A software tool kit

Jan. 1, 2004
Do you ever get lost while navigating inside a software program? There are so many icons to explore. With all of the new dental management software available...

By Victoria DaCosta

Do you ever get lost while navigating inside a software program? There are so many icons to explore. With all of the new dental management software available, having the right tool kit on your software is a must.

What exactly is a tool kit, or "tool bar?" It is the many icons located across the top of your computer screen when you have a software application opened. In order for the user to be able to use the software application and all of its options, programmers place a strip with picture icons across the top or down the side of a screen for you to identify which kind of options you would like to use for a particular feature.

With the training that comes with dental management software, you will be able to locate these icons on the tool bar and learn how to use them. What happens when you click on these icons? The screen will change to your selected icon of choice. For example, if you click on the "probe" icon, your computer screen will change to a digital perio chart. This is a chart that you can use for your patient's perio record. Or if you click on the "check out" icon then the screen will change to the "check out" procedure screen for your patient's appointment. The tool bar is created for your navigational ease. Once you start using them you will discover just how easy it is to use a computer program for your patient's digital chart.

What icons are of specific interest to dental hygienists? How much training is required to learn all of the icons? The icons you will use most are the tasks you perform the most! It may be the appointment book for scheduling, perio chart, patient chart, X-ray, check out (posting patient procedures), treatment notes, restorative, and maybe a special icon feature you created with your software trainer just for your hygiene department!

Let's take a look at some dental software tool bar features. It is always a good idea to visit the different booths at trade shows, experimenting with the tool bar icons for ease of usage — before the office makes a software selection for your dental hygiene department.


• Location — Some tool bars are located at the top of the desktop; others may be located on the side. I have seen icons placed inside a full screen picture. For example, EagleSoft has its tool bar designed in a picture of an operatory. You simply click on the item of choice in the picture and your desired screen comes up.

• Design — There are many interpretations by programmers of what we do as clinicians, as evidenced by the designs of icons. I find it amusing to see a programmer's interpretation of our task represented with a non-dental cartoon character. Most of these amusing icons are for the front office, not back office.

• Administration tasks — Inside the program, the tool bar is placed so that every task you need to perform for your patient's appointments is easily found.

• Roll over bar — This is a must feature! What is it? When your mouse arrow is placed on the icon, a text box will appear to explain the icon. If you work in multiple offices with different software packages, it is a challenge to remember every program's icons and what they mean. This feature helps you to navigate quickly with what you want to do next inside your patient's digital chart.

• Check out icons — In most dental software programs you will have the ability to create icons that, when clicked, bring up more than one task to post to the appointment scheduler.

• This feature is called "bundling codes." This is not the main tool bar on the top. This is a special check out tool bar, only needed at the time of check out.

• Charting icons — This tool bar is only used when charting patients' restorations inside a treatment plan. Certain dental software companies have different treatment plan systems, but most will offer you this function. For example, if you click on a tooth icon it will place the desired information on the patient's dental chart tooth number. These tool bars are extremely helpful to learn and memorize for treatment planning.


• Short cuts — Faster way to go in between screens instead of using the drop-down menu bar at the top of the screen.

• Reduced learning curve — You don't have to think or memorize much — just recognize the icon. The computer automatically brings up the function/screen.

• Location — With a tool bar, you can always locate where you are by simply clicking on the icon. There is in every software program a main icon that leads you to the patient chart or to a popular screen.

• Software upgrades — Every year or two, a dental management software company may add a new icon on your tool bar, or your doctor may purchase an added-on software program. (The digital X-ray icon, for example, may be "gray" out because your current software does not have the X-ray software yet installed).


• Lack of dental hygiene "thought process" in grouping your workflow.
• Taking up valuable time you don't have to look for what you need next.
• Size of icon and clarity may be too difficult to view on the screen.
• Meaning of a particular icon does not make sense to a hygienist.
• Some software program icons do not follow your hygiene workflow!


• Time saver when you can just click and go!
• Lowers the learning curve for navigating between screens.
• Easy to locate inside the software as opposed to drop-down menus.
• "Click and go" once you memorize the icon's purpose.
• Work flow and tasks are much smoother with icons.
• Once you are familiar with the icons, work speed increases.
• Decreased stress during navigation, because it is a "picture" that is identified.

Hy-Tech user tips ...
for tool bars

• Click on all of the icons to become familiar with what they do.
• Work with a trainer on using the "bundle codes" feature.
• Pick and choose your own shortcut button icons.
• Practice screen changes daily using the tool bar.
• Don't worry about over-clicking and making a mistake.
• Turn your computer off and reboot it, if your icon on the tool bar does not click to a screen
• Layering screens with the icons means having more than one screen open at a time
• If you click on the tool bar icon and the screen doesn't come up it probably is already open, check the bottom of your screen to see if it is there!
• Grayed-out icons mean a software program/screen is not connected to your main software network.
• Many software dental programmers place icons "just in case" the doctor may want to upgrade a software package with a new, added-on software program.

Victoria DaCosta, RDH, BS, is founder and president of Hy-Tech Solutions. A practicing dental hygienist for 17 years, DaCosta is a speaker, author, consultant, and an expert in the design of medical/dental software. She is also on the new technologies committee for the California Dental Hygienists' Association. DaCosta can be contacted at www.hy-techsolutions.com.