Woman looking at the time in the doctors lobby

Stay on Schedule With These Time Management Tips

Dec 01, 2016 

Author: Jen Collins,RDH

On any given day, staying on schedule can be a huge challenge. You schedule your patients for the appropriate time, and you also have to balance watching the clock without compromising patient care. It's sometimes a challenge for both the patient and dental hygienist to be prompt. What can you do to stay on schedule? Here are some easy-to-implement tips.

Arrive Early

Think of this motto every morning: "To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late." Arriving early to work is key to staying on schedule and gives you the time to prepare for your day at the office. Some essential tasks that you should make time for in the morning include turning on your equipment, powering up your computer, making sure you have the necessary instruments and instrument sharpening. You should try to make extra tray setups, and complex trays, ready just in case you need them.

To be early, you may have to wake up 10 minutes earlier and avoid hitting the snooze button. Pack your lunch and lay out your clothes the night before so that you have one less thing to do in the morning.

Review Your Schedule

Reviewing your schedule for the day lets you determine which patients may make it challenging for you to stay on schedule. For instance, periodontal maintenance appointments require assistance with charting, so make sure a team member is available. Go over the office schedule with your team members and put special notes into the schedule ahead of time to alert others to when assistance is needed in your treatment room.

Keeping detailed chart notes will save you time and make visits much easier. Quick reference notes will save you from going through a patient's entire dental history. Check with the front office to see if there are any changes to your schedule to eliminate any surprises. As noted by RDH Magazine, over-scheduling can throw off your entire day, and create stress for you and the office as a whole.

Stock Supplies

Team up with your coworkers to ensure that all items are stocked and drawers are full of any supplies that will be needed that day. Always check central sterilization to make sure that reusable instruments from the previous day have been reprocessed; if they have not, have them reprocessed to keep up with instrument requirements. Making sure your home care products are in the proper place saves time from running back and forth from the supply and treatment rooms.

If a patient is a no-show, you can spend your free time organizing and preparing for your next patient. It may also be a good time to order any supplies the office is short on. Being proactive can save you a headache down the road.

Communicate Effectively

Chatting with patients builds great rapport, but sometimes being overly talkative can put you behind schedule. When it comes time to talk about the patient's oral health, explain any issues and instructions simply, yet clearly. Incorporating short videos into the appointment may be a good strategy to get your point across. Of course, make sure to never sacrifice patient care for the sake of staying on schedule.

Communication with dentists is key as well. As soon as you are ready for the dentist's exam, let him or her know immediately. Contrary to some popular belief, you do not have to wait until the end of the appointment for the dentist's exam.

Collect Data

One key to staying on schedule is having accurate data collection. The Colgate Gum Health Physical is a great tool because it allows you to mark specific areas in the mouth that the dentist and patient should pay special attention to. Demonstrating patient education within the module is simple. For example, the "Flossing Technique" video is a quick way to explain periodontal disease. Patients will better understand gum conditions when they can visualize the probe moving from two to 12, which signifies bone loss. Creating a Gum Health Physical Patient Report gives the patient and doctor your recommendation for periodontal maintenance interval.


  • Arrive early to work to get organized and stock supplies.
  • Review your schedule and communicate with team members.
  • Provide accurate data collection for the patient and dentist.

Why It's Important

Staying on schedule is important to keep your office running smoothly. Patients appreciate an office that stays on schedule and it helps to keep their own day from running behind. Staying on schedule creates less stress and tension for the whole team.

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