They lean at an angle, so you can quickly grab items with one hand.
For best results, consider implementing a labeling system as well. Dental supplies and packaging often look alike, so labels save time by eliminating confusion and mistakes. You can buy a professional label maker or ready-to-use label stickers.
If you are a dental professional running a big practice with a lot of supplies, you may also want to use a barcode labeling system. By placing a unique barcode on each pull-out bin, you can quickly scan, locate, and audit supplies.
Maintain Dental Instruments and Tools Properly
Tool maintenance and sterilization after each dental procedure are essential for infection control and optimal oral health results. Proper maintenance can also improve the day-to-day organization in your dental office and especially in the treatment room.
- Organize the sterilization area: Optimize your tool sterilization area so that it doesn’t take up valuable countertop space in the dental operatory. Once sterilization is complete, put all tools in barrier bags for easy access. Immediately dispose of expired tools according to state and federal dentistry regulations, and consider getting rid of items you never use to make space.
- Don’t skip preventative maintenance: Check, clean, and lubricate handpieces and other dental equipment per the manufacturer’s instructions. Proper and regular maintenance will prolong the shelf life of your instruments, driving up cost savings.
- Avoid bad cleaning practices: Don’t use hot water, as it can cause blood to coagulate inside the instrument. Also, don’t use corrosive disinfectants and abrasive products that can damage the outer surface of your tools.
Create Inventory Guides and Train New Staff
Every dental practice should have an office manual that sets out all policies and protocols, including a standardized procedure for inventory management.
Among other things, that procedure should cover who is responsible for which part of the supplies ordering and organization process. That helps new hires on your dental team hit the ground running and gives you better control over the process. By dividing responsibilities among several employees, you can avoid ordering overpriced or unnecessary items, buying too few supplies, and even prevent theft and fraud.
For best results, consider making different staff members responsible for:
- Requesting quotes
- Approving purchases
- Placing orders
- Making payments
- Receiving deliveries
- Organizing dental and office supplies
- Auditing the stockroom
Of course, if you run a smaller dental practice, you likely won’t be able to assign each of these tasks to a separate individual. That’s okay — dividing inventory management even between two or three employees, such as a dental assistant, a receptionist, and a dental hygienist, can greatly improve efficiency.
Utilize Digital Tools and Technology
The bigger and more successful your dental clinic, the harder it is to stay on top of inventory management. You progressively need more supplies that take longer to order and organize and direct valuable resources away from patient care.
Instead of trying to keep track of dental supplies manually, consider investing in inventory management software for your practice. There are many digital solutions on the market that can automate and streamline supply management so that you can spend more time caring for your patients and growing your business.
Stock management tasks you can automate include:
- Supplies list creation: Instead of creating stock lists manually, you can leverage digital solutions to build lists using catalogs of frequently used products in the dental industry.
- Supply tracking: You can use stock management software to set up a barcode system. By scanning barcodes, you can immediately identify products, find items in your stockroom, and generate inventory usage reports.
- Quote requests and order placement: Dentistry digital solutions allow you to automatically request multiple quotes simultaneously, perform cost analysis, place and track orders, and more.
Switch to Digital Forms
Paper documents can take up a lot of space in your office. Cataloging and sorting paperwork also wastes valuable business hours. To free up storage space, save time, improve customer service, and streamline the patient experience, consider switching to digital-only forms.
Weave Digital Forms is our proprietary solution for dental practices that allows you to collect patients’ information before they even set foot in your office. Simply send your forms by text or email for patients to fill out on a desktop, tablet, or mobile device.
In addition to saving you money on paper costs and data input, our software saves staff time on form creation. Building and updating forms of any type — patient intake forms, medical history forms, and more — takes just a few clicks and doesn’t require any special skill.
You can use the ready-made templates or customize them by dragging and dropping your required fields and sections. If you prefer to use your existing templates, you can do that too: Just scan and upload your forms, and our software will digitalize them for you.
More importantly, Weave Digital Forms eliminates human error and data input mistakes, which are common reasons for insurance claim denials.
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Level Up Your Stock Management With Weave
For more ideas on how to organize dental supplies, check out Weave Digital Forms. However, keep in mind that digital forms are just one aspect of dental practice organization. At Weave, we have many other solutions for streamlining the day-to-day running of your dental office — be sure to check them out, too.