In many ways the lead dental assistant at your dental practice is like a Swiss army knife. Lead dental assistants are responsible for preparing exam rooms, greeting patients and providing dental care information, taking X-rays, ordering supplies, scheduling appointments, communicating with the front office, assisting with billing and insurance, supervising other dental assistants, and providing chair support to the dentist. 

With such a wide influence, it’s no wonder why lead dental assistants are critical to running a smooth operation at your dental practice. But when it comes to ordering dental supplies, oftentimes the process is anything but efficient. Lead dental assistants have to spend dozens of hours each week navigating supply catalogs, searching for products, logging in and out of different vendor websites, calling sales reps and distributors, tracking shipments, receiving packages, and following up on orders. 

The complexities of ordering supplies for dental practices can get overwhelming fast. And the bigger your dental practice grows, the more important controlling supply costs and improving efficiency becomes. Once you also take into account other procurement challenges such as budgeting and formulary compliance, it’s easy to see how the purchasing process for ordering dental supplies tends to affect a dental practice in more ways than one. 

1) Time

The saying “time is money” holds true for dental practices too. After all, lead dental assistants only have so many hours in the day to get to all of their tasks and provide the patient care that grows the practice. Naturally it begs the question – is your dental assistant’s time being used to its maximum potential? 

Ordering dental supplies is routinely listed by dental assistants as one of the most time-consuming aspects of their job. Lead dental assistants have to know when, where, and how to order the right supplies in the right quantities from a convoluted marketplace of vendors, manufacturers, and sales reps. And when you consider the fact that many dentists and practice owners ask their lead dental assistants to shop around for the best deals on gloves, burs, probes, and other dental supplies, it’s easy to see how ordering supplies can be such a drag on your dental assistant’s time. 

Many dental practices are already facing a labor shortage, and understaffed dental offices can’t afford to waste time shopping for supplies. Exam rooms need to be cleaned, patients need attention, and the rest of the clinical operations must keep up. While some practices may ask their dental assistants to work more hours to get the ordering done, or hire someone else to come in on a temporary basis and place orders, neither of these systems are sustainable for a growing or busy practice. 

Which is why so many practices are shifting to dental procurement technology to do the heavy lifting of supply ordering. Dental purchasing software creates a more efficient dental procurement lifecycle that seamlessly connects ordering with every other aspect of procure-to-pay journey via cloud-based systems. By consolidating all your vendors and products into one digital platform for quick and convenient ordering, lead dental assistants can now purchase dental supplies in a fraction of the time – and turn their attention back to the patient care that is critical to their mission. 

2) Budget

Dental supplies are expensive. It’s not uncommon for supply costs to run anywhere from 5-10% of revenue at the average dental organization. As a direct cost, dental supplies affect your dental practice’s overhead and ultimately its bottom line. 

Dental practices need to be able to track supply costs and set office budgets that limit overspending, otherwise supply purchases can add up in a hurry – especially if your lead dental assistants happen to accidentally order the incorrect products or the wrong quantity. While many dental offices utilize a spreadsheet to record supply purchases, the reality is that dental practice budget worksheets are time-intensive to maintain, prone to human error, and inefficiently connected to your purchasing activity. Spreadsheets don’t give dental practices the up-to-the-minute data they need in order to make intelligent spending decisions and influence office purchasing behavior.

Purchasing software for dental offices, however, offers an all-in-one solution for ordering supplies and controlling dental practice spend with budgets. Now you can set custom budgets and track each purchase by location, product, vendor, specialty, and more so that your lead dental assistants aren’t spending in the dark. Budgets are no longer a lagging indicator with complex maintenance – they’re simply part of the modern ordering experience for dental practices.

3) Oversight

Dental organizations typically use a formulary, or supply catalog, that they encourage offices to order supplies from. The idea behind a formulary is to drive greater consistency in office spending, strengthening your organization’s overall purchasing power and reducing supply costs. 

There are dozens of products, SKUs, and details that a lead dental assistant must keep track of to make sure they are getting the right supplies every time. Especially when a recently acquired dental practice is adopting a new formulary, it is not uncommon for lead dental assistants to purchase products off-formulary from the wrong source. It could be that a doctor prefers a specific brand, or maybe they are just used to ordering from a certain sales rep.

But when off-formulary spending occurs on a regular basis, it often results in higher supply expenses and weakened negotiation leverage with your vendors. This is why it’s important to give your dental organization a procurement software system that guides purchasing behavior with shopping lists and formularies to reduce rogue spending. And with automated spend tracking, it’s now easier than ever to monitor top procurement KPIs such as an on-formulary/off-formulary report and help keep your lead dental assistants on target.

How CureMint Is Helping Lead Dental Assistants

Lead dental assistants certainly don’t have it easy. They have to navigate an ever changing sea of vendors, products, and sales reps in the dental marketplace on top of their clinical duties. All the while, dental practices must have the right supplies on hand in order to provide the best patient care, and rescheduling a patient appointment because you’re out of supplies or worse, trying to complete a procedure with insufficient supplies, is a losing proposition. 

Fortunately dental procurement software is up to the challenge. As one lead dental assistant from a 40-office DSO puts it: “I can buy from all my vendors on CureMint and don’t have to call and sit on hold with people to order … This is working so much better!” With an innovative approach to dental procurement, CureMint is lightening the burden on lead dental assistants and helping to give them more time chairside where they can continue providing top notch patient care that makes a difference. 

Interested in learning more about CureMint’s purchasing software for dental practices? Sign up today for a free demo!