Stop Wasting Money on Expired Dental Materials!

July 27, 2023

Many dental practices don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to their materials budget. Part of your overhead will always include some wasted supplies, but expired dental materials can add up to thousands of dollars down the drain (sometimes literally) every year.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common dental materials that overstay their expiration dates and how you can minimize those losses.

The Hidden Cost of Expired Materials

There are certain materials that tend to pop up in every dentist’s mind when they think of the money wasted on lapsed expiration dates.

What many of us don’t consider is that, in addition to money wasted on unused purchases, some materials also require proper disposal which can carry its own hefty price tag.

Amalgam needs a special receptacle and mercury suppressant as well as collection by a properly permitted management facility. X-ray developer and fixer can’t just be poured down the drain. Even unused local anesthetics should be marked as pharmaceutical waste and disposed of separately, not put in the normal sharps container.

Although there can be a steep initial cost, modernizing your dental practice (link: by going digital and moving away from more volatile materials will help prevent waste as well as decreasing overhead in the long run.

The Most Common Offenders

There are a few dental materials that have a track record for overstaying their expiration dates, even in state-of-the-art offices.

  • Composite resins.

Composite is one of the most common materials that expire in a dental office, especially unusual and rarely used shades.

  • Anesthetic.

Anesthetic carpules sometimes get shuffled to the backs of drawers or supply closets. Be sure to check your expiration date before every injection!

  • Sterilization supplies.

Enzymatic cleaners, ultrasonic solution, and even sanitizing wipes (link: have expiration dates that sometimes go ignored.

  • Patient products.

Selling expired prescription toothpastes, mouthwashes, and other medicaments doesn’t shine a great light on your practice.

Dental Material Black Holes: Where Materials Go to Expire

Every dental practice has a few nooks and crannies where supplies and materials tend to disappear and go forgotten. Identifying these dental material black holes and coming up with good systems (link: to keep stockpiles refreshed can significantly cut down on material waste.

Supply Closet

Disorganized supply closets lead directly to wasted materials, not to mention dust bunnies.

Here are a few strategies to prevent expired materials in your storage area.

  1. FIFO. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you should know the “first in, first out” principle. Establish a strict policy for restocking when orders arrive of pulling the oldest materials to the front and putting the freshest at the bottom of the pile. That way, staff can easily grab the materials closest to expiring!
  2. Use clear storage containers. Containers are a great way to keep your supply closet organized and tidy. Clear containers ensure your staff can see what’s inside and prevent duplicating orders by mistakenly thinking you’re out of something. Bonus points if you have a label maker!
  3. Yearly or twice-yearly spring cleaning. Set aside time in the schedule once or twice every year for staff to roll up their sleeves and clear out supply closets and operatories. Pull everything out, wipe down and sanitize your storage areas, and then restock using FIFO and checking expiration dates for every item.

As a hygienist, I’ll be honest: we hide supplies

We’re like squirrels. Your assistants do it, too, I promise.

Ideally, every operatory in your practice runs a full column most days. That means your hygienists and assistants don’t have a moment to waste prepping for their next patient or hunting for items.

Secret stashes in operatories help us avoid slow-downs or running out of things we need, but they sometimes get stuffed in dark corners and go unused for months or even years.

Setting aside time in the schedule for your staff to do a deep clean of their operatory and re-organize their supplies will help ensure cleanliness as well as prevent materials from expiring.

Under Sinks and Other Low-Traffic Areas

Sterilization and cleaning supplies are frequently stored under sinks and in other out-of-the-way places. Unfortunately, these areas are out of our eye line and can end up becoming expired material graveyards.

Wherever possible, set aside storage space for these materials where they are easily visible and accessible, so they don’t end up relegated to dark corners of your office.

Items that don’t expire like trash bags and paper supplies are better suited for those nooks and crannies.

Good Ordering Routines Are Key to Eliminating Waste

Finding the sweet spot for how much of each material to stock depends on many variables. Obviously, you don’t want to understock as running out of materials will disrupt your ability to treat patients.

There are certain situations, such as the potential upcoming shipment disruptions (link: when overstocking is a good idea. But in general over-stocking too much leads directly to expired materials.

So how do you balance ordering to ensure you don’t run low on materials but they don’t go unused until they expire?

First, make it easy for your staff to keep track of materials and when it’s time to re-order. Tag systems are incredibly helpful, and there are plenty of resources online for how to build an effective tag system. It can be high tech and use RFID, or simply a card with the relevant details written on it!

Automating your ordering as much as possible is another great way to avoid supplies issues.

Software that helps track inventory, automatically renew certain items on a set schedule, and easily adjust your orders will take out the guesswork and help you minimize waste without running low on what you need.

Enjoy better flow in your workdays with well-organized dental materials and efficient ordering systems. Check out ZenSupplies to easily track your inventory levels, restock supplies in a timely manner, and reduce the chances of running out of essential items during procedures. ZenSupplies not only saves time but also minimizes disruptions during patient treatments, leading to smoother and more efficient workdays.

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