Recently, I encountered a smaller orthodontic practice with a typical problem. Starts on the orthodontist’s schedule were booked 8 weeks in advance. However, his major referrers were unhappy about their patients having to wait so long to begin treatment.

When he came to us for analysis, we determined tha the client’s minor procedures, such as observation patient appointments, quick checks, and emergency repairs, clogged the schedule. The continual flow of minor procedures was proving to be a distraction. Consequently, it was difficult for him to focus on major, productive procedures.

Productive treatment is the primary focus of the practice. The perplexing question then becomes, "Where can the orthodontist put minor procedures?"

Our consulting team made the following recommendations:

• Analyze the schedule and reorganize it by grouping similar procedures.
• Create space in the schedule for daily bonding appointments.
• One chair should be assigned solely as the minor procedure chair. Smaller procedures should be separated entirely from the regular schedule.

The results for this orthodontic client were dramatic. The orthodontist’s schedule was revised so that new bonding and banding appointments were only booked 3 to 4 weeks out. As a result, he saw an increase in referrals from all of his referrers. As he suspected, they must have been sending some patients elsewhere when his practice was so overbooked.

The practice did not lose any of the cases that were ready to start and experienced a 25% increase in production. All these changes greatly reduced the stress for the doctor and the staff.

When a schedule becomes overburdened, it can be easy to miss what causes bottlenecks. In orthodontics, smaller procedures can easily be delegated to a minor procedure chair to allow the practice greater flexibility.

Roger P. Levin, DDS