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Inventory management is a tedious but essential part of running a dental practice. You need hundreds of different types of dental products to deliver care to your patients, with items ranging from mouth mirrors to X-ray equipment to handpieces. Additionally, you need all types of office supplies, from phones and computers to chairs and magazines. Keeping track of everything you need can take a lot of work, but it’s necessary so that you don’t run out of vital supplies at a critical time. Here’s a simple three-step approach to creating an efficient inventory management system that will save you work so you have more time to devote to caring for your patients.

1. Create a Checklist

The foundation of a good inventory management system is a comprehensive checklist. A complete checklist may contain hundreds of items, so it’s best to divide your list up into categories. Major categories can include:

  • Restorative supplies and instruments, such as Tofflemire matrix bands, syringes and microbrushes
  • Crown and bridge supplies, such as impression trays, temporizing matrix material and packing cord instruments
  • General equipment, such as air compressors and vacuum pumps
  • Laboratory supplies and equipment, such as model trimmers, plaster traps and alginic acid
  • X-ray equipment, such as digital sensors and lead aprons
  • Handpieces, along with supplementary supplies such as o-rings
  • Removable prosthetic supplies, such as tissue conditioners
  • Oral surgery supplies, such as scalpel blades, syringes and suction tips
  • Anesthetics, such as lidocaine
  • Burs, polishing kits and discs
  • Ultrasonic cleaners
  • Preventives, such as toothpaste, patient floss and sealants
  • Infection control, sterilization and disinfection equipment, such as masks, nitrile gloves and disinfection wipes
  • Disposables, such as air water syringe tips, patient bibs and cotton rolls
  • Miscellaneous supplies, such as towel dispensers, cotton roll dispensers and dental emergency kits
  • Storage units, such as bins
  • Office supplies, such as custom stationery, office phones and computers
  • Reception area equipment, such as furniture, magazines and coffee
  • Staff kitchen equipment, such as refrigerators, microwaves and utensils
  • Office branding supplies, such as signs, brochures and folders with office logos

You can record your checklist by hand, in a spreadsheet or in an app. For ease of use, it is best to create your checklist in an electronic format that can be exported to an inventory management app.

Track Inventory Usage

Once you have a checklist of essential items, the next step is to set up a procedure for logging your inventory. Take an initial count of how many units you have for each item on your inventory checklist, and update this each time an item is used. For instance, each time you replace an o-ring on a handpiece, you should subtract one from your o-ring replacement supply. For each item, you should log:

  • Name of the item
  • Quantity
  • Date
  • Initials of whoever is using an item from inventory

You can log items manually by hand or in a spreadsheet program. However, for maximum efficiency, it’s advisable to use a dental inventory management software app.

Schedule Supply Restocking

To make sure you have inventory on hand when you need it, you’ll want to set up a system for scheduling supply restocking. Most clinics wait until they’re almost out of an item to reorder, which is a recipe for headaches. A more efficient system is to proactively estimate when you’re going to run out of key items.

For your most frequently used items, you should keep track of how many units you use per day and how long it takes you to receive a resupply order after submitting one. Multiplying these numbers together will give you your reorder point for that item, letting you know how low you can let your supply get for that item before you need to restock.

To remind yourself when to reorder, you can use a manual system such as sticking an index card between units in stock at the point you’ll need to reorder. But a more efficient method is to schedule automatic reordering with your inventory management software. Keeping up with dental inventory can be a major chore, but you can make the task easier by following a few simple steps. A comprehensive checklist lays a foundation for effective inventory management. Use your checklist to log use of items and track when it’s time to restock. Inventory management software can automate this process, saving you many hours of labor so that you have more time to focus on helping your patients.

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