Feature Highlight

Block Scheduling in Open Dental

Patient scheduling is an everyday task that’s critically important to your practice’s success and growth. In this post, we’ll discuss how block scheduling streamlines your scheduling process and allows you to schedule appointments in a way that helps you achieve your production goals while providing excellent care to your patients.

We will review the benefits of block scheduling, common procedures that are (or can be) used in Blockouts , setting up Blockout Types for each procedure group, and how to set up a “Template Week” to make it easier to Cut-Copy-Paste a block schedule.

Walk through the steps of setting up and using Block Scheduling in our webinar.

Block Scheduling: The Benefits

In a block scheduling approach, you would block out your entire day with various types of Blockouts. It is important to remember, though, that it’s a guideline. Life (much like your schedule) can be unpredictable and imperfect, so you will need to leave room for flexibility. Finding the balance between the discipline of scheduling by Blockout and the flexibility to meet the needs of your patients will be key.

Block scheduling can provide the following benefits:

  • Your scheduler can see at-a-glance where different types of appointments can be placed in the schedule (based on the color-coding of different Blockout Types). When patients call, it’s easy to get them scheduled based on the purpose of their visit.
  • With Blockouts color-coded by appointment value, you control the production value mix of your appointments (balancing no- or low-value appointments with high-value appointments).
  • Block scheduling can go a long way toward helping you achieve your production goals while providing excellent dental care to your patients. Larger practices may not require as much scheduling flexibility and may be able to implement block scheduling a bit easier than smaller practices that need to be more nimble with their scheduling.

Set up Blockout Types for each production value group.

What we’re doing here is giving your scheduler visual indicators of the production value of Blockouts for scheduling.
No-or low-value appointments will be things like recall, minor restorative treatment, and deliveries. High-value appointments will be crown preps and SRP, for example. Your production value mix will be different than that of another office. Your Production Goals will help you determine what mix is right for you.

To create Blockout Types for each type of production value, go to Setup, Definitions, Blockout Types. (You will need the Setup permission.)

Name your Blockout (in our example above we have Blockouts for Recall, SRP/Perio, Emergency, Minor Restorative, and Major Restorative), then click on Color to assign a color to this Blockout Type. Do not check “Block appointments scheduling” as this will prevent any appointments from being scheduled on this Blockout.

Tech Tip: Your Blockouts can be a solid color or be outlined in a color, it’s your choice. Go to Setup, Preferences, and toggle “Use solid blockouts instead of outlines on the Appointments Module”.

Setting up a “Template Week”

Take these steps to set up a “Template Week” that you’ll use to copy/paste into future weeks. You will need to have Blockout Types already created before you take these steps.

  • Go to a blank week in your schedule.
  • Right-click in the operatory and time you want to place the Blockout, and select Add Blockout. The Edit Blockout window will open.
  • Customize the Blockout:
    • Select your Start and Stop Time to set the length of the Blockout.
    • Select the Blockout Type.
    • Your current operatory will already be selected in Operatories. If you want the Blockout in more than one operatory, select multiple operatories (click/drag or ctrl+click).
    • Click OK.
  • If each day is the same, you can use Copy Day in Blockout Cut-Copy-Paste to fill in your schedule for the week.
  • Once you have a “template week” copy the week using Blockout Cut-Copy-Paste to apply blackouts to use going forward.

To use Blockout Cut-Copy-Paste:

  • Right-click anywhere on your schedule and then click on Blockout Cut-Copy-Paste.
  • Click Copy Day or Copy Week, this will copy the day or week you are in. Close the window.
  • On the schedule, go to the day or week you want to paste your Blockout schedule on. Right-click and select Blockout Cut-Copy-Paste.
  • Verify the correct day or week is showing in the Clipboard Contents.
    NOTE: If you do not want existing blackouts to be replaced, make sure the Replace Existing box is unchecked (this box is checked by default).
  • Click Paste or click Repeat and enter the number of days or weeks you would like your Blockout schedule to be pasted.

Using Appointment Types

If your office has updated to Open Dental version 22.4, you can assign Blockouts to Appointment Types to take your block scheduling a step further. Assigning Blockouts to your Appointment Types ensures that the appointment can only be scheduled in the designated Blockout, preventing users from accidentally scheduling a recall appointment in a major restorative block or vice-versa, letting your office more strictly enforce the block schedule.

In this example, appointments assigned the Emergency Appointment Type are allowed in the Emergency Blockouts only (as a note, they’ll also be allowed anywhere there is no Blockout). If you try to schedule on any other Blockout Type, you’ll get an error.

If you want to make sure that staff are assigning Appointment Types when creating appointments, go to Setup, Appointments, Appointment Types, and enable New appointments prompt for appointment type. This will ensure that users get the Appointment Type selection when they create a new appointment, and if you’ve set up Appointment Types restricted to specific Blockouts it will help to make sure they get scheduled at the correct times.

If you ever need the flexibility to schedule outside of your Blockouts, staff can always set the Appointment Type to None and the appointment can be scheduled anywhere there is not a Blockout that restricts all appointment scheduling


Once you’ve created your Appointment Types restricted to Blockouts, when you go to schedule, you can easily use the Appointment Search when the appointment is on the Pinboard to search for the allowed Blockouts. If you used the Make Appt button, the appointment should already be on the Pinboard, otherwise, drag the appointment to the Pinboard from where it is currently scheduled.

Simply click Search and Open Dental will search for openings restricted to the allowed Blockout Types for the Appointment Type assigned to the appointment selected on the Pinboard. No need to open the Advanced Search!

Block scheduling can help your practice boost scheduling efficiency and balance the production mix of appointments so you can meet and exceed your practice goals. If you have questions about block scheduling or anything in Open Dental, simply reach out to our Support Team – we’re here for you!

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