4 Easy Steps to Take Back Control of Your Dental Inventory

Luca Tizzano
February 28, 2024

Did you know that managing supplies the traditional way is costing your dental practice both time and money?

Do you believe your dental practice must invest in everyday sundries or specialty materials to ensure optimal oral health outcomes? Or do you think it's more prudent to be practical when budgeting for dental supplies?

According to Dental Economics, “the inventory management process is out-of-mind for many dental practitioners, with supply purchases often an unstructured and sometimes purely reactive process. As supply costs rise and profit margins thin, dental practices need to embrace the best practices of Lean inventory management to maintain and grow profitability.”

But what exactly is inventory management, and why inventory processes are a key area where many dental practices have room for improvement?

Inventory management is a systematic method for ordering, receiving, and tracking the products in your practice's stockroom. This essential process significantly influences your practice's cash flow and profitability, while also playing a pivotal role in enhancing staff efficiency and productivity.

That's why it's crucial for your practice to maintain the appropriate stock levels, ensuring that you have the right amount of inventory in the right location and at the right time.

You might be thinking, “I do not want items to fly off the shelves faster than I can re-stock and be short of a product in the middle of an emergency procedure. I prefer to hold extra stock rather than run out of a product when I need it most and make a patient wait or come back.”

There's no denying the importance of your patient-centered approach. Providing exceptional dental care means ensuring your patients receive the highest level of attention and service.

However, it's unnecessary to commit to larger batch orders to deliver excellent oral health care. For instance, avoiding the retention of Composite Material beyond its expiration date due to overordering is essential for maintaining high standards of patient care

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Below you will find four easy steps to help you achieve a more judicious inventory balance.

Follow them to improve your practice’s bottom line, manage time more wisely, lower stress levels, keep staff happier and more motivated and ultimately, improve the patient experience by keeping your practice and its supplies better organised.

Step 1: Identify Key Inventory Problems in Your Practice

Way too often, the phrase “inventory management” strikes terror into the hearts of dental staff members.

When dentists and dental nurses describe their lives, they often use the same two words: stress and overwhelm. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone. But did you know that poor inventory management is one of the biggest causes of stress and burnout in a dental practice?

While you may believe that a chaotic schedule and challenging patients are the primary stressors in your practice, the truth is that effective time management presents the most significant challenge.

Staff members are under constant stress to meet demanding appointment schedules - not to mention the time spent on annoying, repetitive, and monotonous administrative tasks (including inventory management).

Hence, the struggle to find ample hours in the day to accomplish everything on your to-do list may appear like an insurmountable task.

That’s why finding enough hours in the day to achieve everything on your to-do list may seem a hopeless endeavour.

Keep a close eye on these dental inventory management problems that are negatively impacting your team’s time management, taking a heavy toll on your practice's cost-efficiency:

  • Inconsistent tracking causing a gap between the time you buy a product and the time the update is reflected in your system
  • Long, tedious, and time-consuming process that makes staff members spend up to 15 hours a week on stock management
  • Inadequate forecasting and limited visibility into stock levels - Both lead to overstocking (having too much of an unwanted product in your stockroom) and understocking (not having enough items in your stockroom to perform specific operations
  • Unorganised and messy stockroom where items are placed on shelves randomly, causing poor performance in the workflows
  • Relying on error-prone manual processes and physical counts instead of scanning barcodes to efficiently keep track of the inventory