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Study: Dental Amalgam Boasts Superior Contamination Resistance Than Other Materials

If you’ve been going back and forth on amalgam and whether you should continue using it in your practice, the findings of a new study could provide some clarity.

 

For two full years, five undergraduate students at Loma Linda University examined the impact of extreme contaminations on amalgam fillings during condensation. The goal of these dedicated research design students was to determine the shear-strength degradation effects on dental amalgam.

 

The researchers assessed the reaction of amalgam to gross contamination during condensation under the following elements:

  • Water
  • Saliva
  • Blood
  • Handpiece lubrication oil

The results, published under the title, “Amalgam Strength Resistance to Various Contaminants,”  demonstrated that amalgam is capable of withstanding “worst-case-scenario” levels of contamination equally or better than its alternatives, including resin-modified glass ionomer.

 

Just How Well Does Amalgam Retain Its Strength?

To summarize, here’s a breakdown of the findings discovered in the research discussed above:

  • Amalgam strength wasn’t reduced to a significantly statistical extent (p= 0.05) by water contamination.
  • Compared to water and blood-contaminated water, saliva reduced in between both.
  • In saliva, the final remaining strength was the same or more than the uncontaminated strengths recorded in the available literature for other restorable materials (e.g., composite resin, resin-modified glass ionomer, glass ionomer.)
  • Amalgam strength degradation was at its most significant – at around 50% – when fully immersed in handpiece lubrication oil during condensation. However, contamination from handpiece lubrication oil was proven to be highly unlikely in practice.
  • Still, the oil contamination resulted in amalgam strengths were the same or more than other available restorative materials while exceeding the minimum compressive strength of 35,000 pounds per square inch

How Do the Alternatives Compare to Dental Amalgam?

The results above already indicate the dental amalgam can withstand contaminative circumstances better than many alternatives.

 

Let’s look closer at the alternatives and see how they stack up.

 

1. Composite Resin Fillings

As the most regularly used alternative to dental amalgam, composite resin fillings are tooth-coloured and white. Acrylic resin is the primary material used in the making of these fillings—and they’re reinforced with powdered glass filler.

 

It’s common for composite resin colours to be customized to match surrounding teeth. They’re also often light-cured by blue light in layers to lead into the last restoration.

 

Yes, there’s no doubting the strength and blending capabilities of these fillings. Also, they don’t need much removal of healthy tooth structure for placement.

 

But they come up short in other aspects.

 

First and foremost, the composite resin is harder to place than amalgam—plus, they’re infinitely more expensive. Lastly, while they are strong, these fillings appear to be less durable than amalgam.

 

2. Glass Ionomer Cement Fillings

Organic acids (such as eugenol), bases (such as zinc oxide), and potentially acrylic resins can be found in glass ionomer cement.

 

Glass ionomer fillings are tooth-coloured like composite resin, and its properties seem most ideal for more meagre restorations.

 

These fillings cure on their own and don’t necessitate a blue light for the setting process.

 

While ease of use and quality of appearances are definite plusses with glass ionomer cement, they’re not particularly useful for more significant restorations.

 

Is Amalgam Usage Long for this World?

Of course, we can’t forget that these findings are only part of a bigger picture on the use of dental amalgam.

 

The material’s mercury content makes dental amalgam a public health and ecological risk, particularly after its removal. On July 14, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized regulation specifically targeting the use and disposal of dental amalgam. In Canada, dentists must use amalgam traps and filters to collect amalgam waste and recycle it appropriately.

 

As such, many dentists – as a protective measure – are opting to use alternatives to amalgam for health, safety and ecological reasons.

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How to Talk to Patients Who Are Worried About Amalgam Fillings

 

Often referred to as ‘silver’ fillings, amalgam fillings are an incredibly popular dental option. In fact, they’re the most commonly used filling in Canada.

 

Consisting of metals such as mercury, copper, silver, and tin, amalgam fillings have the advantage of being inexpensive and long-lasting. Plus, putting them in place is relatively straightforward and hassle-free. Usually, your patients will only require one visit to complete these fillings.

 

However, you might’ve noticed more patients raising concerns about these restorations, especially those who have received amalgam fillings in the past.

 

Often, these conversations are rooted in the toxicity of mercury and its perceived effects on the patient’s health.

 

Dental Amalgam: A Quick Review

 It’s worth noting that, yes, higher levels of mercury will adversely impact the brain and kidneys.

 

However, it is the position of both the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) that dental amalgam is a stable, safe and affordable substance for use in dental restorations.

 

Further, research from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) demonstrates that amalgam fillings are safe for adults and children above the age of six, with no known health problems linked to amalgam. 

 

Less is known about the effects of amalgam on the long-term health outcomes of pregnant women, developing fetuses, and children under six-years-old. However, evidence suggests that infants are not at risk for adverse health effects from the mercury in the breast milk of mothers exposed to mercury vapour from dental amalgam.

 

Should Existing Amalgam Fillings Be Removed?

Interestingly, the risks of mercury are more than likely to be exacerbated in removing an amalgam restoration than leaving it intact.

 

Why? Because the toxic components are safely contained when the amalgam is left alone in your patients’ mouths, but could detach in the process removing the filling. 

 

Though, like everything in this world, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are times when it’s best to replace these fillings.

 

Namely, once amalgam restorations reach the 2-year mark, it’s wise to consider replacements. Similarly, if this manner of filling is damaged in any way, they should be replaced. And provided such a restoration has irregular margins or overhangs and is causing resulting gingival inflammation, a replacement should likely occur. Lastly, any recurrent decay beneath the filling means that a replacement ought to take place.

 

Now, if a patient falls under the above categories but is currently experiencing health issues, you must consult their physician. Such ailments include memory loss, heart palpitations, deficiencies, a heavy viral or toxic load, or a sensitive nervous system.

 

Removal in the above cases could potentially trigger their sickness and make them far more ill.

 

How to Discuss These Matters with Patients

When consulting with your dental patients about keeping or removing their amalgam, the conversation should mainly center around mitigating harm.

 

First, you must set your patients at ease about any concerns they might have about long-term safety and potential associated with replacements. Have this conversation before you jot down any detailed notes of these discussions in your official records.

 

Furthermore, don’t be afraid to recommend a second opinion on the matter. Not only will this establish trust between you and your patient, but it’s a safe and sound practice as a dental professional.

 

Your patient’s health, well-being, as well as their mental state should be a top priority. Treatments must be in their best interest while adhering to the current practices and teachings that are deemed most sound by dental authorities.

 

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7 Practical Self-Care Habits for Dental Hygienists

 

 

Working in dentistry can be extremely tough on your body.

 

In fact, compared to other professionals, dental hygienists are at a far greater risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) that affect the soft and hard tissues. Between 60% and 96% of hygienists suffering from neck, shoulder, wrist, hand, or back pain.

 

Furthermore, since you spend practically all day helping people, you’re dealing with prolonged exposure to physical and psychological stress. Chairside burnout is a genuine and problematic issue for many hygienists.

 

Taking care of yourself as a dental professional is a must! Here, we’ll discuss 7 tips that’ll help you perform at your best on the job without compromising your physical or mental health.

 

1. Focus on Ergonomics

In short, ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. Really, the idea is for you to be honed in to your own posture and position.

 

For a dental hygienist such as yourself, the following facets of your job should be optimized for ergonomics:

  • Room configurations
  • Loupes and lighting
  • Handpieces
  • Instrument type and grip
  • Operator chair
  • Ability to move around your patient

One example of an effective ergonomic measure is using anatomical or “handed” gloves instead of ambidextrous gloves (which put up to 33% more pressure on the thumbs and fingers). Also, remember to stretch regularly throughout the day!

 

2. Practicing Yoga

Since you’re a hygienist, you must find the balance between physicality and mentality. And breathing techniques employed in yoga can be that centring factor.

 

Yoga’s focus on breathing and posture helps combat the various musculoskeletal issues and burnout you might face.

 

For instance, savasana – the final meditative posture – helps establish a calm and reduction of blood pressure. It also aids in better sleep and reduction of stress.

 

3. Start a Cryotherapy Regime

Having first been used in Japan in the 1970s, cryotherapy exposes the body to a -100°C temperature for around one to four minutes. Cryotherapy chambers can be entire rooms or structures that resemble barrels that expose you, neck-down, to the liquid nitrogen.

 

There is an array of studies and scientific evidence that prove the value of these treatments. Namely, for dental hygienists, cryotherapy helps treat musculoskeletal pain and related ailments.

 

4. Visiting the Chiropractor

Chiropractors use a holistic approach to treating musculoskeletal disorders. Primarily, such treatments center around proper spine alignment. With the adjustments provided, chiropractic professionals believe that healing is enabled without the need for surgery or pharmaceuticals.

 

There is a wealth of techniques and methods of treatments, such as manual-diversified techniques. All chiropractors are different, so treatment lengths differ depending on their philosophy.

 

5. Treat Yourself to a Massage

While the title of this section suggests that massages are something of a treat, in your profession, they’re a necessity for keeping happy and healthy!

 

In utilizing rhythmical pressure and stroking, massage therapists help prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate and augment physical function while relieving pain.

 

Now, the benefits of massages can be short term, but they do improve lymph flow and prevent fibrosis, for instance. Also, they increase serotonin levels and provide endorphins, which helps with the anxiety and stress you may feel on the job.

 

6. Stick to Acupuncture

Not only does acupuncture have proven results, it’s specifically been useful for dental hygienists who’ve been suffering from musculoskeletal disorders.

 

This form of treatment theorizes that an imbalance in the body’s energy flow (or chi/qi) causes illness. This flow of energy is accessible through around 350 points on the body where thin needles are inserted to restore balance and harmony.

 

7. Take Time to Meditate

It’s believed by many that meditative practices play a big part in improving psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular function.

Best of all? There’s no gym membership or meditation guru needed. All you have to do is sit upright and still while focusing your attention on something like breathing.

 

With these 7 methods of self-care, you’ll feel happier and healthier in your dental practice!

 

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Wisdom Tooth Extraction and Alternatives - Important Facts to Know

 

Are you experiencing discomfort in your back molars or your gums at the back of your mouth? Do you have trouble opening and closing your jaws, bad breath or a low-grade fever? You may need a wisdom tooth extraction to remove an impacted third molar and prevent further discomfort and infection. Before you have your tooth removed, there are some critical facts you need to know about wisdom tooth extraction and the alternatives.

 

Alternatives to Wisdom Tooth Removal

Extraction is often recommended for wisdom teeth as a preventative measure to minimize misalignment, eliminate overcrowding, or when the tooth is infected. However, in some cases, you may not need to have your wisdom teeth removed.

 

Coronectomy

A coronectomy is an alternative to wisdom tooth extraction and is recommended for patients when the wisdom tooth is impacted and presses on the lingual nerve or inferior alveolar nerve. These nerves control the sensation in your tongue, lips, and chin and can affect speech and chewing.

 

A coronectomy removes the crown of the tooth, leaving the roots in place. If the wisdom tooth root is not infected, a coronectomy may be an ideal alternative to wisdom tooth removal.

 

Operculectomy

An operculectomy removes the gum tissue that can develop over a partially erupted wisdom tooth. Debris and bacteria can get caught in this tissue, causing painful infections and inflammation. Removal of the operculum reduces the risk of bacteria build-up and may prevent the need for a wisdom tooth extraction.

 

Bring a Chaperone to Your Appointment

Whether you have a wisdom tooth removal, operculectomy or coronectomy, your dentist will still administer anesthesia to make you more comfortable during the procedure. In most cases, the site will be numbed using a local anesthetic. However, for complex wisdom tooth extractions or if you suffer from dental anxiety, you may need to be sedated.  

 

The side effects of sedation can take some time to wear off, so it is essential to bring someone along with you to drive you home after the procedure.

 

Rest with Your Head Raised

Your body’s natural reaction to tooth extraction is inflammation and swelling. However, uncontrolled swelling can lead to infection. To keep the swelling under control, rest with your head slightly elevated to drain fluid away from the area. You can also apply cold compresses to the side of your face and take over the counter anti-inflammatory medication.

 

Skip the Toothbrush

Avoiding brushing isn’t advice that you’ll usually hear from your dentist; however, you need to avoid using your toothbrush near the extraction site for the first 24 hours after surgery.

 

Also avoid spitting and rinsing, as well as drinking through a straw. The reason for this is that the blood vessels inside the empty tooth socket form a clot that seals the socket and prevents infection.

 

If the clot becomes dislodged, you are at risk of developing a condition called dry socket where the nerves of the tooth are exposed.

 

Stock Up on Soft Foods

Hard and chewy foods can aggravate the wound site, causing discomfort. Some nutritious foods for post-surgery recovery include yogurt, oatmeal, fruit and vegetable purees, eggs, and smoothies. Cold and tepid foods can also help to alleviate post-surgery swelling.

 

Bleeding Is Normal After Surgery

Although you may have stitches in the tooth socket, it is normal to experience some bleeding after surgery. Your dentist packs the empty socket with gauze which you should hold firmly in place for 30 minutes. Repeat until the bleeding abates. If the bleeding is excessive, call your dentist immediately.

 

Symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore include fever, numbness, increased swelling, pus from the wound or nose, and trouble swallowing or breathing. Any of these symptoms could indicate infection or nerve damage and need to be assessed by your dentist immediately.

 

Keep Your Wound Clean

There are several ways you can keep your mouth clean and hygienic. Rinsing with a saltwater solution helps to eliminate bacteria, clear debris from around the extraction site, and reduce discomfort after surgery.

 

Combine one cup of warm water with ½ a teaspoon of salt and gently swish the solution around your mouth for 20-30 seconds. Instead of spitting out the rinse, tip your head over the sink and open your mouth to expel the water gently.

 

Final Thoughts

Wisdom tooth extraction is a standard procedure to prevent impacted wisdom teeth from affecting your remaining teeth and jawbone. However, it isn’t always necessary to have your tooth extracted.

 

If you have your wisdom teeth extracted, follow your dentist's post-surgical care instructions carefully to ensure a speedy and comfortable recovery.

 

About the author

Dr. Fadi Swaida first graduated from the University of Western Ontario with an Honors BSc in Biology before graduating from the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Dentistry. He is an active member of his church and enjoys football and being by the water! His outgoing personality and fun-loving character will ensure you always feel welcome at Dentist North York.

 

 

 

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New Year, New Hygienist: 5 Ways to Define Your Ambition in 2020

 

 

Recently, writers at Today’s RDH posed its readers a rather thoughtful question:

 

How do you, as a dental hygienist, define ambition?

 

A total of 82 dental hygienists, young and old, shared their answers. And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that every one of them had a slightly different approach!

 

Many of the people surveyed equated ambition to career growth, and outlined what they planned to move forward: sharpening their skills, furthering their education and so on.

 

Some thought back to the reasons why they entered the profession in the first place, while others took “ambition” to mean broadening their role as a hygienist.

 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this survey is the desire dental hygienists have to do more. The responses paint a colourful picture of all the ways this career can evolve.

 

In the spirit of the new decade, let’s celebrate a few of the ways our fellow dental hygienists have defined their ambition in 2020 and beyond!

 

1. Focusing on Preventative Dental Care

“My ambition is to bring the public forward in knowledge of what a dental hygienist is and start having people get healthy. Change the model of dental health from restoring and treating disease to prevention.”

 

Bit by bit, the model of dental health is evolving from a restorative approach to a preventive one. And no one is in a better position to champion this shift than dental hygienists! Since you work closely with patients even before they require treatment, you’re in the perfect place to impart advice that can benefit their oral health for years to come.

 
2. Deeper Role in Day-to-Day Operations

“Ambition is the continuation of advancement, whether in the continued pursuit of clinical excellence or transitioning into different aspects of patient care.”

 

Who ever said hygienists should stick to the chairside? I don’t need to tell you that the office RDH often knows more about the practice’s ins and outs than anyone under that roof. Many hygienists are leveraging their expertise to successfully segue into aspects of dental management and administration, whether it’s helping to bring on new patients, taking charge of procuring dental tools and supplies, or ensuring the hygiene department is up to current standards.

 

3. More Holistic Approach to Patient Care

“Looking beyond the dentition to the entirety of the head and neck and oral/oropharyngeal cavity. Embracing all there is to know about not just the oral-systemic link, also the cancers of the head and neck oral and Oropharynx, and our role in each area.”

 

Research has emerged establishing a link between periodontal disease and systemic conditions such as heart disease, cancers, and diabetes. Ambitious hygienists are putting this knowledge into practice to help patients prevent and manage the systemic effects of periodontal disease.

 

4. Broadening Horizons

 “Ambition would be to work on legislation to advance a dental hygienist to a position like a PA. Not necessarily the dental therapist model but very close.”

 

Do you dream of one day being able to practice hygiene independently? Wish you could apply your knowledge of dental care delivery in a senior role? Well, you’re far from alone in that! In fact, there are scores of dental hygienists out there hoping to expand our opportunities outside of the operatory.

 

Hygienists are increasingly seizing the chance to lead initiatives, manage teams, and advising policy. There are more non-traditional career opportunities for hygienists in healthcare, management and sales than ever before! What’s more, some hygienists, like the individual quoted above, are also advocating for a broader clinical scope of practice ‒ perhaps along the lines of a dental therapist.

 

5. Mastering the Art and Science of Hygiene

“My definition of ambition in the dental hygiene profession is someone who does their best work on each and every patient.”

 

It’s an exciting time to be a registered dental hygienist. As the scope of practice continues to expand, so too will the career opportunities...but only for those who are prepared to take them!

 

Whether you’re just starting out in your career or well along the path, it’s never too late to refine your knowledge, improve your skills, and continue your hygiene education.

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Botox Has Become an Unconventional but Effective Treatment for TMJ

 

As a dental professional, you’re no doubt well aware of the negatives of temporomandibular joint syndrome or TMJ.

 

The temporomandibular joint connects the mandible (or lower jaw) to the temporal bone (or skull) in front of the ear. Other specific facial muscles that connect to the lower jaw are responsible for chewing.

 

When the pain of TMJ has been too much for over-the-counter pain meds, it’s been known for dentists to prescribe strong pain relievers such as prescription-strength ibuprofen. Patients have also been treated with low doses of tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline to relieve pain symptoms, but also to control bruxism and sleeplessness. 

 

Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for patients to be offered muscle relaxants for their TMJ-related issues.

 

Then there is an array of therapies, like oral splints and even physical therapy used to treat the condition. If the patient is suffering enough, there’s also a mandibular or multi-joint surgery that can be performed. Really though, this list of treatments is only scratching the surface.

 

In fact, recently, Botox injections have been utilized to treat TMJ syndrome ‒ with a great deal of success.

 

How Useful Are TMJ Treatments?

A small anecdotal study involving 26 patients from 2012 discovered that Botox could substantially decrease the pain associated with TMJ for up to three months. It also could increase mouth movements.

 

There were two other studies, published respectively in 2003 and 2008, that revealed similar results.

 

Of the participants in the 2003 study, 90% displayed symptom relief after failing to respond to more conventional treatment methods.

 

As is the case with most experimental treatments, these small sample sizes aren’t enough for most experts to offer their 100% stamp of approval. Yes, the results are undoubtedly encouraging.

 

Still, to endorse the full effectiveness of Botox treatments for TMJ disorders, experts need to investigate the results of further studies.

 

Are There Any Side Effects to Botox Treatments for TMJ?

Despite the potential for positive results, Botox treatments for TMJ do come with side effects.

 

Pain, redness at the injection site, muscle weakness, and bruising at the injection site is common in the first week after treatment. More serious side effects include headache, respiratory infection, flu-like illness, nausea, and temporary eyelid droop.

 

Then there’s a chance that your patients might experience a fixed smile for up to 6 to 8 weeks. This condition is a result of the paralyzing effect that’s brought upon by Botox treatments.

 

A Breakdown of the Procedure

One of the primary benefits of Botox treatments for TMJ disorder is that it’s a nonsurgical, outpatient procedure. Meaning, it’s non-invasive. It’s performed right in the dental office and only lasts from anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes.

Commonly, there are at least 3 injection sessions that span throughout a several-month period. The number of injections required depends on your patient’s needs and the severity of their condition.

 

Botox can be injected in a patient’s forehead, temple, jaw muscles, or anywhere else in the face/head area where there are pain symptoms. Resulting pain from the injection itself is minimal. It resembles a bug bite, and a cold pack or numbing cream can help to ease any discomfort.

 

Patients will generally experience improvements several days after the treatment. Though they can return to regular activities immediately after leaving your office.

 

When Should Botox Be Used to Treat TMJ?

While this treatment is more synonymous with cosmetic enhancement, it’s increasingly being used in the dental industry therapeutically.

 

Botox injections treat the symptoms of TMJ instead of the syndrome itself. Meaning, it’s meant to soothe the jaw tension, teeth grinding-induced headaches and lockjaw that can result from TMJ syndrome.

 

Still, at this point, Botox treatments for TMJ disorder are only experimental. It’s considered to be an off-label approach that has yet to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, these injections are currently only an alternative when more traditionally successful methods haven’t been able to give patients relief.

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6 Myths You Shouldn’t Believe About Air Polishing

If you’re a dental professional, it will serve you well to read this Hygiene Town article that recently caught our eye.

 

The article highlights the many positive features of air polishing and the fact that, despite scientific evidence demonstrating its value, it has yet to become widely accepted among many registered dental hygienists.

 

Air polishing has proven to be successful with plaque and stain removal. In fact, it’s shown to be three times faster than rubber cup polishing! So, why aren’t more of us using it?

 

The truth is that air polishing, for whatever reason, has been riddled with naysaying...and these myths are part of the reason it hasn’t seen widespread use.

 

Let’s look at the facts about air polishing!

 

Myth #1: Air Polishing is Too Messy

This myth is based on what used to be the truth. In generations past, air polishers sprayed all over the place. However, in recent years, things have changed.

 

Older air polishing devices could only be used at full power. They also clogged too quickly, and many practitioners didn’t have the knowledge and experience to shield their patients from the abundance of overspray.

 

Nowadays, air polishers offer far more control and precision.

 

Myth #2: Patients Dislike the Taste

Similar to the above myth, the taste factor of air polishers did use to be a legitimate gripe of patients and hygienists alike.

 

Initially, the powder being used was a salty sodium bicarbonate that revolted both children and adults.

 

Fortunately, most models now include a non-sodium option.

 

There’s also a substance known as Sylc therapeutic prophy powder being utilized in air polishing systems. It’s a calcium sodium phosphosilicate or bioactive glass.

 

Although the Sylc does possess 450 mg sodium, this is far milder than the 2,000 to 3,000 mg found in a sodium bicarbonate—a staple of the old method.

 

Myth #3: It’s Less Effective at Cleaning Teeth

Marilynn Rothen, MS, RDH, states that air polishing is superior to rubber cup polishing when cleaning the tooth surface before etching for sealant placement.

 

Further studies, however, indicate similar results between cleaning methods. Regardless, air polishing has never been proven to be less effective at cleaning teeth when compared to other treatments!

 

Myth #4: Air Polishing Makes Teeth Overly Sensitive

This myth, unlike a few of the other ones, isn’t rooted in facts at all. The reality is that this myth couldn’t be any further from the truth!

 

Air polishing will offer comfort to your patients with even the most sensitive teeth. It’s an extremely gentle method that necessitates no heat or pressure being placed on tooth surfaces.

 

Furthermore, due to the acclaimed gentleness of air polishing, it’s an ideal technique to use when cleaning around delicate implants.

 

Myth #5: The Aerosol Spreads Bacteria

Dental professionals perform an array of procedures, including air polishing, that requires hand tools that produce an influx of particles and splattering. They can contain microorganisms (aerosols) from the oral cavity of the patients, which are believed to possess bacteria and fungi. It’s feared that this can lead to cross-infection for dentists and dental hygienists.

 

Yes, you do have to adhere to prevention methods to keep safe—but it’s no different from any other treatment. Furthermore, studies have proven that aerosol exposure is not a significant occupational hazard.

 

Myth #6: Air Polishing Equipment is Too Expensive

Unfortunately, many dental professionals do consider air-polishing equipment to be too expensive.

 

But this assumption doesn’t consider the return on your investment.

 

Even if you’re paying for a more expensive polisher, your patients will appreciate the results and keep coming back to you as their trusted dentist or dental hygienist.

 

After debunking these myths, we hope that you’re more open to air polishing. It’s an undoubtedly affordable, safe, and effective teeth-cleaning method that will help your patients achieve optimal oral health!

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How to Win Over Millennials and Keep Them Coming to Your Dental Practice

 

It’s a fact: millennials are now the single biggest generation in both Canada and the U.S. There are over 83.1 million American millennials and about 10 million to the north.

 

So, why aren’t you seeing more of them in your practice?

 

You’re not alone if you’ve had difficulty bringing this generation of potential patients on board. Sure, you’ll see them in for the occasional extraction or filling...but when it’s time for a regular cleaning, millennials aren’t inclined to call back.

 

It’s not that Gen Y doesn’t want or need dental care ‒ but they often require a different tact than you’d take to recruit and retain your usual patients. 


Why Gen Y Isn’t Always An Easy Win

In a recent article for HygieneTown, RDH Katrina Sanders lays out a few of the things that make the millennial generation (people born between 1983 and 1997) different when it comes to their approach to dental care.

  • First, many millennials experienced divorce in their families growing up. Because of this, they tend to wait longer to marry and have children (if they do at all.)
  • Older millennials took on significant student loans and graduated at the height of the Great Recession, leading many to unstable career and financial situations. Many work part-time, multiple jobs or flexible hours.
  • Millennials also saw their parents and grandparents, many of whom committed decades of service to their employers, suffer job loss during the Recession.

What does this all mean for you as a dental professional? Well, as Sanders explains, these tendencies affect Gen Y’s attitude about going to the dentist. Understanding these traits can go a long way in helping you attract more millennial patients and keep them coming back after the initial treatment!

 

1. Involve Millennials in Their Dental Care

Back in university or hygiene school, you might’ve learned to look at a patient’s involvement in their healthcare through scales like the Health Belief Model or Dental IQ.
But millennials don’t always fit the book. 
 
Although they are often highly educated and concerned about their health, millennials are also notorious for scrutinizing the ins and outs of anything they spend their money on. They need to truly believe in what they’re ‘buying’, even when it comes to oral healthcare.

 

Involving these patients through a co-discovery process helps by making them part of the solution to their own dental needs.


2. Make Booking Appointments a Breeze

You’d be hard-pressed to find a millennial who doesn’t carry a smartphone, but that doesn’t make it any easier to get in touch with these patients by phone. Why?

 

Truth is, phone calls are becoming a thing of the past. One survey showed that 80% of Generation Y would be willing to trade the ability to place phone calls for an unlimited data plan. 

 

Further, 61% said they would consider switching dentists just for the ability to book appointments quickly.

 

In other words, it no longer makes sense to conduct your bookings solely over the phone! Millennials are busy, and so they’re not as willing to spend time tracking down your number or waiting on hold. 

 

If you’re still only taking appointments by phone it’s time to start looking at ways to let patients book online. 


3. Stay Open Later

Speaking of busy...research has shown that millennials place a lot of value on extended evening and weekend hours. In fact, nearly 40% say they’d keep coming back to a dentist who can offer those extended hours.

 

Unfortunately, many millennials simply don’t consider regular dental checkups or teeth cleanings worth missing a day of work. Taking time off is tricky when you’ve got multiple employers and family obligations packed into one schedule.


Any practice that can offer weekend or evening appointments has a huge advantage when it comes to winning over this generation of patients.


4. Offer Financing Options

For better or worse, millennials are willing to shop around for a dentist, especially when they’re on a tight budget. As Sanders illustrates in her HygieneTown piece, most

millennials will respond to a proposed dental treatment in one of three ways:

 

  • Agree to have the treatment, but request several monthly payments broken up over an extended period.
  • Look for another dentist that can provide the same treatment at a discount.
  • Ask you to dull the pain, but not cure the problem.

Fact is, fewer millennials have insurance coverage than previous generations, and we know that those without insurance are more likely to avoid getting proper dental care due to cost. But if you can offer an alternative to paying out-of-pocket, it will win over millennials who are likely to become long-term patients and a great referral source.


5. Keep In Touch

But it’s not always an aversion to phone calls or dental bills that keeps millennials out of the chair. 

 

Between a growing career, a young family and a world of constant distraction, sometimes dental care just falls off the radar. 

 

This is where it helps to reach out to patients outside office hours. To start, following up after the appointment by text or email is an incredibly simple way to make a connection and remind them you care. You can continue fostering that connection via social media, sharing blogs, videos and resources.

 

Remember: millennials aren’t your enemy! They have all the same needs as your other patients, and they’re a valuable source of business ‒ especially as the older ones are settling down and starting families. A bit of flexibility on your part can go a long way in winning them over as dental patients.

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Why ‘Natural’ Teething Necklaces Do More Harm Than Good

 

The teething process can be difficult for both parents and young ones alike. It’s only natural that parents want to protect their children from anything that might be causing them pain ‒ but they don’t always want to treat the problem with pharmaceuticals.

 

So, many parents look for homeopathic, all-natural solutions for their toddler’s teething problem.

 

Recently, dental professionals have noticed the growing trend of parents are treating their toddler’s gum pain with a natural teething necklace. Let’s take a closer look at what this alternative ‘healing’ method entails.

 

What are Teething Necklaces?

Natural teething necklaces are abundantly available and can be purchased for about $20 from boutiques and big-box stores alike.

 

Part of the reason these necklaces are making such a big splash on the market is that several celebrities have been proponents of the product.

 

The necklace is made of something called Baltic amber, which was formed over 45 million years ago. It’s an organic fossil resin that’s produced by pine trees native to northern Europe and the Baltic Sea. This unique amber has been used since ancient times as both an ingredient in perfumes and in folk medicine.

 

People who believe in the healing properties of Baltic amber claim it soothes teething symptoms because it releases succinic acid. Apparently, the substance is absorbed as an analgesic through a child’s skin.

 

Is There Any Merit to This Homeopathic Treatment?

In short, no. There’s no scientific data that can prove these necklaces are useful in any way as treatments. Conversely, research suggests that this homeopathic healing device actually does much more harm than good.

 
The Cruel Reality of Teething Necklaces

Upon even the most surface-level investigation, you’ll find that succinic acid won’t be dispersed from your child’s necklaces unless it’s heated at 200 Celsius.

 

Furthermore, these necklaces are safety hazards.

 

What’s worse, young children have been strangled by these necklaces. The FDA has warned the public about these amber necklaces, pointing out that they can lead to choking, strangulation, mouth injuries, or infection.

 

If the piece of jewelry breaks, a small bead might enter a toddler’s airway, causing them to choke. It’s also possible that the necklace can get caught on a child’s crib then wrap too tightly around their neck, causing strangulation.

 

Then, the jewelry might cut toddlers’ gums – which can lead to an infection.

 

For further context, studies by researchers from Nova Scotia tested the strangulation risk of 15 amber teething necklaces purchased from retailers in Canada. Their results showed that nearly half failed to open after applying 15 pounds of force for 10 seconds, which is an industry-standard.

 

Talking to Parents About Teething Necklaces

It’s always challenging to tell parents they’re doing something wrong with raising their children.

 

Therefore, when you notice a toddler wearing a teething necklace or a parent informs you that they’re utilizing the method, be sensitive to their situation.

 

Still, as a professional, you can inform them of the dangers that we’ve discussed above. In many cases, most parents will realize your advice is coming from a good place, so they’ll likely take immediate action.

 

You must provide these parents with a list of viable alternatives. After all, it’s unfair to drop a bomb about the teething necklace with no other solutions in mind.

 

Here are some practical alternatives to a teething necklace:

  • Large plastic toys that are safe for chewing
  • Cold or frozen cloths
  • Frozen bananas or apples
  • Massaging the gums

While we do understand any hesitation about traditional medicine for children, a mild pain reliever won’t do any harm when given to a toddler sparingly.

 

The Final Verdict on Teething Necklaces

Parents can go to unusual lengths to protect their children from pain. Sometimes they hear about alternative treatments that sound too enticing to pass up.

 

After all, an ancient analgesic with healing powers catered specifically to teething pain makes for an enticing proposition.

 

However, as an informed dental professional, you must discourage parents from purchasing these necklaces. It’s then equally as crucial that you provide viable alternatives to help with teething pain symptoms, so parents can take comfort in your care for their toddler.

 

 

 

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5 Phone Tips That’ll Help You Turn More Prospects into Dental Patients

 

 

Have you welcomed many new clients lately?

 

You’ve got a talented team, but you need patients to fill their chairs in order to keep the practice growing! The second you get complacent is when you fall into a rut.

 

While not every incoming phone inquiry leads to new patients, fine-tuning that aspect of your practice management will do wonders for your patient acquisition. The following tips will help you turn more phone prospects in patients at your dental practice.

 

1. Don’t Hold Out on Insurance Details

 

Put yourself in your potential patients’ shoes. Of course, many of them are nervous about their appointment – but on top of that, they’re worried about finances and insurance.

 

People tend to avoid treatment when they’re worried about their insurance coverage. So, be sure that you make clear what is available on any given patient’s specific policy. 

 

Delve into as much detail as possible over the phone so there’s no room for confusion. It’s integral to let prospective patients know that your practice has a relationship with most providers.

 

2. Stay Alert in Case of Urgent Appointments

 

You could miss out on a lot of potential business if you close the door on last-minute bookings. Flexible appointment options are a major draw to patients who don’t already have a regular dentist.

 

Consider leaving enough time open in your schedule for patients who need to see you immediately. If someone just cracked a tooth and can’t find an appointment, they’ll be eternally grateful if your dentistry was the one that saved the day. And voila! You now have a patient for life.

 

3. Provide Two Distinct Appointment Options

 

Your schedule comes first, of course, but you want to do your best to work with your patients’ schedules as well. One simple way to do this is to offer two potential appointment times over the phone.

 

First, ask the prospective patient whether they would prefer an earlier or later timeslot. From there, offer two potential time slots in that period (e.g., morning, afternoon, evening). The prospect feels less pressured to settle for an inconvenient time and empowered by the freedom to choose a time that works for them.

 

The quicker you can sort out a time, the less the patient can hum and haw over their personal schedule!

 

4. Be Transparent

 

Treat every phone call with care. In fact, treat each phone call with the same attention to detail you apply to cleanings and fillings! 

 

When your patients ask how long the appointment will take, it’s not necessarily about the seconds on the clock. Really, they’re trying to gauge the seriousness and intensiveness of the work being done.

 

Give your potential patients a reason to trust you by walking them through their treatment during the initial call. Giving them a step-by-step breakdown of everything from the initial check-in process to the X-rays, cleaning, and billing will go a long way.

 

Remember to ask for a cellphone number so you can text the patient to send them a reminder for their upcoming visit!

 

5. Be Upfront About Pricing

 

We get it – money is always a touchy subject in this profession. That’s exactly why it’s important to get ahead of the subject and speak confidently and transparently about your payment options.

 

Start at the low-end of the price range where appropriate and emphasize that the needs of each patient will vary. It’s fair to state that while every crown starts at a certain cost, you’d need to see the patient’s teeth first to provide a more accurate price assessment.  

 

Some patients will always be difficult to satisfy, but it still pays to be transparent in this regard. Better to lose an impossible prospect over the phone than to argue with one in the dentist’s chair!

 

 

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