5 Ways to Ensure Smooth Patient Treatments

Dentists and Hygienists – follow these 5 important steps to keep large treatment cases running on time and improve patient safety during routine, sedation, or quad cases.

By Sharon Boyd, MA, RDH

Large treatment planning cases—such as those requiring quad scaling and/or sedation—require multiple steps to ensure things run smoothly. From seating your patient to completing all care steps that day, preparation is key. Here are five essential elements of ensuring your complex care planning cases go uninterrupted.

1. Always Plan Ahead

The most important element of every efficient hygiene schedule is to plan ahead. Familiarize yourself with the exact treatments to be performed, any unique needs the patient brings to the case, and the time required to render those services. Although some flexibility may be needed to accommodate more advanced patient care, most hygiene practitioners know how long it will take to perform specific therapies, such as quad scaling or administering local anesthesia medication.

Double-check that the patient is scheduled for an appropriate amount of time for each phase of care to take place, especially if the patient is receiving both hygiene and restorative treatments on the same day. Check the weekly schedule each Friday before leaving the office and the next day’s schedule before leaving at the end of every business day to ensure adequate time is set aside for each respective appointment.

2. Double Check the Operatory Setup

Next, reference the care plan to determine which specific procedures are to be performed as well as any additional services that could potentially be worked into the schedule if time allows or the patient needs them. Have sterilized instruments set aside for each procedure and ideally left out the day before in preparation for longer complex appointments the next morning. Check that all materials and supplies are stocked, preventing the need to step away or pause the care process. Always set the room up for the next morning before you leave for the day. These seemingly second-nature protocols can add up to several minutes of delays in your schedule without realizing it. Either arrive early to re-stock or do so the evening before. If specific materials are needed, always check supplies the day before the planned treatment.

3. Review All Previous Records on the Patient

Be sure to read through each previous appointment note before the patient’s scheduled service. It is not safe or practical to work off of your memory. Especially in instances involving medications or sedatives. Be sure to read through the patient’s health history and current medication list, note any previous adverse reactions, and reference medical clearances (if applicable).

Reviewing patient records is an elemental piece of the patient safety puzzle. Otherwise, simple yet serious red flags could easily be overlooked, placing your patient’s safety at risk or at the minimum, delaying the start of the procedure.

4. Practice Good Time Management

Scheduling large cases first thing in the day will help to avoid falling behind or creating a chain reaction of running behind with subsequent patients. Comprehensive patient cases typically rely on multiple staff members, hygienists included, when it comes to timing, services rendered, and room turnover. Preparing well ahead of the scheduled procedure is key to starting on time.

Encourage your patient to arrive early so that the appointment begins as scheduled. So long as all equipment is available, sterilized, and records on hand, it is up to the practitioner—whether a hygienist, dentist, or someone else—to use past time studies to know how long the actual procedure will take them to complete.

5. Observe Safe and Timely Medication Management

When your patient receives sedative medication during their procedure, the dosage must be timed properly with your scheduled service. From the timing of subsequent dosing to recovery time, the entire dental team must be familiar with proper IV medication management and protocols in addition to standard sedation monitoring.

A thorough review of the patient’s health history, current medications, and medical clearances must be thoroughly checked and re-checked against the type of sedative being used and the level of sedation being achieved. For example, oral sedatives vs. IV medications, their duration, and potential risk factors the patient brings to the table.

Proper Training is Key

With the right training, managing large patient cases and sedation procedures come as second nature. DOCS advanced sedation courses equip hygienists and dental office staff to identify potential barriers to care, red flags, and safely monitor a diverse range of patient populations within the dental practice. With proper preparation and the mindset of always planning ahead, hygienists can effectively run their schedule on time without jeopardizing patient care or safety.


Author: Sharon Boyd, MA, RDH — Sharon has over 20 years of experience in the dental industry and is the founder of DentaSpeak, LLC. In addition to being a registered hygienist, she serves as a full-time patient education professional, with a special interest in strategic dental communications. She often works as a liaison between practitioners and patients, bridging the gap between care needs and patient concerns. Sharon is an Ironman, band mom, and enjoys volunteering at her family’s church.

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