Scheduling is the most important system in your dental practice

Can we all agree that systems are critical to the success of any business? Systems represent the core of any organization. They’re in place to keep your machine running. There are three core systems to any dental practice: Schedule, Produce, and Collect. Think about that for a minute. Without dental patients in your schedule, you can’t produce, and without production, you can’t collect. Without a doubt, your schedule is the most important management system in your dental practice.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to dental office scheduling. There are simply too many variables, and your practice management software is likely not very good at handling them – even after importing all of your procedural times. Does it really take twice the time to prep two crowns in the same quadrant? No!

Your schedule reflects dental chair time. It’s the amount of time a patient occupies the operatory chair. Every procedure is a series of smaller processes – some that require the doctor, and some that do not. It is important to time out every one of these processes. You must consider things like op set up, anesthesia, crown prep and breakdown. We call this “Smart Seat™” scheduling. You’ve got to be smart about how that seat is occupied.

The first step in Smart Seat™ scheduling is looking at your schedule and how it is set up. Switch to ten-minute increments, now! Why? Because accuracy is key. “Accurate scheduling allows you to maximize your most fundamental and irreplaceable resource: Doctor time.” (excerpt taken from The Guide to Maximizing Productivity by Dr. David Ahearn). By switching to ten-minute increments, you open up an additional hour to treat patients.

Any process that takes less than ten minutes of doctor time does not denote doctor time in your schedule

Analyze how much chair time is required for each appointment and delegate as much as you can so that you can focus on doing the things only you can do! For example, a single crown prep requires 70 minutes of chair time but might only require thirty minutes of doctor time. If prepping two teeth in the same quadrant, an additional ten minutes of doctor time might be required. Don’t worry if your preps take a little longer. This is a judgment-free zone. Speed is not important here. I cannot stress how important it is to be honest in your time trials. Every ten-minute increment is allocated as follows:

(-) = Anesthetic Time
(X) = Doctor Time
(/) = Assistant Time

Procedure 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
One crown -/ / X X X / /
Two crowns -/ / X X X X / /
Three …


You have some homework to do. Take the next two to three weeks and time out all of your procedures and average out how much time is allocated to doctor, assistant, hygiene time. Hygiene exams are less than ten minutes and do not denote doctor time in the schedule, so be careful. A solo practitioner with three hygiene checks at the top of every hour may cause bottlenecks.

Implement Intelligent Dental Office Scheduling

Be cognizant of what is going on behind the operatory chair too – the support systems! With intelligent scheduling, treatment rooms can be pre-set. Your team can anticipate – rather than react- allowing for more time to concentrate on patient care. I can remember getting behind on instruments, dirty operatories, and patients waiting while still being responsible to fabricate that temporary crown – rushing to get it cemented and it just didn’t fit right. I hated that feeling.

Schedule with a purpose. Have a well-balanced mix of procedures and a goal. Be productive. In a blog I posted in June, 2020, I shared, “Productivity is the result of the quantity of work produced by your dental practice in a given amount of time. Think of your productivity as a measure of outputs divided by inputs.” If patients treated are outputs, then time and resources put into treating your patients are inputs.

Remember, the key to productivity is not the volume of patients you see in a day, but the amount of dentistry you do.

Proper dental office scheduling allows you to practice at a much higher level without overexerting yourself

When you get your procedure times down, let me take care of the clinical support system. I GUARANTEE to save at least five minutes per patient visit which opens up more opportunities to treat one more patient in every column in your schedule per day.

For help, please contact the Smart Seat™ scheduling hotline, (813) 833-4645 or

Author Angie Bachman