With COVID-19 running strong and heavy, a lot of us have jumped in the spring cleaning mode to keep ourselves busy being on house arrest. With dental practices closed there are a lot of items in our dental offices, and the list of supplies can be overwhelming. The question is: who is in charge of keeping the inventory under control? As a team member, you would like all the pieces in place when you start the day and our lives all return back to normal when practices are back and running again.

Find a Point of Person for Ordering

Who is the point person for ordering in your office? Who should order which supplies? There should not be any blame game going on. You never want to be caught in the middle with team members, with one thinking the other is responsible for inventory control and supply purchase.

The dental office usually works on a teamwork model. As there is a place for everything and everything has its place, there is a role for everyone and those roles may be interchangeable or reliant on others for support. Inventory control involves communication between all team members; it’s not merely one assistant’s responsibility. Establishing a routine of inventory control allows it to be reviewed periodically during the month. This should definitely be part of a job description. Although everyone should be knowledgeable about the products they routinely use, a point person should do the actual supply ordering. It goes without saying that the dentist should be kept in the loop about all products ordered.

Does your office have a protocol for inventory control? Is there a standard to order? Do you have a preferred vendor list?

Have a Checklist for Ordering

Dental office manuals, which set forth policies and procedures, should have a section for inventory control. Discuss delegation responsibilities as well as protocol for ordering. Setting up an ordering system is one way to help the office run smoother, and ensures excellent communication between all team members. All items should be assessed once a year, catalogued, and included in this very important systems manual. Dental products change. Your clinician’s preference may go from sticking with the product used for 30 years, or changing with new technology each year. Regardless, it is imperative that a master list be created. This way, if a new team member is hired, he or she may check with the product catalogue and be aware of the need for each item.

Expired Products

Another reason for inventory assessment is to check for expired products. We are not in charge of dental suppliers’ stockrooms. As we assume they will send us the freshest product available, we may have a short time usage for particular products. It is also useful to assess and evaluate if the clinician is using certain restoratives. Offices are only so large. It’s best to clean out supplies not used in a timely manner.

It is easier to assess the current needs and then project for future needs, rather than trying to stockpile products. As noted, some of these products come with expiration dates. Some offices are too small to store large amounts of patient napkins or paper towels, even though they don’t expire. Dental salespeople who visit our office sometimes have outstanding product offers, but we need to assess want vs. need.

Review Inventory Monthly

Once a routine is established and the correct amount is decided upon, a monthly assessment of products on hand can be easily determined. Ordering becomes easier and less stressful.

To run an efficient dental practice, we need functioning equipment and adequate supplies. Inventory control is integral to a smooth-functioning dental office. This creates a calm, flowing work environment and eliminates stress.