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Mastering Your Schedule: A Guide for Performing Accurate Time Studies

Betsy Cord Portis, DAADOM with text, "Real-world insights from AADOM authors"

The perfect schedule looks different in every dental office.

Determining the perfect day in your dental practice starts with a series of time studies.

Enlist the help of your dental assistants, and let’s get started!

Keep it quiet

The first rule for executing accurate time studies is to do it without telling the person they’re being timed.

If they know they’re being timed, they could unintentionally skew the numbers!

Some want to see how fast they can go, while others drag it out to ensure that they’re left with enough time to check their email after each procedure.

Dental assistants should have an inconspicuous method for jotting down data in the operatory.

Tip: Keep a sticky note under your keyboard or hidden in a drawer out of sight.

Take your time

Be prepared for this process to take several weeks.

Accuracy is key, so you can create an ideal schedule that helps you reach your goals.

Choose one primary procedure to focus on initially.

You don’t want to time every procedure on your schedule on the same day.

It’s wise to start with the most common high production service in your office, such as:

  • A single crown
  • Implant placement
  • Endodontic procedure

Most importantly, make sure you compare the same procedures with each other.

For instance:

You can’t compare a crown plus build-up with a simple crown that does not require a build-up.

Each of these treatments should be measured on its own. Assign different procedures to each dental assistant so you can keep the process moving.

Do I time everything?

From the moment the patient is seated to when they walk out of the room, track every minute the doctor enters the room, leaves the room, and why.

Initially, the doctor may administer an anesthetic or conduct an examination; write down the time they walk in and out.

While the doctor is out, what is happening? Is this productive assistant time, or just waiting?

When the doctor returns to start the procedure, once again, note exact times. Does your doctor step out for hygiene checks? Those also need to be noted.

Design a small chart to help you keep track of all the coming and going. After each procedure, add up each section of time.

Your results will look something like this:

  • Patient seated: 1 minute
  • Doctor for anesthetic: 7 minutes
  • Assistant: 14 minutes
  • Doctor for procedure: 43 minutes
  • Hygiene check: 6 minutes
  • Doctor finish procedure: 12 minutes
  • Total: 83 minutes

Review each procedure at least 4-5 times to get an accurate average.

New doctors may require more studies for each procedure, while more seasoned professionals will usually be consistent with their timing.

What do I do with all these numbers?

This new data should give you a detailed depiction of how much time you need to schedule for each studied procedure, not only for doctor time but also for assistant time.

You’ll find it easier to align a two-operatory schedule when you know where the doctor needs to be at all times. Searching for emergency time will be a problem of the past.

Use this data along with the associated procedure fees to determine your perfect block-booked schedule.

If you have dental hygienists who struggle with time limitations, you can also use this method for hygiene visits.

Just remember to continue to separate procedures, such as:

  • New patients
  • Bitewings
  • Panos
  • Perio charting
  • Waiting on the doctor
  • And more

Crush your goals

Keeping an efficient schedule is the lifeblood of your dental practice.

The process of performing accurate time studies will allow you to make use of each valuable moment of your day without the risk of falling behind schedule or making patients wait past their appointment time.

Watch how your goals are easily attained when you set your practice up for success!


Meet the Author

Betsy Cord in a black and white blazer and black top, presenting on reopening your practiceBetsy Cord Portis, DAADOM, is the office administrator for Ryan F. Mueller, DMD in Downtown Portland, Oregon. She single-handedly runs the front office of Dr. Mueller’s busy private practice, analogous to an octopus, with a hand in all areas of patient care and practice management.

Betsy also presides over the local Portland Metro AADOM Chapter… This text opens a new tab to the Portland AADOM website….

In 2018, she was named AADOM’s Practice Administrator of the Year, and in 2021, she was inducted into AADOM’s first class of Diplomates.

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