Last Updated on November 12, 2023 by Anna Baumann
Three Simple Ways to Help Dental Assistants Stay Organized and Reduce Stress
Dental office staffing has never been more difficult. It’s almost impossible to find experienced clinical and administrative staff who actually want to come into an office and work. So when you find good people, you want to do all you can to keep them with you. One of the best ways to do that is to create a safe, low-stress environment, where the days flow smoothly. And to make that happen, you must have good systems in place.
“By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
A Dental Assistant’s start time should be at least a half hour before their first scheduled patient. They need the time to prepare if you want them to begin the day feeling calm and confident. I know many offices that prefer to allow a 15-minute window at the beginning of the day. But in my experience, that’s not enough. Give them plenty of time, but monitor it. If you see it used for personal hygiene, eating breakfast, and coffee talk, then adjust as necessary. (I only mention it because I’ve seen it.) Whatever their job position, there are always those who will try to take advantage. But the majority will appreciate the opportunity to start the day well-prepared.
Before-work preparation is just as important as at-work preparation. If you are a Dental Assistant, make lunch the night before so it’s ready to grab and go in the morning. Sleep well and wake up with plenty of time to eat, dress, and get to work.
“Either you run the day, or the runs you.”~ Jim Rohn
Write things down! Our busy brains have so much to do. Once something is in writing, we don’t have to depend on remembering. Create and use a Dental Assistant Manual of instructions. Not only is it comforting to have a reference of important information to turn to as we move through our busy days. But it’s also a great resource for temps and new employees.
Utilize checklists for all necessary tasks. The less we have to remember on our own, the better! Checklists free the mind of clutter and allow us to glance and go with confidence that we aren’t forgetting to do important things! Every office is different so review your day-to-day needs and create dependable checklists. Here are some examples of what should be on a Dental Assistant’s Opening, Closing, Daily, and Weekly/Monthly Checklists:
- Turn everything on; lights, computers, compressors, etc
- Prepare operatories
- Fill and install dental unit water bottles
- Restock drawers, bins, and materials as necessary
- Set up for first procedures
- Run handpieces and spray water through air/water to clean the lines and ensure that everything works properly
- Prepare sterilzation areas
- Fill ultrasonic
- Empty the autoclave and rerun, if necessary
- Ensure sterilzation area is properly stocked
- Schedule audit (If not done before leaving the previous day.)
- Scan through patient alerts and medical histories. Note allergies, special requests, and concerns.
- Ensure there are current x-rays on file for each scheduled procedure. Note patients who may need updated x-rays, IOC photos, or impressions.
- Review procedure details to anticipate materials needed.
- Check lab cases
- Check the next day’s schedule for deliveries and ensure their cases are there
- Check due dates and call labs regarding cases not received
- Complete in-office lab work as time allows
- Check the sterilization area often and help to keep the process flowing throughout the day
- Restock operatories and sterilization area as needed
- Check other checklists to ensure everything is checked
- Run evacuation solution through dental unit suctions
- Empty ultrasonic solution
- Start autoclave if necessary
- Verify the first scheduled patient time for the next scheduled day
- Turn everything off; lights, computers, compressors, etc.
- Give operatories a final clean so they’re fresh and ready for the next day; raise chairs, sweep or vacuum, dust surfaces, etc.
Weekly/Monthly Checklist-Or, Office Maintenance Checklist
- Complete ultrasonic maintenance
- Complete autoclave maintenance
- Run test strips through the autoclave
- Organize and restock procedure bins and tubs
- Check the inventory list and order necessary supplies
“Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don’t say it in a mean way.” ~ Unknown
Dental Assisting is physically demanding. You’re on your feet most of the day. Then straining your neck and back from leaning over patients during procedures. Self-care is vital for reducing stress and preventing burnout.
So, there you have it! The three simple ways to help Dental Assistants stay organized and reduce stress are to be prepared, write things down, and take care of yourself. It’s usually the simple things that make the biggest difference! I created a customizable manual for Dental Assistants. You can learn more and get a preview of it HERE!