Tough times come and go, and one of the challenges is we never know exactly when they will strike. It could be a national emergency like COVID-19, a tragedy in your town, or even a personal setback.
In any case, these kinds of events can exacerbate what is already one of the biggest challenges in the dental profession: burnout.
Dentists, hygienists and other dental professionals report a very high incidence of stress and burnout, with concerns ranging from litigation to regulation to maintaining high standards of patient care.
What does burnout look like, and how can you avoid it in these difficult times? Below, we’ll help you recognize the warning signs and outline ways to build your resilience – whether times are good, bad, or somewhere in between!
What is ‘Burnout’ in the Dental Profession?
Burnout is a state of overall exhaustion that affects your mind, emotions, and body, caused by exposure to prolonged and excessive stress.
When you’re going through a personal struggle or affected by an event like COVID-19, there will always be times of greater stress in your life. Add that to the day-to-day challenges of managing your business and career… it’s easy to see how these forces combine into a recipe for burnout.
Burnout can stem from anything in your life that causes long-term stress. Living through a long, stressful period in your practice, whether your business is struggling to survive or overloaded with patients, is a common cause. Even if you don’t own the clinic directly, the strain from these types of situations can get to you – in fact, dental assistants show higher burnout scores in studies than other staff.
What Burnout Looks Like
Burnout makes every day feel like a bad day. It often feels like you have lost your passion for everything, and work that used to excite and challenge you suddenly seems dull and pointless. You may feel like nothing you do makes a difference, even when it does.
The main difference between ordinary stress and burnout is that burnout is a chronic condition. While stress is temporary, burnout is constant. When you’re experiencing stress, cynicism, exhaustion and frustration day in and day out, you could be experiencing dental burnout.
Everyone reacts differently to prolonged stress, so burnout won’t look the same in each person. It’s important not to discount your burnout simply because it looks different than someone else’s.
Physical illness, including headaches or digestive issues
Feeling exhausted no matter how much you sleep
Overall disengagement with work and your personal life
Once you’ve hit burnout, you may need professional help to recover. Don’t be shy about looking for a therapist, counsellor, psychiatrist or another mental health professional to help you get back on your feet.
How to Be Resilient and Avoid Burnout
The key to avoiding dental burnout is to prioritize your own needs. That can be very hard for dentists and hygienists, who feel they have such a strong obligation to others’ needs.
Because dentistry is a caregiving profession, it’s easy to get so focused on taking care of your patients and others in your life that you forget to nurture yourself. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time with patients, hearing their stories and sharing in their challenges.
However, you can’t give back when you’re pushed up against the wall. Taking care of yourself is how you maintain your ability to care for others.
Chances are you’re familiar with the notion of “self-care”, but many people are mistaken thinking it’s all about pampering yourself. Self-care goes far deeper than that. Pampering is great, but you need to take other steps as well!
Here are some ways to care for yourself:
Calm your mind with meditation or other mindfulness practices
Eat healthy meals that provide you with the energy you need
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:
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.
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.
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!
I don’t need to tell you how stressful a dental office can be on any given day! However, new research from the University of Plymouth indicates that this time pressure can lead to results much more dangerous than a missed lunch or reduced time for mental breaks throughout the day.
In fact, we know now that dentists are much more liable to miss crucial details when reviewing patient x-rays if they’re crunched for time.
What the Research Says
Despite dentistry’s infamy as a stressful field, very little research has been done to examine the effects of stress on a dentist’s performance.
In March 2019, researchers asked forty dentists to interpret x-rays with and without the addition of time pressure. Afterward, these dentists were also asked to rate their stress levels during their session with a time crunch versus their diagnostic session without time pressure.
Understandably, the dentists in the study reported feeling much more stressed when working under time constraints. Additionally, their performance was significantly hindered when pressured for time.
In other words, time pressure meant that dentists were more likely to make diagnostic errors and overlook potential warning signs offered by x-rays ‒ a devastating effect that has the potential to put patients in danger of missed diagnoses and worsening health.
Of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the potential legal complications of missed diagnoses for any practice, too!
Addressing the Problem
The risks documented in this study may land more personally than you expect. Instead of discarding this poignant research as something which could never happen in your own office, take some time to learn and implement a few tools to create a lower-stress environment within your practice.
Whether you realize it or not, it’s easy for the fear and tension of your patients to seep into your own conscience while you’re working.
Avoid this by being perceptive of your patients’ anxiety, showing empathy and understanding to patients who are stressed out by their visit, and encouraging them to take a couple of long, deep breaths.
Not only will this improve your quality of care and improve the patient experience, but it will reduce your stress, too!
2. Exercise self-care at work.
Whether this means taking a quick break to enjoy your favourite tea, meditating during lunch, or simply showing compassion for yourself while you’re on the clock, make sure that self-care practices don’t stay at home during the day. Drink plenty of water, stretch, and consume well-balanced food during breaks and lunch.
If your body feels better, your mind will feel better, too.
3. Pinpoint what’s stressing you out.
Before you can reduce stress, you must work to identify the sources of stress.
Need some help? The top five causes of stress in the field of dentistry are: running behind schedule, excessive workload, causing a patient pain, caring for anxious patients, and treating patients who don’t show up on time.
Once you have a better idea of what’s stressing you out, you can take more targeted steps to adjust and relax.
4. Be positive.
Attitude is everything. Even if you’re not feeling positive, search for the humour in the day’s situations and put a smile on your face.
Not only will patients value this positive attitude, but it will also keep stress and burnout at bay!
It’s a Team Effort
One final note! It may be tempting to discard this research and these strategies if your role within your dental practice doesn’t involve the diagnosis of patients or x-ray review. However, don’t think for a moment that it’s not important for every member of a functioning dental practice to learn stress management in the workplace!
While the study discussed above specifically investigated x-ray diagnoses by dentists, dental hygienists and assistants are equally susceptible to making mistakes or sacrificing thorough care when office stress gets high.
I want to emphasize that the tips I’ve offered above apply not just to dentists, but to everyone.
Embrace them as you work to improve your practice’s environment, eliminate stress, and prioritize the best possible patient care.
As a dental professional, your handpiece is one of your single most important tools of the trade. You’d like to keep this trusted instrument performing good-as-new for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, handpiece maintenance isn’t always as simple as the sales brochure makes it out to be. Keeping a handpiece in top shape requires that you follow a strict regimen of cleaning and lubrication. That’s a lot to ask of anyone in a fast-paced, fully-booked dental practice.
Wish there was a way to extend the life of your favourite handpiece and spend less time on maintenance? It could be easier than you think, if you choose your maintenance supplies wisely.
Why Your Handpiece Lubricant Makes a Difference
As you know, cleaning and lubrication are the cornerstones of basic handpiece maintenance.
Handpieces must be cleaned after each use (even between sterilizations) to avoid cross-contamination, and daily lubrication is necessary to keep the turbine, air motor, shank and head in good working order.
It is important to follow cleaning with lubrication, as the abrasives found in handpiece cleaners can get into the mechanisms of the handpiece.
Today, many clinics use automatic handpiece maintenance systems to lubricate multiple handpieces simultaneously. However, lubricating a handpiece manually is relatively simple:
Disassemble the handpiece and remove the burr so you can reach its internal components.
Inject lubricant into the air drive port so that it reaches the turbine.
Lubricate both ends of the contra-angle, or remove the cylinder from the prophy angle and lubricate both ends.
Re-assemble the handpiece and operate, head down, for 10-30 seconds (depending on the manufacturer's instructions) without a burr to purge excess lubricant. Wipe any excess lubricant remaining on the handpiece using a dry gauze pad or paper towel.
10 Tips to Extend the Life of Any Dental Handpiece
Proper lubrication is essential to getting the most life and the best possible performance from any dental handpiece.
Here are a few pointers on choosing a handpiece lubricant that can help you minimize downtime, reduce the frequency of repairs and avoid unnecessary costs while extending your tool’s lifespan.
Lubricate the Handpiece Chuck Separately
The handpiece chuck generally requires separate care and a direct dose of lubricant.
Lubricate Before Sterilization, Not After
A high-quality handpiece lubricant like Sable EZ Lube will not break down in autoclaving temperature or otherwise be affected by the sterilization process. Lubrication prior to autoclaving has also been shown to increase the longevity of air-turbine handpiece bearings.
Avoid Overlubricating Low-Speed Handpieces
Applying too much lubricant to a low-speed motor can saturate it and cause it to become sluggish.
Use a Product That Cleans And Lubricants At Once
This saves you valuable time when it comes to preparing your handpiece for sterilization. We’ve developed Sable EZ Lube to remove dirt and stains from handpiece surfaces while it lubricates.
Don’t Lubricate ‘Lube-Free’ Turbine Bearings
Certain Kavo and Star Dental handpiece turbines are not designed for direct lubrication.
Use a Food-Grade Handpiece Lubricant
We know that a handpiece can discharge lubricant in the direction of the bur for some 40 minutes after lubrication. Using a food-grade synthetic lubricant will ensure that this will not affect your patients.
Never Use Any Non-Dental Lubricant For Your Handpiece
Safety comes first! Non-dental lubricants may not be safe for your patients or good for your handpiece. Sable EZ Lube was developed in conjunction with Aerospace Lubricants Inc. specifically for dental handpieces.
Always Follow the Handpiece Manufacturer’s Instructions Maintenance standards can vary between different manufacturers, and in different models from the same manufacturer.
Use The Adapter That Corresponds Your Coupling System This will ensure that you deliver the right amount of lubricant to the deepest recesses of your handpiece. Our Sable EZ Lube comes in 500ml aerosol cans with nozzles available for most handpieces, including contras, straights, heads and low-speed motors.
Don’t Skimp on the Lubricant! Your handpiece can’t function properly without proper lubrication! If cost is a concern, there are affordable handpiece lubricants on the market. Sable EZ Lube is affordably priced, with cost savings of 20-30% over other top lubricant brands.
Have any questions about our handpiece lubricants? Get in touch with us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!
In any business, there are customers that we like and customers that test our patience. The same goes for the patients that visit the dentist’s office.
And sometimes, it’s hard to handle them so that they have the best experience and you can do your job.
Here are 4 types of patients that can be difficult and how to manage them.
1. The Google Expert
We all know that one patient.
They know all the latest and greatest medical news and can’t wait to share with the dental hygienist. Instead of giving them a cleaning, we’re bombarded with questions that have taken four years of dentistry school to learn.
“Why didn’t you use this treatment?’
“Shouldn’t you be doing this?”
It can be exhausting.
It’s wonderful that the patient is enthusiastic about getting involved with the process, but it can hinder dental hygienists’ trying to do their job and sometimes even be harmful to the patient.
It’s 3:50. Their appointment was at 3:30. At this point, we’re assuming they just aren’t coming.
That’s when they stroll on in. The only thing more frustrating than that is if it happens on the regular.
Lateness has a domino effect. Regardless if all the next patients are on time, there’s no way to get back that 20 minutes. The worst part is making other patients wait just because someone has chronic tardiness. It isn’t good for anyone.
The best way to manage lateness is to incorporate a late policy. And stick to it.
Anyone that is more than 15-20 minutes late to their appointment, cannot be seen that day and will have to reschedule.
Generally, patients will respect the set appointment time and it will reduce the amount of late arrivers.
As dental hygienists, no one wants to see a patient cringe and tense as we recline the chair or pull back their cheeks. But no matter what we try to do to calm them, nothing works.
Sometimes, their discomfort and tension can radiate onto us, making us nervous too.
The best advice is to stay calm yourself. This is much easier said than done but often times what you put out into the world you get back in return.
It may be beneficial to open up the floor to a discussion about what is causing the anxiety and how we, as hygienists, can ease that discomfort. By knowing what makes them the most worried, you can avoid or minimize that factor.
In extreme cases, the patient may need to consult their doctor for anti-anxiety medication to take before appointments.
4. The Chatty Cathy
You love them, but at the same time they can be quite frustrating.
These are the types that will get to know you, ask about the kids or about upcoming vacations. They are often the sweetest patients you’ll get!
As much as they make the workday go by faster, they can eat into the appointment through their conversations and suddenly we’re behind schedule!
It can be challenging when managing a Chatty Cathy because we don’t want to be rude in any way but we also have to get the job done on time. But like any skill, managing chatty patients comes with time and experience.
Focus the conversations towards the beginning and end of the appointment as well as during the period of time before the patient is seen by the doctor. These time zones are optimal for conversations because they don’t interrupt your job but also give the patient a chance to socialize.
Not only that but it will also build a better relationship with the patient!
While these four types of difficult patients can pose a challenge, there’s nothing we, as dental hygienists, can’t handle.
There are many corporate-style dental practices cropping up, and plenty of advantages to being part of a large-scale dental service. But despite many smaller practices being scooped up, you can rest assured that privately practicing dentists aren’t going anywhere!
There is a lot to gain by remaining small! The freedoms that come with your own practice can benefit staff and dental patients alike.
1. Customer Service and Individualized Patient Care
Private dental practice has roots in the community. The smaller the practice, the more opportunities to create and maintain meaningful relationships with your dental patients. These connections are priceless and a huge advantage over corporate chatbots and AI customer service interaction.
While a corporation may push for quotas, introductory offers, and discounts ruled by their budgets, often at the patient’s expense—a privately practicing dentist will always be looking out for their patients’ best interests.
2. Human Resources
Having a solid, experienced team you can trust is key to delivering quality dental care. You have to rely on your team and be able to collaborate well in order to be successful.
As a practicing dentist running your own clinic, you have the ability to make any personnel changes you feel are necessary. It’ll be your responsibility to hire whomever you want to get a good group of team members that click together. You’ll have the freedom to implement your own policies, health benefits, bonus structure, and training programs.
Nothing is more frustrating than having management make decisions that ultimately affect your patient’s care. As an employee of a large corporation, you would need to abide by the company’s rules, whether that means replacing your personal assistant or backing one brand of supplier exclusively over another.
However, the freedoms of owning a private dental practice do come at a price. There is all the hiring and firing, scheduling, insurance filing, accounts receivable, and other management decisions that go into running a business. To accomplish these tasks, you can hire an office manager that you feel is the most knowledgeable and who’s thinking is in line with your own.
Being the master of your own marketing campaign offers huge rewards. You may be up against some large established dental corporations that have huge marketing machines, but you also have the freedom to share your own unique story. As a private practitioner, you can choose how to market yourself and stand out from the crowd.
5. Third-Party Vendors
The quality of dentistry you can provide is not always determined by skill alone. Dentistry skills rely on hardware, software, and a variety of consumables used to deliver high-quality dental care.
Running your own practice allows you to choose your own vendors by price and quality of service. It allows you to try out new cutting-edge techniques, equipment, and strategies. Additionally, you would not be constrained to a specific theory of dentistry and limited to only the techniques and treatment plans that the practice selects.
6. Your Goals as Privately Practicing Dentist
You’ve worked and studied hard to become a dentist. Becoming a cog in a large corporate dentistry wheel may not be your idea of success in your field. Starting your day with morning meetings reviewing financial metrics over delivering quality individualized dental care may not be in line with your goals.
As a privately practicing dentist, your focus is on making sure each patient receives the individualized care that they need, from taking the time to discuss brushing techniques to an after-hours dental emergency.
When concentrating on efficiency and making the best use of the available space, it can be easy to forget a dental office also must provide the right atmosphere for clients. Although many dental practitioners have done their best to reduce anxiety for clients, Ondontophobia is still all too real for many people.
While some of these individuals require therapy to manage this issue, practitioners can still do their part to reduce anxiety experienced by anyone dreading a trip to the dentist. A great way to start is by reducing a client’s apprehension before they sit in the examination chair.
Here are some things to keep in mind for dental office design that will help to generate an inviting, relaxed atmosphere for your patients.
In the old days, dental offices often had a tropical fish tank in the waiting room. These provided a gentle distraction for patients, particularly children. Many still do, but now many offices are also installing televisions.
These generally play programs and movies without the sound, but with closed captions activated so interested viewers can follow what is happening.
A TV can provide a relaxing diversion, but you need to be careful about what is on. Violent shows or ones that are particularly suspenseful will be counterproductive, as will news channels on days when the reporting is particularly negative.
Soothing Colours and Artwork
Personal preference always plays a big role when choosing colours for an office, but here are some suggestions to consider. When choosing your colour scheme, aim for hues that induce a sense of tranquility and do not have any hint of threat.
Colours able to bring about a calming energy include those people commonly enjoy in nature, such as sky blue, green/sage, and tan/brown.
White suggests cleanliness and reminds some of anti-septic, but can be triggering for some due to its hospital connotations.
Bright colours, while attractive, can actually put people on edge (red is particularly strong in this regard), so try to stay away from them.
Do not choose only a single colour; pick a main one as well as another that provides a notable contrast, but not too harsh (e.g. a darker and lighter version of the same hue). Solicit opinions from your staff, and ask what they would prefer for areas only they will use.
Artwork can also provide both decoration and visual interest. Be sure to choose art the average person can easily relate to and does not include an abundance of off-putting shades.
Plants and Furniture
Plants will help to reinforce the natural theme and suggest that your practice is a healthy and vibrant place. Be sure to regularly water and maintain them so wilted, dying leaves are never apparent. If it is apparent that everyone on staff is too busy to ensure this happens, hire an outside company to do it.
Choose chairs that look and feel comfortable, but can also hold up well to steady traffic and children. Side tables should be big enough to accommodate patient’s incidentals, but not take up so much space that it becomes awkward to move around.
Include magazine and brochure racks for those who would prefer to read.
Provide a View
If building design permits, and you are lucky enough to be in a picturesque area, provide a window view in the waiting and exam rooms.
This offers another healthy and natural way for patients to get their minds off their procedures, both before and during the process.
Everyone has a bad day at work from time to time. But if you find yourself feeling physically, mentally and emotionally drained on a regular basis, you may be on the road to chairside burnout.
It’s not hard to see why dentistry has one of the highest burnout rates of any profession. While rewarding, the work of a dental hygienist can also be enormously stressful. Hygienists often deal with long hours, tight schedules, and fussy patients in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. One study found one in eight dental hygienists leaves work feeling emotionally exhausted by the demands of the job.
Follow these steps to prevent stress from leading to full-blown chairside burnout.
1) Know the Signs
Stress is hard to miss, but it’s not always as easy to see a burnout coming. The daily marathon of cleanings and consultations leaves little time to stop and think about yourself. Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step to preventing it.
Burnout is marked by feelings of hopelessness, cynicism, and resentfulness. Once stress takes its toll, a normally-cheerful hygienist may start to become impatient and critical. The job may feel less rewarding or purposeful than it did in the beginning. Enthusiasm is replaced by a lack of energy, leading to less productivity. Some people suffer unexplained headaches or other physical complaints.
If you can relate to these signs, take time to gather your thoughts and reflect on your career as a dental hygienist. Try to understand where your negative feelings are coming from. Is it the physical demands of the work? Frustrating office politics? Lack of work-life balance? Like a bad toothache, you can only treat the problem once you’ve found the source of the pain.
2) Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is important in any career, but especially so for dental hygienists. You must make time in your busy day to do things that help you replenish your emotional energy, like walking the dog, taking a long shower, gardening, or listening to your favourite album. Use this time to focus on the present moment and practice positive thinking.
Since being a hygienist is physically demanding, it’s also important to take care of your body. Cardio is proven to help reduce burnout, and light exercise can help reduce the muscle and joint strain. If you’re feeling the burn, ask your doctor about physical therapy or other treatment for work-related injury.
3) Maintain a Work-Life Balance
Your work as a hygienist is important, but it doesn’t have to define who you are. Don’t fall into the trap of making life all about your job. If you’re constantly thinking about being chairside, even on your days off, you’ll only accelerate the burnout effect on your career.
Having things to look forward to outside of work is key to avoiding burnout. It can be something structured, like a college course or a sports league, or a casual hobby like photography. If you’re starting to feel burned out on the job, try something new in your off-time to instill new energy in your life.
4) Connect with Other Hygienists
It’s said that engagement is the antithesis of burnout, but when you’re having difficulty at work, it’s easy to forget why you pursued this career in the first place. People who experience chairside burnout often lose sight of the things they loved about being a dental hygienist.
One of the best ways to stay engaged in your work is to network with other dental hygienists. Your colleagues know the ups and downs of dentistry better than anyone. Sharing stories and advice will help you broaden your knowledge and keep in touch with your passion for dentistry. You can connect with others through online groups and forums, continuing professional development events, and your local hygienist association.