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Importance of Dental Amalgam Separation

Dental amalgam has long been recognized as a safe and affordable material for fillings. However, the American Dental Association (ADA) acknowledges that amalgam waste from dental offices in the United States contribute 29.7 tons of mercury pollution to wastewater systems each year. This statistic prompted the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to finalize regulation on the use of amalgam separators in 2017.

Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

 

This article provides an overview of the use of amalgam separation in the dental office, including the ADA’s best practices on amalgam separators.

 

Dental Amalgam and Mercury Pollution

Dental amalgam consists of approximately 40 to 50% mercury, 25% silver, and 25 to 35% mixture of copper, zinc and tin. These materials are bound together as a hard, stable substance.

 

Amalgam has been subject to numerous studies and reviews that demonstrate it is safe and effective for use in dental fillings. The problem with amalgam is not its effect on dental patients, but rather the difficulty of disposing of dental amalgam safely.

 

When dentists place new amalgam fillings or remove old ones, water containing amalgam particles is flushed into chair-side drains. These mercury-containing particles then enter the wastewater disposal system and water treatment plants. From there, the amalgam particles may be incinerated, land-filled, or made into fertilizer pellets for lawns or gardens. In each case, mercury from amalgam fillings is discharged into the environment, where it may bioaccumulate in fish and contaminate the food chain.

 

To summarize, dental offices that work with amalgam fillings (including “mercury-free” practices that only remove them) flush amalgam particles containing mercury down the drain and into the wastewater system. These particles ultimately become environmental pollutants.

 

One survey found that dental amalgam is the greatest contributor of mercury pollution in the wastewaters of California, Minnesota, Ohio, and Maine; numerous studies have also identified the dental industry as the top source of mercury in sewers in Canada and Europe.

 

Regulating the Use of Amalgam

The EPA’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) mandates the reduction of mercury and other contaminants to ensure the discharge does not negatively affect water quality or people’s health. On July 14, 2017, the agency finalized regulation specifically targeting the use of dental amalgam.

 

The regulation applies to most dental practices that discharge waste into a public sewer or wastewater system. The basic requirements are:

  • Using amalgam separators (or equivalent devices) to remove dental amalgam solids from all amalgam process wastewater;
  • Implementing best management practices;
  • Complying with reporting requirements; and
  • Maintaining certain records documenting compliance.

Practices have until July 2020 to comply.

 

What Are Amalgam Separators?

An amalgam separator is a device installed on a dental vacuum line to filter out mercury and other particles from water waste before they enter the sewer system. The captured mercury can then be recycled to industry or safely disposed of.

 

Traditionally, dental practices used chair-side traps and vacuum filters to capture amalgam waste; however, the ADA estimates that 6.5 tons of mercury bypass these filters annually.

 

Amalgam separation is proven to reduce the impact of amalgam on environmental pollution. In Toronto, the amount of mercury in wastewater sludge decreased by 58% after regulation requiring the use of amalgam separators in dental offices took effect.

In addition to reducing environmental pollution, using an amalgam separator can help to extend the life of vacuum pumps by preventing solid particles from entering and damaging the pump.

 

To comply with EPA regulation, an amalgam separator must be ISO 11143:2008-certified to remove greater than 95% of solids by weight. Most amalgam separators on the North American market meet this standard.

 

Amalgam Separation Best Practices

To assist in complying with the new regulation, the ADA has published best practices for the use of amalgam separators. These practices recommend that dental practitioners:

  • Use chair-side traps, vacuum pump filters, and amalgam separators to capture and recycle amalgam particles.
  • Use pre-capulated mercury alloys instead of bulk mercury in amalgam fillings.
  • Salvage, store and recycle scrap amalgam whenever possible, including amalgam pieces from restorations and used disposable amalgam capsules.
  • Recycle teeth that contain amalgam restorations (ask your recycler whether these teeth must be disinfected first).
  • Never dispose of amalgam waste in biohazard containers, regular garbage, or down the drain.
  • Flush wastewater lines with line cleaners that minimize dissolution of amalgam (like BioPure Evacuation System Cleaner) instead of bleach or chlorine cleaners.

By implementing these practices and following the EPA regulation, dental practitioners, specialists, and registered dental hygienists can work towards reducing their impact on the environment.

 

Contact us to learn more about line cleaners that minimize amalgam dissolution. We look forward to assisting in building a more sustainable dental practice.

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10 Ways Being Confident Can Boost Patient Satisfaction

There are many ways to boost patient satisfaction in your dental practice. Clear communication, good time management, friendliness, efficiency, and empathy are significant factors in a patient’s overall expectations of their dental experience.  

 

10 Ways Being Confident Can Boost Patient Satisfaction

 

But according to the Canadian Dental Association, one quality stands out above the rest: confidence.  

 

A dental practitioner’s confidence, and the ways in which they demonstrate it, ranks as the #1 influencer on how patients perceive their quality of care, according to the latest Canadian Dental Association survey. 

 

Why? Confident people attract positive attention — no secret there. It’s natural to be attracted to people with high self-esteem, whose confidence shines through their charisma, appearance, speaking, writing, and listening skills. Confidence is a sign of competence, not arrogance, in the dental practice. 

 

To promote and maintain patient satisfaction, professional dental care providers need to keep confidence at an optimum level to ensure ongoing quality of care. Below, we’ll discuss some of the ways to grow and maintain that confidence in your practice. 

 

Ways to Be Confident and Boost Patient Satisfaction 

 

A person’s levels of confidence can swing up and down due to positive or negative experiences, and criticisms. We are most confident when we are performing routine and familiar tasks.

 

Here are ways to show your confidence as a dental practitioner or hygienist: 

 

  1. Be optimistic. Think positively. While it may sound cliché, there are tangible and proven benefits to adopting an air of optimism, and your positive outlook will rub off on your patients. 
  2. Focus on the present. What do you want to accomplish today? Don’t dwell on the past. Once you have acknowledged your mistakes, learn to accept them and move forward. 
  3. Accept compliments graciously. Say thank you. What may seem like minor work to you can have a profoundly positive impact on your patients’ lives, so you should always be open to their praises. 
  4. Face your fears. When you have a busy day ahead, tackle the tasks you like least first. You will face the remainder with the confidence of knowing the worst is over. 
  5. Break down large tasks into smaller sub-tasks. Knowing how to prioritize your to-dos is key to ensuring you accomplish your daily goals. 
  6. Learn and research new skills and technology. The world of dentistry is continuously advancing, and being prepared will help you keep a competitive edge. 
  7. Recognize your strengths and achievements. You have come a long way to get where you are. Remember to celebrate successes. 
  8. Manage stress. Don’t let your own wellness get lost in the daily grind. Develop effective coping strategies, and take moments to just breathe throughout your day. 
  9. Smile. Learn to laugh at yourself. Take pleasure in your daily tasks. 
  10. Believe in yourself and your team. Positive reinforcement will help everyone in the practice grow their confidence and boost patient satisfaction. 

Image: wavebreakmediamicro

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Is Your Dental Practice Using Too Many Chemicals?

With more and more people making an effort to be informed on the chemicals and materials they’re exposed to every day, many dentists are looking to reduce the number of chemicals used in their practices.

Cutting down on chemicals dental practice

 

Proper cleaning and disinfection in a dental office is a legitimate concern. After all, if disinfection isn’t done properly, a patient could be harmed. Everyone in the practice is responsible for ensuring the safety of all patients that walk through its doors.

 

The best way to avoid making a patient sick is to make sure that any sources of infection are properly contained. Unfortunately, it’s all too common to hear that evacuation systems aren’t cleaned daily—or aren’t properly disinfected when they are cleaned.

 

Reasons for the lapse in cleanliness could partly be due to the work involved, but also the perceived dangers of the continuous use of chemicals every time the system is cleaned. Over the past three decades, newer and stronger chemicals have been introduced to keep surfaces, water lines, and evacuation systems clean and sterile. However, the number of chemicals can also create issues, and many are harmful on their own.

 

The alternative is microbiological cleaners. But what are they, and how do they work?

 

Microbiology

 

It was over 150 years ago that doctors figured out washing their hands before surgery drastically reduced the patient’s risk of infection. This jumpstarted the field of microbiology, or the study of microscopic organisms.

 

Once we started looking, we discovered bacteria everywhere.

 

It’s estimated that there are more bacterial cells in a human body than there are cells that make up that whole person. The sheer number of microbial organisms that constantly surround us is staggering, which is why it’s so hard to create sterile environments. We need to use intense stressors like temperature, pressure, or chemicals to eliminate microbial growth.

 

We simply must accept that we are, and always will be, swimming in a sea of bacteria. The good news is, though, that the clear majority of bacteria won’t make you sick. Most bacteria really do not affect us. In fact, there are plenty of microbes that actually keep us healthy. Your gut, for example, is chock full of bacteria that is helping you to remain healthy and digest your food.

 

The good bacteria in your gut also keeps dangerous, harmful bacteria at bay. It’s this same principle that makes microbial disinfection such a good alternative.

 

Microbial Disinfection

 

As an alternative to chemicals, disinfection can be done using microbial cleaning products. These products seed and jumpstart the growth of “good bugs.”

 

These good bugs not only help to kill harmful ones, but they also work to keep the bad bugs away. This is one clear advantage to chemical sterilization—the harmful bacteria is kept at bay for longer.

 

Products like Bio-Pure can keep an evacuation system clean of harmful bacteria on a continuous basis. It does this by introducing a cleaning microbe into the system. Microbial growth is exponential, which means one microbe can quickly become 10,000,000. This army of good bacteria cleans out all other microbes and creates a barrier against bad bugs.

 

Short of cleaning out the system before and after each use, Bio-Pure is the most effective way to keep a system clean and safe at all times. Plus, there’s no need for harmful chemicals.

 

Click here if you want to learn more about Bio-Pure and whether it’s a good fit for your practice!

 

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Dental Office Design

 

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.

 

Dental Office Layout

 

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.

 

Visual Distractions

 

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.

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8 Things You’ll Learn About in Dental School

 

Everyone knows dental hygienists clean teeth. But did you know they also examine patients for signs of disease, provide preventative treatment, and educate people on good oral health? Here’s a sneak peek at some of the amazing things you’ll learn in dental school.

 

Practical Skills

 

Dental hygienists do more than just clean teeth. They examine teeth and gums, chart cavities, place brackets and bands, install arch wires, and take a hands-on role in all kinds of dental procedures. These practical skills are the core of any dental hygienist program.

 

Once you have learned the fundamentals, you’ll begin to apply what you have learned in a mock clinical setting until you’re ready to assist with real patients.

 

Tools of the Trade

 

What's the difference between electric and air-driven handpieces? You’ll know soon. Dental hygienists use a wide range of dental equipment and tools, from simple picks and dental mirrors to high-tech equipment like X-ray machines.

Dental school will teach you to pick the best dental tools for the job.

 

Treating Different Patients

 

No two patients are exactly alike. Different people have different needs when it comes to dental care. In dental school, you’ll learn to provide top-notch treatment to people of all ages and backgrounds. Some schools offer courses focusing on the unique needs of people who are elderly, disabled, or have other barriers to receiving dental treatment.  

 

Human Biology

 

Dental hygienists not only learn the ins and outs of oral anatomy, they also acquire in-depth knowledge of the human body in general. They study various aspects of human biology, right down to the microscopic make-up of tissues and the mechanisms of disease.

 

 

Community Health and Advocacy

 

As members of the dental profession, dental hygienists have a platform to advocate on dental health issues in the community. Many dental schools have a course on public health and advocacy, where you learn how to improve access to dental care and spread the word using marketing and mass media.

 

Nutrition

 

Diet plays a huge role in oral health. To help your patients maintain healthy teeth and gums, you must know the science of nutrition. Dental hygienists learn the function of basic nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in the body, along with the impact of nutrition and nutritional deficiencies on oral health. By the time you’re finished dental school, you’ll know more about healthy eating than a dedicated health nut!

 

Communication Skills

 

Do you have good people skills? If so, you’ll have a leg-up in the dental profession. If not, dental school will help you catch up! Dental hygienists often spend more time speaking with patients than dentists do, and they teach patients to maintain and develop good dental habits. With good communication skills, you can help make the dental office experience more comfortable and beneficial to patients.

 

Yourself

 

Dental school is no walk in the park. Mastering the practical skills takes a great deal of physical strength, endurance, and manual dexterity. Your science courses will demand hours of reading and dedicated studying, testing your ability to analyze problems and think critically. However, at the end of this long road lies a career full of potential! Going through the rigors of dental school will help you discover whether the dental profession is right for you, and if so, what role you want to play within it.

 

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4 Behind The Scenes Tasks Dental Hygienists Do

 

When you visit your dentist’s office, you expect one of the dental hygienists to greet you in the waiting area and bring you to the exam room. It is customary for them to make conversation with you, floss your teeth, conduct a dental cleaning, and then call in the dentist.

 

Dental Hygienist

 

Dental hygienists spend a large portion of their workdays in front of patients, primarily cleaning, polishing, and scaling the patient’s teeth. Most people, if asked what dental hygienists do all day, will likely give that as a response. However, there are also some tasks they perform either completely behind the scenes or some that patients simply do not notice during their appointment. Keep reading for the reveal of the four most significant behind the scenes tasks dental hygienists perform during their daily duties.

 

Checking Facial Expressions

 

When the dentist is checking your teeth, they are wearing what is essentially a powerful magnifying glass on their eyes. This allows them to really look closely at your teeth and determine things such as cavities, signs of gum disease, et cetera. However, it also prevents them from really seeing your face and facial expressions, which makes them blind to any winces and other signs of discomfort. In many instances, the dental hygienists often observe the patient’s facial expressions in order to determine if everything is going well. Patients are often too preoccupied to notice dental hygienists commonly do this.

 

Stocking the Office

 

Every dental office needs a vast array of supplies, including surgical masks, protective gloves, glasses, and the tools used to perform cleanings, suction, et cetera. How do all these supplies and equipment stay in the required quantities at the dental office? This duty often falls to dental hygienists, who stock up the exam rooms and office as a whole when they are not working directly with a patient.

 

Cleaning the Exam Room

 

It is necessary to clean exam rooms and sanitize all the tools before a new patient enters for their dental appointment. After all, a dental office is a medical environment. So who cleans the exam rooms in between patients? This is where the dental hygienists come in. In many instances, they have their own exam room for patients, which they will clean and sanitize before bringing another patient back. This usually includes cleaning the chair and the glasses used, plus disinfecting the dental tools (or replacing them with new ones while they undergo additional cleaning).

 

Reviewing History and Charts

 

Your primary doctor will often rely on your medical record, which includes notes from past appointments as well as details on any vaccinations you may have received. Your tooth records are just as important to a dentist. In fact, you may actually need to provide information from your overall medical history to the dentist and dental hygienist. Such information can include any medication you might be taking, surgeries you have had, allergies, et cetera. The task of reviewing and updating patient history and charts, including ensuring updated x-rays are in the file, almost always falls to the dental hygienists.

 

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Post-Surgical Home Care Tips

 

Your ordeal in the dental chair may be over, but treatment doesn’t end when you leave the office. Proper post-surgical care at home is a critical step towards good oral health. Follow these post-surgical home care tips to hit the smoothest road to recovery after dental surgery.

 

DentalExam

 

Knowing What to Expect

 

Every procedure is different. Even relatively minor surgeries, like dental implants and tooth pulling, require proper after-care to heal well.

 

Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon about post-surgical home care before you go in for surgery. They may advise you to adjust your normal routine, change your diet, or refrain from certain activities to give yourself time to heal. If you know what to expect, you can prepare these arrangements in advance and jump straight to recovery after the dental surgery is over.

 

Helping Incisions Heal

 

Every procedure is different. Even relatively minor surgeries, like dental implants and tooth pulling, require proper after-care to heal well.

 

Talk to your dentist or oral surgeon about post-surgical home care before you go in for surgery. They may advise you to adjust your normal routine, change your diet, or refrain from certain activities to give yourself time to heal. If you know what to expect, you can prepare these arrangements in advance and jump straight to recovery after the dental surgery is over.

 

Once the bleeding stops, follow these tips to help the wound heal:

  • Brush and floss carefully around the incision.
  • Wait 24 hours, the rinse your mouth gently with a mixture of salt and water, not mouthwash!
  • Avoid drinking ay warm liquids, like tea or coffee.
  • Don`t drink anything through a straw, as this can dislodge the blood clot.
  • Never touch the incision with your fingers!

If the wound continues to bleed for more than four hours after the surgery, contact your dentist or oral surgeon.

 

Relieving a Sore Jaw

 

Having a stiff, sore jaw is a common complaint after oral surgery. In most cases, your jaw will feel better after a few days of rest. It helps to swap out solid foods for something easy to chew, like eggs, pasta, or smoothies. You can gradually re-introduce solid foods into your diet as you recover.

 

Treating Swelling and Bruising

 

Swelling is a normal reaction to many oral surgeries. In some cases, the tissue also bruises for a few days after the swelling goes down.

 

The best way to deal with bruising and swelling depends on the time that has passed since the procedure. In the first 24 hours, you may apply a cold compress to the area for up to ten minutes at a time; after 48 hours, switch to something warm, like a hot water bottle in a towel.

 

Call your dentist or oral surgeon if swelling continues to worsen 48 hours after the surgery, or persists for longer than a week.

 

Following Expert Advice on Post-Surgical Home Care

 

While these post-surgical home care tips are useful for most oral surgery, your dentist has the last word. Always follow their directions when it comes to after-care, and ask them if you have any questions or concerns about your recovery. Be sure to attend any follow-up appointments to confirm you’re on the right track.

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5 Software Solutions for a Busy Dentist Office

 

Dentist Computer Software

 

Gone are the days when a sole practitioner could know clients by name and store their information in a single file cabinet. Most dental hygiene offices have many patients and sometimes multiple practitioners and hygienists.

 

However, even smaller practices have a duty to ensure the most accurate record keeping and efficient customer service possible.

 

Computer software solutions help to make that possible and there are a number of excellent packages designed specifically to meet the needs of the dental health community.

 

Here are five such software solutions especially good for use in a busy practice:

 

Curve Dental

 

One of the main concerns of any practice with mounds of data is computer reliability. What if your hard drive crashes and you don’t have a back-up of your patient data?

 

Cloud storage is an excellent remedy and Curve Dental allows practitioners to send digital images from an array of devices directly to the cloud. That way, if disaster should strike, you need not worry about the practice’s most important resource. Curve’s easy-to-use software also offers efficient options for charting, scheduling, credit card processing, billing, and online patient forms.

 

Ace Dental

 

Practice management can be overwhelming without the right program to keep everything organized and accessible. There are a number of options to choose from here, but Ace Dental offers more features than most of them. Fortunately, ease of use is one of this program’s strongest assets.

 

Patient records are a snap to retrieve, and the system provides other pertinent data with little more than a single mouse click per inquiry. Your appointment schedule also has all of the necessary treatment details included. This safeguards against confusion over who is appearing at what time, and what they require. Ace also makes the organization and sending of insurance claims simple, and that allows administrative staff to devote their shift time to other important duties.

 

Denticon

 

Denticon is another cloud-based option that offers excellent storage and retrieval options. It assists with both administrative and clinical treatment components, providing ample room for the inclusion of detailed patient treatment histories and insurance details.

 

In a nice touch, Denticon helps to revive a bit of the old-time service feel from days past. Practitioners can include personalized messages on patient statements that provide handy reminders of treatment methods or other important details discussed during appointments. It also incorporates a number of other useful features, and solid security ensures patient confidentiality.

 

Dentrix

 

Some dental procedures require patients to use medication for a period afterward. Keeping track of such information is tricky, but Dentrix streamlines things and makes the sending and tracing of prescriptions much easier.

 

The program also offers a flexible and efficient practice management system that will more than suffice for most office needs and patient rosters.

 

Carestream Dental

 

You would be hard-pressed to find a dental professional not in favor of making digital dental imaging and software more efficient and easy to use. Carestream Dental has risen to that challenge and succeeded by providing a system that meets these needs through greater speed and accuracy.

 

Carestream’s eConnections also helps to consolidate online marketing, appointment reminders, and patient solutions, allowing a practice to consolidate many different responsibilities into a single dashboard.  This makes marketing and return on investment decisions much easier to consider.

 

 

Once you have the software side of the business sorted out, don’t forget to address your dental hygiene gear. Using the latest and most effective equipment guarantees that you and your staff deliver the latest in oral health care.

 

Browse our latest catalog or contact our knowledgeable staff to learn more about how Sable Industries can help your practice continue to meet and exceed your patients’ expectations. 

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