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How Can Your Practice Treat Dental Patients with Chronic Pain?


Think about an appointment for your average patient. Let’s say it’s an adult patient already living a busy, hectic life. 

 

A day at the dentist is already less than comfortable. Either, it’s happening during a workday, meaning your patient had to book time off, which can be stressful; or, they’re coming in after a long day at the office. Or they’re visiting your practice during what should be R&R time on the weekend. 

 

From there, they’re coming into the office to get poked and prodded. And they’re being told to brush and floss more. 

 

So, what about patients with chronic pain conditions (e.g., complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia)?  

 

Average, everyday life causes enough problems for people dealing with these problems.

 

Never mind the inherent discomforts of a dental office.

 

How Can Dentists Make Life Easier for Their Chronic Pain Patients?

 

Here’s a brief list of various pain-killing approaches most dentists can provide in their practice (we’ll get more specific in a later section): 

  • Local anesthesia 
  • Nitrous oxide (providing excellent analgesia) 
  • Benzodiazepine (both valium or triazolam help patients relax) 

Some dentists perform more specialized pain-based care, utilizing a heightened multimodal therapy that doesn’t veer outside their practicing license. The dental care providers who can offer this more enhanced level of pain control are: 

  • Oral surgeons 
  • Dentist anesthesiologists 
  • Practitioners with substantial postdoctoral training in pain management or anesthesia 

Due to their more thorough training, the above practitioners can sedate patients intravenously when performing pediatric or general dental procedures or oral surgeries. 

 

Yes – specialized practitioners have a few more tools at their disposal to help afflicted patients. However, any dental practitioner can take steps to better support their chronic-pain patients

 

Start with a Consultation and Evaluation

 

Developing a plan to best manage your patient’s pain levels necessitates starting with a comprehensive evaluation and consultation. 

 

What will this process entail? 

  • Compile and review dental and medical histories 
  • Discover whether co-existing mental health conditions involving panic, anxiety, depression, or PTSD are at play. 
  • If necessary, communicate, coordinate, and collaborate with other healthcare providers (e.g., pain management doctors, surgeons, neurologists, and internists). 

Once you’ve gathered and analyzed this information, you’ve got the initial framework on which to build a dental and anesthetic treatment plan. 

 

Transition to Multimodal Treatment Strategies

 

Every multimodal treatment strategy should include a pain management plan for: 

  • Preemptive analgesia 
  • Physical therapy 
  • Intra-operative comfort 
  • Postoperative pain relief 

Your objective as a practitioner with these strategies is to neutralize all potential pathways to discomfort throughout the perioperative period. Additionally, each element of the plan must be personalized to each patient’s needs and the rigours of their specific procedure. 

 

Here are some possibilities of what can be used: 

  • Antihistamines 
  • NMDA receptor antagonists 
  • Opiates 
  • Acetaminophen 
  • NSAIDs 
  • Alpha agonists 
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Antiemetics 
  • Local anesthetics 
  • Sedative hypnotics 
  • Steroids 

These treatments can be administered topically, intravenously, orally, or intramuscularly. 

 

There is a delicate balance with these medications–only using them appropriately and skillfully will minimize nausea, swelling, pain, and anxiety. 

 

One last approach to knock down pain-based hurdles for select patients is talk therapy with a mental healthcare provider or a dentist.

 

Encourage Questions and Be Prepared with Insightful Answers

 

Being a dental professional often means being an unsung hero. You’re providing care that can vastly improve your patients’ health. Yet, the widely-shared fear of the dentist’s chair is as universal and time-honoured as the profession itself. 

 

It’s even worse for your chronic pain patients, who are extra sensitive to all potential pain pathways. Their fear is well-founded. But those concerns can successfully be managed first by following the previous steps. Then, you must be prepared to answer pain-management-based questions thoroughly and empathetically. 

 

Be ready to explain the type of training you’ve received and detail how many patients with similar chronic-pain conditions you’ve treated. Plus, you’ll likely be asked about how frequently you perform the type of procedure in question. 

 

You could also streamline the process by providing information about your pain-management approach and treatment philosophy on your website. Even then, you should let chronic-pain patients know they should give your practice a call if they have further questions and that you’ll be more than happy to provide detailed answers.

 

A Shining Example of the Difference a Dentist Can Make to a Chronic-Pain Patient’s Life

 

A recent case study investigated by DentalTown looked at Dr. Agatha Bis’s treatment of her patient Lorraine. 

 

Lorraine had initially visited Dr. Bis’s practice to “redo her bonding.” 

 

While Lorraine had one treatment in mind, Dr. Bis noticed she looked retruded and overclosed. So, the highly skilled dentist asked her patient about chronic pain, headaches, and jaw issues. 

 

From there, it was revealed that Lorraine suffered severe pain throughout her entire life, possessing all symptoms of a temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Moreover, Lorraine had seen several doctors, visited multiple pain clinics, and worked with alternative medicine practitioners, osteopaths, chiropractors, and massage therapists. And none of it offered lasting relief. 

 

As highlighted in the link provided above, Dr. Bis ensured that Lorraine was not only left with gorgeous temporaries but also with no more headaches. By digging deeper with her patient and asking the right questions,  Dr. Bis took someone who avoided the dentist in Lorraine and turned her into one of her most frequent patients. 

 

You might not have all the tools of a pain-specialized dental professional, but following these tips can encourage chronic-pain patients to visit your practice. Because they’ll have peace of mind in knowing you’ve prioritized their best interests and optimal, pain-free comfort! 

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Be Mindful of These 5 Risk Factors of Improper Ergonomics For Dentists

You might not have taken on a career in athletics, construction, or landscaping, but as a dental care provider, you’re still performing physical labour. You must take care of your body. 

 

The livelihood of dental practitioners depends on being in a state of solidified, thriving wellbeing, as does the oral health of your patients. This way, you’ll endure throughout a demanding yet fulfilling career where you help make hundreds upon hundreds of people’s lives better through your considered, compassionate care. 

 

Well-maintained and properly performed ergonomics are crucial to a practitioner’s physical wellbeing and musculoskeletal health in any dental setting. Moreover, your body’s betterment will extend to your mind and your bank account. 

 

In other words, keeping spry, pain-free, and physically robust long into your career will continually grow your confidence, sense of happiness, and your yearly earnings. 

 

Unfortunately, musculoskeletal-related issues account for nearly 30% of the cases of early retirement for dentists. That’s more than cardiovascular disease (21.2%), neurotic symptoms (16.5%), tumours (7.6%), and nervous system diseases (6.1%). 

 

Forces conspire against dentists, pulling you away from the safest long-term positions for your body. These are the biggest obstacles in front of your well-maintained and long-sustained musculoskeletal health.  

 

As such, we’re examining the five risk factors that lead dental professionals ergonomically astray and prematurely end their careers.

 

Risk Factor #1: Repetitive Physical Movements


Paraphrasing OSHA (the U.S.’s workplace health and safety administration), repetitive movements are those that are done every few seconds, or involve repeating motions with the same body part over twice per minute for two straight hours. 

 

With the above sentiments in mind, here are the kinds of injuries you’re open to when exposed to repetitive stress as a dentist due to the continual extension and flexion of the fingers and wrist: 

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome 
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome 
  • Trigger finger 
  • De Quervain’s tenosynovitis

Risk Factor #2: Applying Force


You might not consider what you do as a dentist forceful. And sure, compared to driving a jackhammer through slabs of concrete, you’re not exactly bludgeoning anything. Plus, your role is associated with delicacy and fine-tuned skill, not overpowering movements. 


But there are varying degrees of forcefulness.  


For instance, lifting, pinching, gripping, pushing, and pulling – all the things you do as a dentist – are forceful actions. Unfortunately, your basic everyday tasks (e.g., teeth scaling) are putting some force, and the resulting strain, on your body. 

 

Risk Factor #3: Withering Posture

 

Our spines only get more rigid as we age, and the effects of hunched-over posture become more glaring. 

 

Your career is riddled with seemingly harmless factors that take a toll on your posture, breaking it down and withering it away. Throughout any given day, you’re repeatedly raising your arms, taking on static/awkward positions, and working with your hands above your head. You’re often stuck positioning your elbows above your shoulders. And it’s very common for you to bend and twist your neck, wrists, and/or back. This all takes a toll. 

 

Low back pain–a pitfall of poor posture–is experienced by up to 90% of people. As a dentist, you’re placing more stress on your spinal disks when handling, lifting, or lowering objects while your back is twisted or bent. 

 

What’s worse, two-thirds of low back pain patients find it persists after their first episode. This ailment is difficult to heal from and only degenerates further with age. 

 

It’s not just your lower back at risk due to poor posture as a dentist. There’s your hips, knees, wrists, and shoulders–all as valuable to you as gold in your profession. 

 

Here are some situations in the workplace where your posture might suffer. Try being mindful during these scenarios to maintain proper form: 

  • You’re trying to get the best view of your patient’s teeth/mouth. 
  • You’re attempting to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. 
  • You’re reaching for instruments and maneuvering complicated equipment.

Risk Factor #4: The Rigours of Contact Stress

 

How many times a day does your body brush up against a workstation component?

 

Better yet, how frequently are you in continuous contact with sharp and/or hard objects (e.g., narrow, unpadded tool handles, desk edges)? Or, for one last example, how often are you suddenly applying pressure during treatments, such as using compressive force? 

 

These examples are all considered damaging forms of contact stress, defined as force being concentrated on a small area of the body. It results in the pinching or – far worse – crushing of the tissue, leading to pain and discomfort for dentists far and wide.

 

Risk Factor #5: Excess Vibration

 

It’s hard to imagine providing your patients optimal care without using vibrating tools and equipment for at least two hours per day. But doing so leaves you open to a condition called hand-arm vibration syndrome. 

 

This incredibly specific condition leads to the sensations in your fingers changing, which can deteriorate into permanent finger numbness, muscle weakness. You might even experience bouts of “white finger"

 

Hand-arm vibration syndrome is untreatable, and there’s no effective treatment to make it much better.

 

The Risk Factors Are Present, But They Can Be Neutralized.

 

It’s not easy to stave off the ergonomic risk factors in your line of work. These hostile forces seem staunchly intent on breaking your body down. 

 

But you can still be proactive and quite handily defeat the conspiring forces working against you. 

 

Your keys to long-term victory rest upon you doing the little things right, like keeping your arms bent 90-degrees at the elbow. Moreover, position your patients properly, use armrests for added support, and use an ergonomic loupe to obtain an upright, neutral working position. 

 

Also, you’ll want to keep your hands close to your body because extending outwardly too far increases lower-back stress. 

 

Here’s one final suggestion: purchasing an adjustable stool with proper back/lumbar support and dynamic performance capabilities. 

 

It’s absolutely integral you start looking at every angle to improve the ergonomics at your practice. You’ll get the most out of your own performance, and your team will thrive as well. 

 

Most importantly, your career and long-term earning potential depend on your proactivity in the ergonomic domain. Making an effort to mitigate risk factors now can prevent you from a world of pain, heartache, and early retirement down the line. 

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Here Are 5 Ways to Skyrocket Dental Hygiene Production in Your Practice

sable_industries_hygiene_production

There's a lot going on in a dental office. A typical day will bring you into contact with a wide variety of patients for a wide range of reasons, from simple cleanings to complicated restorative procedures. 


When you’re busy helping people and immersed in providing dental care, it’s easy to miss out on highly profitable opportunities right in front of you. 


You might be surprised to learn that many dental practices — perhaps even yours — are missing out on at least six figures of revenue per hygienist per year


What do we mean? 


If you run your business like a large bulk of dental practices out there, your hygienists treat less than ten patients most days, along with providing ancillary services (e.g., bitewings) and prophylaxis treatments. 


Obviously, the treatments listed above are crucial, but you could use the hygiene department in your practice far more than you do now.  


Patient care could be far more comprehensive.  


And in an economy where everything is in a continual state of flux, you need to squeeze every last iota of value from your resources, hygiene department included. 


What if we told you that you can build the pathway to heightened production for your hygienists through The Hygiene Maximizer approach? From there, you’ll provide a previously unprecedented level of high-level patient care, driving your practice’s production to new, soaring heights: between $100,000 and $200,000 more per hygienist per year.  


To help you get started, we’ve outlined the 5 main principles to help you utilize this philosophy in your practice.

 

1. Ensure Almost Every Single One of Your Patients is Scheduled at All Times


According to the Levin Group, a dental consultancy recently featured by Dental Economics, most practices have less than 90% of their active patients booked, with many dropping below the 70% mark.  


It goes without saying that you can’t provide top-level care without regularly scheduling patients to keep returning. That’s a core tenet of optimal oral health. 


There’s a need for a paradigm shift in this area for many practices. Instead of sticking to basic hygiene care and making assessments based on hyper-evident dental needs, it’s time to kick things up a notch, which entails informing patients about: 

  • Cosmetic procedures 
  • Other elective treatments 
  • All other potential services 

We understand you don’t want to be sales-oriented with your patients. But there’s a difference between pushy sales tactics and educating hygiene patients about all that’s available to them. 


Here are some suggestions for how you can implement this approach:

  • Complete a full analysis of all patients’ hygiene and dental needs during every appointment. 
  • Ensure each patient returns once every seven years for a complete exam 
  • Use PreViser or another similar predictive index to offer a thorough report on each patient’s periodontal health status. 

Another way to drive up those bookings is to call overdue patients. Ensure the hygienist makes the call because this technique adds a personal touch.

 

2. Cultivate a Well-Rounded Approach to Dentistry That Prioritizes Hygiene


In the hustle and bustle of everyday practice life, it's only natural to focus your energy on restorative patients. However, just because we’re instinctually driven toward a behaviour doesn’t mean it’s the correct course of action. 

 

While restorative treatments and immediate patient needs require your attention as a dentist, that can’t come at the cost of hygiene care. Checking on hygiene patients for a perfunctory minute to make any obvious diagnoses plainly isn’t enough, especially for your bottom line. 

 

The Hygiene Maximizer philosophy requires that you provide a more comprehensive experience through the following actions: 

  • Hygienists will do a complete analysis (without making an official diagnosis) of a patient’s intraoral condition. 
  • Hygienists, therefore, must be trained to flag all signs that hygiene treatments or elective procedures might be viable. 
  • A thorough patient examination, including a cosmetic exam, tooth exam, periodontal exam, occlusal exam, and implant exam, will help hygienists identify treatment opportunities. 

This might seem like a lot of extra work. Still, your hygiene department should be responsible for up to 30% of your practice’s overall productivity. Offering this more well-rounded care is how you get to that number.

 

3. Be a Patient-First Dental Practice


Okay, let’s be real. It’s nobody’s idea of a luxury to spend time on a dentist’s (or dental hygienist’s) seat.  


Sure, most of us know an appointment can be a good experience, especially when your practice is run well. Regardless, it’s no picnic for patients. 


So it’s important to keep giving patients reasons to come back, starting with the practitioner-patient relationship. 

 

  • Fortunately, the Hygiene Maximizer is patient-forward, encouraging you to: 
  • Learn about the patient beyond the dental chairs 
  • Connect with them based on common interests 

Use each hygiene appointment to enhance the client-hygienist relationship 

Successful practices grow because they treat patients as valued and appreciated clients/customers. 

 

And even incredibly busy patients make time for appointments at a practice where they are valued and appreciated. 

 

Additionally, focusing on at-home care will fortify a patient’s trust in hygienists, which entails:

  • Promoting at-home oral health products to patients (this can make a hugely positive impact on a patient’s oral hygiene, establishing goodwill and showing you care). 
  • Offer in-office dispensing of dental water jets (or similar at-home care products), offering your patients a better price on these items than would be otherwise available.

4. Doctors and Hygienists Must Have a Strong Relationship Built on Communication


After a hygienist has performed the 5-stage examination and informed the patient about various potential treatments, they should meet with the dentist. The conversation should span one to two minutes and shouldn’t happen in the treatment room. 


This meeting ensures cohesiveness between doctor and hygienist, further educating the dentist on their patient to reinforce and bolster the hygienists' message. 


In short, the hygienist should tell the dentist about what they’ve discovered, recommended, and about any personal details. Knowing there’s a wedding in eight months, for instance, might drive someone toward cosmetic surgery earlier than if there were no pending nuptials. 

 

5. Bolster Hygiene Production


Hygienists need a checklist containing possible hygiene-based treatment options. 


Also, note that selling products in-office provides the chance to make recommendations to–and earn credibility with–patients. There’s, of course, the additional revenue that comes with dispensing these items yourself. 


By selling these hygiene products, you make your patients’ lives easier, too (they don’t have to run around looking for these items). And you’re allowing your hygienists to sell and earn more for your practice. 


Products to include are: 

  • Dental water jets 
  • Power toothbrushes 
  • Whitening kits

You should unite your team around all your overarching practice goals. Specifically, ensuring that everyone is focused on these sales goals will boost hygiene-based productivity and profitability.

 

5 Steps to a More Profitable Practice  


By following these five steps, hygienists will improve vastly in their roles because the process will be more comprehensive. They’ll also be learning from the dentist because they’ll be in constant communication. 


And the dentist will learn more about their patients from the hygienists to provide superior care, all while pulling in more revenue. This approach makes your patients’ lives better first, but it’s also centred around your hygienists bolstering your bottom line. 

 

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Use These 5 Successful Strategies for Dental Practice Growth

sable_industries_5_strategies_for_dental_practice_growth

 

While some people might tell you that everyone has a ceiling, at Sable Industries, we firmly believe the sky's the limit for your dental practice! 


Is your practice pulling in six figures of revenue per year? Why not aim for seven figures? Are you already earning that much? There is still room to grow. 


At some point, you might find you’ve grown so much that any more growth simply isn’t possible. Even then, you need to be poking at your ceiling with a proverbial broom to try to bust through. It’s that type of attitude that keeps you improving and providing the best possible care to your patients. 


The second you stop looking for growth opportunities and take your foot off the gas, you will stagnate. If powerhouses like Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson always strive for more, even as billionaires, so can the most profitable dental practice. 


So, read on as we introduce five strategies that will help your dental practice experience substantial growth. 

 

Tip 1: It All Starts With Your Team 

You might be a fantastic dentist, but expansion is impossible without an exceptional team. 


More specifically, delegation is a critical element of growing your business. Practice owners can’t do everything themselves, and if they try to, they’ll vastly lower their ceiling. 


With all this said, who do you need on your team? 


For starters, a financial advisor will put together a plan for your money, ensuring you’re investing your funds strategically and insightfully. They’ll also help with your budgeting to ensure you’re not going beyond what you can afford. 


Legal experts are another crucial team member when you’re expanding your practice. They pay specific dividends when you’re buying a new property. Contact a larger dental association if you don’t know where to look for a legal advisor. Such organizations offer resources to help navigate potential hurdles involving laws and bylaws. 


Lastly, expanding your practice can’t really happen if you don’t have a lending partner.

Personal money and business money should never mix. Therefore, a reliable lender will help you with any of the following scenarios: 

  • Providing working capital 
  • Offering debt consolidation 
  • Approving and funding your business loan 

Be sure to align with a lender who understands the nuances of the dental industry. 

 

Tip 2: Have An Expansion Strategy in Mind 

An ad hoc approach to practice development will prove to be both painful in the long and short term. Take time to map out your moves, and don’t swim in the deep end without a proverbial life jacket (i.e., a well-thought strategy).  


One suggestion is purchasing a new office from an owner who’ll be retiring in a few years. This way, they’ll stay on as part-owners until they hang up their scrubs, transitioning all their patients to you in a smooth hand-off. You won’t have to start off fresh with no clientele. The groundwork will be laid for you to thrive. 


Beyond that, your legal advisor will help iron out some of the more challenging red tape, further smoothing out your strategy. 

 

Tip 3: Go Digital With Your Marketing  

A growing patient base is a necessity for expanding your practice. That means you need to step up your marketing efforts. 


Sure, you can rely on internal marketing methods to a degree. But in today’s day and age, relying solely on that singular approach is akin to driving a car without an engine. 


We’re not telling you to spend a fortune on a billboard ad or a television spot, especially since dental practices are so locally oriented. Instead, your marketing solution involves reaching customers on their mobile devices and laptops through digital/online marketing. Dental patients looking for new dentists find them through internet searches, online reviews, and social media.  

 

Tip 4: Stay Positive and Keep Thinking Big Picture

Staying positive and being a forward-thinker both belong on the list of “things that are easier said than done.” However, an optimistic attitude and thinking ten steps ahead is critical to you and your staff remaining motivated. 

 

As an owner, it’s up to you to keep morale up and everyone on the same page. So, even when times get tough, you need to be mindful that every one of your actions must be conducive to growth and positive, forward motion. 

 

Tip 5: Pay for Upgrades 

You can't expand your practice with old, shabby equipment. Upgrades, on the other hand, are known to provide new returns because they enable you and your team to perform better. You'll be able to offer your customers broader treatment options and increase efficiency. 

 

It might seem intimidating at first to invest in dental equipment upgrades. But your financial advisor will help you make wise, profitable investments that maximize your returns. 


By actioning these helpful tips, your practice will be well on its way to rapid and exponential growth!

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Make These Small Improvements in 2022 to Take Your Dental Practice to New Heights

sable_industries_dental_practice_improvements_2022

 

You might read the title of this article and think to yourself, “pfft...my practice doesn’t need to improve.”  

 

And to this notion, we say this: even the top performers need to remain vigilant if they’re going to stay at the top of their game.  

 

After all, healthcare providers of all kinds, dentists included, continually attend conferences and workshops to sharpen their practice toolkit. That’s how you remain the best in your field. 

 

No matter the success your dental practice has already experienced, there is always room for growth and fine-tuning. As 2021 draws to a close, here are some trends we've seen dental professionals use to the benefit of their practices this year. 

  

1. Embrace The Digital Era 

With patients stuck at home, the pandemic solidified the intersection of oral healthcare, data, and technology. These advancements make it possible to apply the related tools to almost every aspect of your business, including patient outreach and your team's workflow. 

 

First and foremost, these efforts start with you collecting and safely storing data, then implementing data-driven dentistry initiatives such as: 

Creating content relevant to a social media audience concerned about their oral health. 

 

Targeting your marketing initiatives down into profession, age, location, and gender. 

Incorporating data in scheduling and workflow to streamline both Insightful data about your office and patients inform you how to meet the needs of any given appointment or shift. 

  

2. Know That Time is Money 

Sometimes, as a dentist or hygienist, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. 

You want appointments to occur as scheduled and on time. But far too often, unforeseen problems arise that make an appointment run long. 

 

From there, you’re leaving other patients in the waiting room who have their own schedule to worry about, which might include work or family-related duties. 

How do you resolve this tension? 

 

Start by providing enough cushioning when blocking out appointments. Of course, you don’t want to give too much cushion because you might miss out on additional business. But do your best to block out enough time to provide thorough care while not allowing one appointment to bleed into the next. 

 

Also, you need to create an atmosphere that suggests you care about your patients’ time, even when your schedule gets railroaded. That means no sauntering in late in front of awaiting clients. And it might mean calling a patient in advance, if possible, to let them know you’ll be running late. 

 

When you make patients feel like you don’t value their time, they’re bound to find another dental practice that does. 

  

3. Mind Your Body Language 

Dentists, hygienists, and technicians need to embrace their roles as salespeople and ambassadors of their brand. 

 

To the above point, think about walking into a store or restaurant, and an associate or serving staff rolls their eyes, scowls, or immediately looks away from you. Would you be in a rush to go back there, no matter what is said to you or the products being sold? 

 

Your handiwork and verbal abilities could be second to none. Still, body language accounts for 55% of the message you’re trying to convey. Surprisingly, the skill you have and the words you speak mean much less, comparatively, when communicating. 

 

Remember, your patients are often anxious and fearful. So how you communicate a treatment plan with your body, for example, is more important than what you’re saying with your mouth. Ensure that you’re making eye contact and are engaged and enthusiastic when you speak. 

  

4. Think Bigger Picture 

Dentistry allows you to get away with poor business-related habits because your skills as a practitioner and quality of service can shine through. 

 

As a result, practice owners and their employers tend to be more caught up in the moment than focused on concrete, long-term objectives. This is all well and good, but what if you want more from your practice? 

 

No doubt, minding matters such as finances, patient satisfaction, and office inventory should take priority. But all those components should be sums of a much greater part, contributing to your big-picture vision. 

 

Making this crucial transition into being more business-minded involves a shift in your philosophy. Start by setting concrete, quantifiable goals you can track and monitor. This way, you can keep making improvements that ensure your growth. 

 

What kind of long-term objectives should you focus on? 

 

Here are a few examples: 

  • A boost in lead generation 
  • Increased referrals 
  • Heightened efficiency 
  • A rise in profits 

These tips aren’t abstract or over-the-top. They are all immediately actionable, so you can make impactful improvements that help your practice right away. 

 

Plus, these suggestions are only scratching the surface. It will only take a handful of straightforward improvements to trigger a steady stream of growth and productivity for your practice. Look in the mirror and be honest with yourself about your shortcomings, then work toward improving them! 

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5 Tips To Advance Your Dental Hygiene Career & Land That Dream Job

Feeling stuck in the same old daily grind?

 

Fear not: as a registered dental hygienist, you don't have to spend your entire career doing clinical work.

 

Just think...

  • You could be a hero for oral health and make a lasting positive impact as a dedicated public health manager.
  • Or, maybe you'd rather be a savvy sales rep, schmoozing with other dental professionals and advising them on the latest and greatest dental technology.
  • You could even become a dental hygiene professor, inspiring the next generation of hygienists or leading a breakthrough in dental research.

Dental hygienists can discover a world of fulfilling career opportunities outside the four walls of the dental clinic. All you need to do is be proactive, motivated, and open-minded.


Get Out of the Clinic and Advance Your Dental Hygiene Career

 

Take it from Emily Miller-Lehr, whose illustrious career has taken her from private practice to dental supply sales, to faculty at a dental hygiene school, to public service, and finally to Aspen Dental Management as a relationship manager.

 

Despite this impressive resume, in a recent piece for Hygienetown, Emily had this to say to dental hygienists like her: “I’m not special.

 

Her firsthand experience has led her to believe that any hygienist who's dedicated enough can advance their career with the same leaps and bounds.

 

“As a dental hygienist who has taken on career changes and challenges headfirst, I’ll be the first to say that any hygienist who’s dedicated to change also can do just that,” she writes.

 

So, how do you do it? In the same Hygienetown piece, Emily says it boils down to five key things:

  1. Know your strengths and explore new opportunities
  2. Keep moving forward, even in the face of setbacks
  3. Let the world know you’re here to grow
  4. Go back to school with a set goal in mind
  5. Know all your options

While every hygienist's path to success will look different, we agree that these tips can put you on the right track!

 

1. Know Your Strengths and Explore New Opportunities


Start by taking stock of your soft skills.

 

As a dental hygienist, not only are you good with a scaler, but you're also a good communicator, team player, and flexible problem solver. These skills can take you a long way in just about any job role.

 

Next, consider your hard skills. These are the ones you learned in dental hygiene school, but they go beyond that. Besides your practical hygiene skills, you may have expertise in specific software or on a specific CE topic.

 

Finally, think about how you might gain new skills to fill in the gaps. For example, if your clinic needs to work on a recall list, volunteer to lead the effort and document it. You've just learned a skill you can use in the future!

 

If you’re not being challenged to learn new skills at work, look toward CE courses or the mountain of online courses available on sites like Udemy and LinkedIn Learning. Each new skill opens up a world of possibilities!

 

2. Keep Moving Forward, Even in the Face of Setbacks


When it comes to career moves, you don't always succeed the first time. Don't give up. Instead, take a look at others who've already made the leap and learn from them.

 

Whenever you're curious about how someone grew their career, ask them! People love to talk about their accomplishments, and you can learn a lot from their success.

 

If you don't know anyone with the "dream job" you have in mind, seek out someone who does and connect with them online. LinkedIn and Hygienetown are great places to network with professionals in your field and learn from their career journeys.

 
3. Let The World Know You’re Here To Grow


If you love your work environment, don’t be afraid to tell your team that you want to expand your role beyond your current hygienist responsibilities.

 

If your workplace supports your career goals, you will have more opportunities to build your resume in that direction. Plus, your desire to grow and learn will have a positive impact on your practice and current job!

 

Sadly, not every workplace will be accommodating. That's the way it is. But that doesn’t mean you should keep your ambitions all to yourself.

 

Be open about your aspirations with friends and colleagues outside of your current workplace. Share your goals and ambitions with others you meet on LinkedIn and similar sites. In these online group settings, you'll often find people willing to help others.

 

Plus, the next time a role opens up in their organization, they might think of you!


4. Go Back To School


Whatever your career goals may be, a degree, diploma, or certificate program may be an important step toward your future.

 

In particular, dental hygienists who are considering positions in public health, government, education, or administration are likely to need more education.

 

However, before you invest in education, make sure it’s really going to help you advance your career goals! Research job postings that are similar to the one you want and ask people with similar roles what level of education is needed.

 

There are many dental hygiene-related jobs that don't require a separate degree, but may require a good understanding of management, public policy, or specific software programs. Even a simple certificate program might give you the edge you need to land that dream job.

 

5. Know All Your Options


Dream big! Your career doesn't have to revolve around scaling and cleaning. The dental profession is exploding with career opportunities, especially in dental service organizations (DSO’s).

 

Think back to Emily Miller-Lehr, who penned the Hygienetown piece that inspired this article. Beside practicing as a hygienist in private practice, she worked as a sales representative, instructor at a dental hygiene school and a community college, and manager of the Maricopa County Office of Oral Health.

 

The ADEA offers the following as a partial list of career options available to dental hygienists who want to leave the clinic:

  • In the corporate world: pharmaceutical sales, dental supplies sales, dental office manager, corporate educator, dental insurance officer, hospital or nursing home consultant
  • In academia: classroom instructor, clinical or didactic instructor, laboratory instructor, educational researcher, dental hygiene program director, dean
  • Public health: local or state dental public health officer, community clinic administrator, National Health Service Corps member

When it comes to changing careers, there are many ways you can position yourself to succeed. As you advance in your career, just remember to evaluate, grow, communicate, research, and understand!

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3 Ways AI Could Help Alleviate the Stress of Today’s Dental Hiring Crisis

The pandemic has made recruiting dental assistants and hygienists harder than ever. In fact, 80% of hiring dentists say it's difficult to find assistants and hygienists right now

But there is hope.  


Dentists are an inherently resourceful group of professionals (how else could you have made it through dental school? ), and some practice owners are finding ways to reduce the stress of today's hiring crisis by using artificial intelligence. 


In this article, we examine how artificial intelligence works and how it can reduce stress and turmoil associated with the hiring crisis. 

  

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning 


AI uses machines (primarily computers) to simulate human intelligence processes such as learning, reasoning, and self-correction. 

 

For example, speech recognition, expert systems, and machine vision are all typical AI applications. 

 

Machine learning is an integral part of any discussion of AI today. While artificial intelligence and machine learning aren’t one and the same, they go hand in hand, with machine learning being an AI-based application. 

 

Through machine learning, systems can learn and improve from experience without the need to be specifically programmed. The primary focus of machine learning is to help computers access data then use it to learn without the need for human intervention. 

Moreover, machine learning keeps a computer’s built-in algorithms updated so that machines can make predictions based on chosen data. 

 

Another significant, game-changing advantage with machine learning is its ability to sift through enormous masses of information. That data is then applied to any number of areas, from investing and fraud detection all the way to various dental practice functions. 

  

How Can AI Help Curb Stress Related to Dental Hiring? 


At this point, you’re probably entirely aware of the pitfalls of being understaffed. People end up working longer hours, burning out, and bringing that stress everywhere they go, including their home and other aspects of their personal lives.  

 

In these understaffed scenarios, employees end up doing jobs they weren’t hired to do and taking shifts they usually wouldn’t work. All of this amounts to diminished job satisfaction and hampered performance. 

 

So, how can AI and machine learning help to curb this issue?  

 

Obviously, artificial intelligence cannot perform the duties of a dental assistant or hygienist (in fact, dental professionals are among the least likely to ever be replaced by machines.) What it can do is help relieve the stress of being understaffed by saving time, improving patient care, and streamlining the hiring process.  


Here's how it might look in your dental practice: 

 

1. Focus More on Patient Care 


The inability to find office staff means many administrative tasks begin to pile up. But someone has to do them. So, dentists and hygienists get stuck with more business-related work that takes time away from patient care. 

 

As much as you’re willing to step up in times of crisis, dentists and hygienists get into the industry specifically to provide care, not to be administrators. And doing work you don’t enjoy is a one-way ticket to stress and misery. 

 

Fortunately, there are AI tools out there that automate administrative processes. Even if you can’t find office staff, these tasks will be streamlined and made hassle-free, so you won’t be taken away from patients. 

 

MCC Health, for example, is an electronic recordkeeping solution that streamlines the administration of EPA Amalgam Separator compliance. It is already being used effectively by hundreds of dentists in the United States ‒ and best of all, MMC Health is free to use. 

 

Here’s a list of other functions you can expect dental software solutions to perform: 

  • Setting daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or yearly goals 
  • Automating a tasks list for each practice employee 
  • Regularly issuing goal progress reports 

 

Dentist-specific AI also knows best practices from other dental businesses. Plus, it holds onto your practice’s data. From there, it’s possible to set attainable goals without needing to waste much time discussing these issues during meetings. 

  

2. Follow Up With Patients 


Without enough staff working at your practice, connecting with patients to schedule appointments becomes a struggle. Once again, a task often performed by office staff falls into the lap of dentists and hygienists who should be focusing on care. 

 

Fortunately, AI-powered chatbots can connect with patients in the absence of a human employee. 

 

Specifically, the right tool will help find new patients or pinpoint new treatments for current patients. Better yet, it won’t overlap your appointment reminder or birthday reminder programs. Instead, the AI will interact with those systems in perfect harmony. 

  

3. Improve the Hiring Process 


recent article from Forbes explains how AI provides the following benefits to the hiring process, helping you find talent to fill the gaps created by the crisis: 

  • Saves time with automated interview confirmation emails 
  • Uses algorithm-based screening to find suitable candidates 
  • Removes unconscious biases so you hire better and faster 
  • Searches for the best candidates on various platforms by scanning for crucial keywords without you lifting a finger 

  

A Solution For Understaffed Dental Practices 


Being understaffed isn’t ideal for any business, dental practices included. However, we’ve never been more equipped to rise to the occasion. Today’s technologies make it possible to both thrive and survive in the face of a hiring crisis.

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Highlighting the Importance of Aerosol Management in 2021 and Beyond


 

Overall, people in both Canada and the United States place a high value on oral health. 

During various times of economic crisis, dental practices have continued to prosper even though other industries have struggled ‒ because patients have many reasons to continue seeing their dentist.  


In their minds, there are simply too many pitfalls of neglecting dental care to suddenly avoid the dentist's chair. Plus, dentists offer plenty of leeway to financially strapped patients where possible. 


Then came the pandemic in 2020, which changed everything. 


Suddenly, many patients believed that just visiting a dental clinic would put their health at risk. Clinics closed their doors across North America, and when they finally reopened, dentists began spending their days trying to book appointments instead of providing patients with essential care. 


Now, after a year and a half of mulling over solutions, the dental industry figured out the root of the problem: aerosol management.

 

The Danger of Aerosols in a Clinical Environment

 

High-speed dental instruments, handpieces, ultrasonic scalers, and three-way syringes create aerosols that stay suspended in a clinical environment. 


Here are a couple of specific examples of how aerosol production occurs: 

  • Using a drill for fillings necessitates spraying water to prepare the tooth. Upon contacting the tooth, the sprayed water jettisons back into the air along with the bacteria in the patient’s mouth, ending up suspended in the air. 
  • Throughout the standard cleaning process, ultrasonic scalers spray water which removes plaque but creates aerosols. 

With this in mind, it’s unsurprising to hear that research points to COVID-19 being transmitted through aerosols.  


But before getting too ahead of ourselves, we’ll point out that COVID-19 cases have been few and far between in dental offices. 


All the same, the risk is real. And, if practitioners aren’t careful, the aerosols might spread viral bacteria throughout the treatment space, leading to cross-contamination. From there, the entire surrounding community could be at risk. 


For the above reasons, vigilant aerosol management is at the heart of creating a safe environment for patients and staff.

 

Understanding the Difference Between Aerosol and Splatter Management

 

For dental practices to uphold the highest safety standards for patients, staff, and the surrounding community, they must differentiate between aerosol and splatter mitigation. Despite the industry gaining more knowledge on this topic throughout the pandemic, some confusion lingers onward. 


Splatter involves saliva or blood droplets that spread quickly. 


There’s some heft to your typical droplet of splatter. And it’s often visible when landing on surfaces or clothing. 


Conversely, airborne aerosols aren’t even a third as thick as a single strand of human hair. And they remain suspended in the air much longer than splatter, making them much more of a risk to spread viruses and bacteria. 


Because of these crucial differences, prevention methods for splatter and aerosol can’t be treated as one and the same. 

 

Combining Aerosol and Splatter Mitigation Techniques

 

PPE measures are the bare minimum of what you can do for splatter and aerosol, but they’re a start nonetheless. The same can be said for air filtration. These are both effective but fail at offsetting the air clearance time between patients. 


Unfortunately, aerosols can remain in the air for two hours after a dental procedure. So these two techniques aren’t enough on their own while still entirely necessary. That’s why many dentists are utilizing complete room separation. 

 

The ideal PPE consists of face shields, gloves, and gowns for offsetting splatter. Furthermore, surface disinfectants will further strengthen splatter mitigation. 

 

As for aerosol management, you’ll want to consider the following approaches: 

  • N95 masks 
  • Air filtration systems 
  • Extraoral suction systems position near the patient 

Recently, further technological advancements have been made to capture aerosols as they form. The new approach combines extraoral suctioning with a transparent protective screen. 

 

Another method being used by many dentists is the usage of rubber dams during restorative appointments. 

 

A rubber dam is a stretchy material. Depending on where the procedure is done, the dam is meant to cover a patient’s mouth, helping isolate one tooth or several teeth. A barrier is created by this protective equipment, separating the patient’s mouth from the outside environment. 

 

While rubber dams do help with aerosol prevention, they aren’t necessarily meant for all procedures. They’re also not the easiest thing in the world to use. So, here’s a tutorial video in case you need a point of reference.

 

Communicate Your Changes with Patients and Staff

 

The peace of mind offered by safety measures goes hand-in-hand with the protection provided. In other words, it’s not enough to keep people safe from the spread of COVID-19; you need to make them feel protected. 

 

Part of that involves transparent communications with your staff and your patients so they can breathe easier. 

 

Also, ensure your team is fully trained on your aerosol management protocols.

 

Knowledge is power. And your team will benefit tremendously from proper guidance on these new systems. 

 

From there, your practice will be equipped to thrive in a post-COVID world.

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Examining and Improving the Health of Your Dental Practice


 

Let's say you're a student at university, taking your first English literature elective. You step into your first class and notice your teacher's notes on the blackboard are full of spelling and grammar errors.  


We’re willing to bet you’d have second thoughts about taking the class, because you understand that licensed professionals should always practice what they preach. 


A similar principle applies to the state of any given dental practice.  


Yes, you’re committed to improving the health of your patients...but what about the health of your business? You can’t keep offering high-level care if your business is ailing. 


And, of course, the same idea applies to the health of your employees. You spend so much time focused on your patient’s well-being that it’s natural to overlook your own team’s safety. 


Just as you care for the health of your patients, it is important to pay attention to the health of your practice and staff. Let's look at how this can be achieved. 


How Can You Assess Your Practice’s Health?


Evidence suggests that most dentists do not spend sufficient time assessing the status of their own practices. Although many practices use dental practice management software (PMS), which generates a great deal of information, they often struggle to make that information actionable. 


One way to solve this problem is a tool called a practice health assessment, which can help provide clearer insight into how your practice is doing. A practice health assessment gathers data from your existing practice management software (PMS) database and breaks it down into useful metrics in a kind of “Practice Scorecard.”  


As an example, rather than looking at how many total patients you have entered into your practice management software, you might instead consider how many are active patients (confirming practice stability) or inactive patients (suggesting potential for growth), as well as demographic data (for market segmentation). 


It would also be helpful to compare these numbers with industry-average benchmarks to provide context. 


These practice health assessment tools can provide more deep-dive insights than standard PMS reports. Unlike the systems of old, new practice assessment tools convey the data in impactful ways that tell a meaningful, digestible story with the numbers. 


Furthermore, practice health assessment tools identify missing data in PMS fields, so your team can fill them in to make the reporting more detailed. 


The practice assessment tool removes the need for guesswork, assumptions, and anecdotal evidence. And it replaces those lesser approaches with a clear look into what’s really happening at your practice. 


By monitoring the overall health of your practice, you’ll better your chances at cultivating a positive, thriving work environment. It will be a place that patients want to visit and employees want to work. 

 

Protecting Your Employees and Valuing Their Health

 

Speaking of your employees, now that you’ve managed the health of your practice itself, it’s time to focus on your team’s well-being. After all, if your staff isn’t happy and healthy, your business won’t be primed for long-term success.  


In the age of COVID, infection prevention is a top priority. And while there are government regulations, taking every measure to protect your team from all infections should be a top priority. 


This brings us to the IPAC (infection prevention and control) checklist for dental practices. By using this resource, your business will experience the following benefits:
 

  • You’ll have helpful guidelines for conducting inspections, assessments, and investigations of infection prevention and control. 
  • Comparing current infection prevention methods with other dental practices makes your practice likely to keep up with and even exceed safety standards. 

 The checklist examines safety procedures throughout your entire practice, from your waiting room all the way to antiseptic techniques and dental handpiece management.  


It uses a legend with the following facets to convey the importance of various procedures: 

  • LR is used for legislative requirements, which must comply with any relevant act or regulations. 
  • H is used for high risk health hazards that must be corrected immediately. Otherwise, there will be a heightened risk of injury or illness. 
  • M is for medium risks that must be managed somewhat promptly. Resolutions or alternate processes can be figured out during an inspection. 
  • IE stands for “inform and educate,” requiring information on best practices and mandated regulations. 

Before moving forward, it’s worth noting that the checklist provided doesn’t replace legislative measures.

 

A Healthy Practice Means Healthier Patients

 

As a dental practitioner, your professional life revolves around the well-being of your patients. However, it’s impossible to keep providing top-notch healthcare when your practice and your staff aren’t healthy themselves. 


Fortunately, through the tools discussed in this blog, you’ll ensure your practice remains high-performing as a business. And you’ll secure the overall safety of your team through infection prevention practices. 


Lastly, we’ll leave you with a parting note: keeping your practice thriving while preventing infections will win much of the battle. But employee health goes a bit deeper than that. Dental practice owners must prioritize their team’s overall wellness and encourage them to lead healthy lifestyles. 


This way, you and your whole team will practice what you preach.

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Follow These Crucial Tips for Care and Maintenance of Dental Handpieces


 

You could purchase the most expensive, high-performing dental handpiece on the market, but that value disappears when you don’t maintain this essential tool of the trade.


In general, this holds true for your entire dental practice. It doesn’t matter the size or quality of your practice  – it'll suffer if it's not well maintained!

Properly cleaning and maintaining your handpieces will help to extend their lifespan, reduce the risk of infection, and keep your practice running smoothly. For the best care and maintenance of all your dental handpieces, follow these tips.

 

Considerations for Handpiece Sterilization


Handpieces are the most important (and often most expensive) tools in your dental practice. Know how to sterilize handpieces properly so that their lifespan can be extended and cross-infection can be prevented.


1. Always Autoclave Between Patients


Several studies show that non-autoclaved high and low speed handpieces can cause cross-contamination.


One study in particular performed 160 tests with two handpiece types where the prophy angle experienced contamination. This resulted in the motor being contaminated 20% of the time.


Then, when the other motor was contaminated, 47% of the 160 samples saw microbes transmitted to the prophy angle.


Another study assessed 20 subjects where 3-quarters of the 420 samples gathered from low-speed handpiece systems were contaminated with oral flora.


The primary takeaway here is to never reuse a handpiece without autoclaving.

Following this advice keeps your practice clean and your patient’s/staff safe.


2. Ensure Your Handpiece is Sterilization-Friendly


Ensure your handpiece is autoclavable. More specifically, it should have a smooth, sleek design that doesn’t retain debris or bacteria.


Know that a titanium finish can handle sterilization chemicals long-term, whereas a chrome plate won’t hold up over time.


Lastly, the finish on your handpiece should be seamless, without any gap between outer casings.


3. Know How to Sterilize Your Handpieces


Follow these steps in order when sterilizing your handpiece:


Cleaning the surface:

  • Remove contaminants from the internal water line by flushing water through the handpiece inside the operatory for 30 seconds.
  • Clean off any bioburden in the sterilization area. Do so using a brush under running water with a mild detergent.

Dry the handpiece:

  • This is 100% necessary when using a chemiclave sterilizer since excess water causes oxidation in the chamber, leading to corrosion.

Handpiece lubrication:

  • Spray oil into the drive airline with the proper lubricating tip, spraying until oil expels from the handpiece head.

Get rid of excess oil:

  • When you’re done lubricating the handpiece, run it to evenly distribute the oil through the bearing. This process also gets rid of excess oil.
  • Run the handpiece for 20 seconds after installing a bur in the chuck. And DO NOT use bur blanks.

Ensure fibre-optic surfaces are clean:

  • Remove excess oil and debris from fibre-optic surfaces with alcohol and a Q-Tip.
  • Put the handpiece in a paper/plastic combination bag.

It’s finally time to sterilize:

  • When autoclaving your handpiece, manufacturer guidelines must be followed to the letter.
  • The sterilizer must process entirely through the dry cycle.

Drying your handpiece:

  • Place the bag (now with a handpiece inside) paper-side up atop the sterilizer, so it dries completely.

Other Handpiece Maintenance Tips


Maintenance and sterilization tend to overlap, but this section will highlight aspects of handpiece care that will help it last longer.


Considerations during cleaning and sterilization:

  • Soft bristle brushes won’t damage the product.
  • Hot water can cause blood coagulation inside the instrument, leading to bearing/clamp blockage. So, only use cold or lukewarm water.
  • Chemicals or abrasives will damage the handpiece’s outer surface, potentially removing the inner layer of lubrication.
  • Instruments shouldn’t be immersed in disinfectant liquids since these corrode mechanical parts almost immediately.
  • Disinfectant wipes and alcohol will cause steam to penetrate through the holes inside your instruments, leading to near-instant damage.

Considerations for lubrication:

  • 100% synthetic aerosol oils are a must, and they need to be of high quality.
  • With the correct oil, you’ll extend the lifespan of your handpiece, all at a price no greater than what you’ll pay for standard mineral oils.

Other considerations:

  • Follow the manufacturer guidelines when it comes to air pressure, and don’t exceed the suggested amount. Heeding these instructions prevents damage to your turbine.
  • Only use manufacturer-approved tools when your handpiece needs tweaks or quick fixes. Or, just send your handpiece to the manufacturer for repairs.
  • Before sterilizing, remove the bur and release chuck levers to prevent spring or lever compression. This will defend against damage that shortens the life of the handpiece.
  • A chuck needs its own specific care. Manually and directly applying lubricant should work.

 

Get the Most Out of Your Equipment


With these tips, you’ll keep your practice clean and safe while maximizing the value of your handpiece by extending its overall performance and lifespan.


At first, it might take some adjusting to remember all these tips. But you’ll quickly find these are relatively small efforts that lead to massive improvements in the quality of dental care you provide!

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