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"Operatory Instrument Management Program Story" By Kathleen Bokrossy, RDH

I recently met a dental hygienist at a convention who showed great interest in the D-Sharp OIM program (Operatory Instrument Management) program.  She wanted to take the information back to her employer and see if she could ‘convince’ him to join.

The OIM Program is an instrument management program that supplies your operatory with new instruments every 4 months (if it is a full time op or an op that shares instruments between hygienists) or 6 months (if it is a part time op or an op that only has one hygienist).

 She understood all the benefits:

  • Puts systems in place; organizes your instruments; no handles to dispose of; makes sure that all the hygienists in your practice are using sharp instruments that are properly shaped…not sickle-ized curettes!
  • Ensures that you are providing the best care by using optimal instruments
  • Ergonomics (using dull instruments causes Repetitive Strain Injuries and will shorten your life span of your career
  • Saves money
  • Clients notice the difference when dull instruments are used.  They will complain and tell the receptionist that they don’t want that hygienist again…or they may leave the practice altogether!  Happy clients refer!  Angry clients will spread that news faster than if they were happy!

So a couple of weeks passed and I contacted the hygienist to see how she was doing and if she needed any information from me to give to the dentist.  She told me that her employer dismissed the program and that her and her husband had decided that her health is more important so she was going to get on the program and pay herself.  This was music to my ears.  I have been in the dental instrument business since I founded D-Sharp Dental back in 1998.  I am always looking at ways to help hygienists bring instruments into their practice without spending a fortune.  The more economical the instruments are, the more frequently you can replace them, the better it is for the hygienist and most importantly the client!  I have heard many hygienists complain too many times about their employers or their dentists not buying them instruments.  Or when they do the instruments are too far gone.  They complain how sore they are, how they can’t recognize the tips any longer, how they can’t get a sharp cutting edge, etc.  I know from personal experience that when dull instruments are used on you, it HURTS!!  When the experience is painful, clients will not come back to you.  Or they may come back less or … they may leave the practice altogether!  So I strongly believe in the hygienists taking ownership of their own instruments if they have to.  I spoke with one hygienist who said her employer has never bought instruments for her since she started working there.  I asked her how long that was.  She said 8 years!!  Why wait for your employer?   You can get on the program with one set even for $19.99 a month or if you have handles that can be re-tipped, you can always re-tip them for $11.98.   And trust me, you can’t tell the difference between re-tipped and new.  Well with our company anyhow.  I know of other re-tipping companies who use tips that are of lesser quality, and the tips are unrecognizable.  We re-tip your handles with the same tips that we use on our new instruments. They are of high quality, 440A North American stainless steel and are specially treated to keep a sharp cutting edge.  We need to stop blaming others for our discomfort or happiness and take responsibility for our own actions.  If you need to buy your own instruments, then I encourage you to do it.  Why wreck every day for you and the appointment for your client.  Get EMPOWERED!  Take control of your own destiny!  Your own future!  Get back to enjoying your day with new instruments that bite into the calculus versus an instrument that glides over.  Be gentle with your clients.  Sharp instruments mean you are going to use a lighter more controlled stroke, which means less discomfort for your clients during and after treatment and much better for your body!

This particular hygienist also said she was tired of waiting for permission.  She feels that as a dental hygienist she is always waiting for permission.  Permission from the dentist, permission from the client, permission from the insurance companies, etc.  She said this is something that she can take control of that will help her extend the life of her career and help her with overall daily comfort.  She felt so empowered.  She made me so proud that I just had to share this!


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"Is Your Dental Hygiene Department ‘A Diamond in the Rough?" by Kathleen Bokrossy, RDH

Imagine a dental hygiene department that focuses on continuing to improve the “Dental Hygiene Experience” for every patient that walks in the door.  Imagine a program that consistently delivers a positive physical, intellectual and emotional experience for each and every patient.  Imagine an office where every patient knows that they have a team of experts that are delivering important health care and are honestly motivated and interested in their long term well-being.  Wow, now that’s an image worth chasing!    

A well run, well executed dental hygiene program can be a tremendous asset to any dental practice looking to grow and prosper in these changing times.  It provides the opportunity to interact with your patients on a regular basis.  Repeated positive exposure to your practice is the key to growing a strong and loyal patient base that can lead to a steady stream of new patient referrals and increased restorative revenue.   Making the “Dental Hygiene Experience” great, is an important piece to the success in any dental practice.  This article looks to outline the 3 aspects that make up the “Dental Hygiene Experience”.  After reading this article, evaluate your practice and see where you think there is opportunity to tweak, adjust, or completely overhaul how your dental hygiene department interacts with your patients. 

Based on my 25 plus years, I believe that improving the “Dental Hygiene Experience” from the patient’s perspective can be broken down into three primary aspects:

 

1. The Patient’s Intellectual Experience:  We can often forget how important it is to educate the patient on the importance of good oral hygiene.  As we know, good oral hygiene is both a preventative measure as well as an early warning opportunity for patients.  Through education and an engaged “Dental Hygiene Experience” the dental hygienist is able to reinforce to the patient the importance of home care and regular visits.  Too often the dental hygiene visit has become so routine and perhaps rushed, that the dental hygienist doesn’t use this great opportunity to educate and inform the patient on all the wonderful benefits of maintaining optimal oral health.  The patient’s intellectual experience is about reminding them why they are spending the time, effort and expense of going to the dentist and dental hygienist.  Done creatively, honestly and by getting a patient intellectually engaged in the importance of overall good oral hygiene will lead to increased visit frequency and excited referrals to their friends and family.  Getting your entire dental team excited and communicating the tangible benefits of regular dental hygiene visits will grow your practice year after year. 

2. The Patient’s Physical Experience:  Creating a positive physical experience is an essential part of any dental hygiene visit.  That fresh invigorated feeling vs the discomfort that can be part of any dental visit needs to be consciously developed and built into your work flow.  

 

An uncomfortable dental hygiene experience reduces repeat visits, offers no referral opportunity and at the end of the day truly hampers the practices opportunity for growth and productivity.  It’s critical to look at the “Dental Hygiene Experience” from this aspect as there are so many specific things we can do to reduce the discomfort and increase the positive and invigorated feeling that a patient can have following treatment. 

Examples of proactive steps that can be taken:

a. Measurement:  You can’t improve what you can’t measure so make sure your patients know that you take their comfort very seriously.  Get the feedback you need to know whether your patients find their experience more painful than it should be and be sure to react to the data you collect!

b. Training: Technique matters!  Education doesn’t stop at dental hygiene school.  It is important that dental hygienists continue to participate in hands-on training to take their skills to the next level.

c. Instrument selection:  Using the correct instrument for its intended use, reduces unnecessary pain and discomfort.   

d. Instrument maintenance:  This one is very common and has an immediate impact on the patient experience.  Poorly managed and maintained instruments chairside increases patient discomfort, dental hygiene fatigue and negatively impacts all aspects of the experience.

e. New Technologies and techniques:  There are new technologies that are being introduced all the time.  Being aware of these new methods to manage and reduce pain can help keep your patients in your chair instead of requesting to move to another one! 

 

3. The Patient’s Emotional Experience:  The path to strong restorative referrals, increased dental hygiene visit frequency and increased dental hygiene treatment comes directly from the trust that the dental team is able to develop with the patient.  The patient has to believe that you are only recommending procedures that are truly in their best interest.  Trust is an emotional feeling and must be satisfied on two levels. 

 

a. Trust Level 1 – Capability:  The patient must believe that your team is best suited to recognize and provide the procedure being recommended.   This comes from how well your dental team delivers on demonstrating your technical competence.  Through education and ongoing communication you are able to demonstrate your dental team’s strength and capability.

b. Trust Level 2 – Intent:  The patient must believe that their best interests are at the heart of any recommended procedure made by your team.  They need to know why you are recommending the procedure and that you truly believe it’s in their best interest to proceed.

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Once you are able to build a culture that communicates strong specialized expertise (capability) combined with a heartfelt intent to deliver on important results to the patient, you will have a strong restorative referral machine that drives revenue into your dental office. 

There are specific and tangible things each office can be doing to move their ‘Dental Hygiene Experience’ in the right direction.    By intelligently integrating the patient’s physical, intellectual and emotional experience, you can turn your dental hygiene department into an exciting and invigorating aspect of your dental practice.  The dental hygiene visit is often a patients first exposure to you and your team, and as a result, that first impression is the opportunity to build a strong patient base that looks forward to their quarterly or bi-yearly visits and recommends your office every chance they get.  

So….is your dental hygiene department ‘a diamond in the rough’?   Even if your dental hygiene department runs like a well-oiled machine, I challenge you to revisit it from the patients perspective.  Look at all three aspects and continue to adjust and improve.  Continuous improvement after all is the key to long term fulfillment in life! 

I invite you to ‘Meet me in the Boardroom’ where we will be discussing The Dental Hygiene Breakthrough Blueprint.  I will share with you simple strategies that you can apply to your practice that will help you attract more patients, how you can wow them and get them referring.  Send me an email and I will send you all the details!  It will be fun!    


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