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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!


"How to Release the ‘Intrepeneur’ Within!" By Kathleen Bokrossy, RDH

It’s a common scenario.  You attend a continuing education course, a lecture or product demonstration at a conference.  The information shared is exciting, it offers the opportunity to truly change how the practice operates and/or the level of care the client will experience.  You can’t wait to share this practice-changing news with the team.  Unfortunately, when you explain what you think is the greatest idea ever; you are not greeted with the same enthusiasm.  With their arms crossed and their resolve to resist change solidly in place, the great idea dies a quick death.  Each objection they raise fills you with doubt about being able to follow through and implement the changes in order to reap the benefits.  You get drawn back into the daily routine and all the opportunity is quickly forgotten.  You and the practice slide back into the “rut” wondering why things aren’t improving and you’re not reaching your practice goals.  Well at least until the next course or lecture comes along when you repeat the entire cycle again.  How did Einstein define insanity?  “Repeating the same actions over and over and expecting things to change.”

If this isn’t a problem for you, then congratulations!  If you can introduce a new idea to your office, get the team excited and implement all the changes required, then you naturally exhibit the skills of an ‘intrepeneur’.  What is an ‘intrepeneur’?  One of the most valuable assets to any dental practice!  An intrepeneur doesn’t ‘own’ the practice but looks at how the practice runs and continues to introduce positive change, like it’s their own.  Whether change is through better client experience, which leads to greater client retention and attracts new clients into the practice, or efforts to reduce costs and increase revenue, an intrepeneur is an essential member of any dental team.  

The biggest difference between an entrepreneur and an intrepreneur is who needs to be “sold” on the game-changing idea.  Any change carries with it both risk and reward.  Where an entrepreneur in most cases risks their own time and money to move an idea forward, an intrepreneur risks the resources of their employer, in most cases, the dentist.  Presenting both the risks and the rewards in a manner that the team can understand is often the biggest barrier to change.  The good news?  Through some subtle changes in how you make your “pitch” to the team, you can dramatically increase your chance of success.  Follow these simple steps to ‘Release the Intrepeneur Within’ and drive positive change to your practice today!    

1.    Actions speak louder than words!  Focus on what matters. 

Show an active interest in the productivity of the practice.  Not all dentists will share their revenue numbers with you, and you don’t need to know everything, but you should have an idea of what revenue your operatory generates as well as your supply costs.  This change in focus made a huge difference for me.  When I started paying attention to what I was billing and the cost for each day, I began to understand where I was having a significant impact on overall profitability.  When I saw opportunities for improvement and pointed them out to the dentist, he/she saw that my focus was aligned with his/hers.    Showing your commitment to the practice consistently over time will build your credibility, so when you do bring forward ideas, the dentist will know your intentions and commitment is to implement positive change to the practice.

Warning: I believe positive client experience is THE most important aspect of any dental practice.  Be sure your efforts to manage costs and improve efficiency does not negatively impact how the client is  treated nor their overall perception.

2.    Do your Homework

Look for different ways that you can contribute to your team meetings by suggesting systems/processes that help increase productivity.  There are so many resources available today that offer great ideas that have been successfully implemented by other practices.  Resources such as; on-line education, continuing education courses or from the technical sales representatives that call on your office, there is no shortage of ideas that can be implemented. 

Warning:  The trick is to separate the good ideas from the great ones!  Introducing the flavor of the month will hurt instead of help your credibility.  It is important to do your homework to determine which ideas will deliver a measurable benefit instead of just being a distraction from what’s already working. 

3.    Prepare a Benefits summary that you can share with the team.   

If you would like to implement new technology, a product, a program or a system into your practice, you need to present your ‘case’ to the dentist AND the team.   By outlining the benefits as well as the risks into a single consistent summary, you can quickly address initial concerns and illustrate how the new idea will improve practice productivity.  It helps to engage the entire team when you get ‘buy in’ and there is an understanding of the total benefit available through the change.  Since different members of the team are affected in different ways, it is important that the total impact of the new idea is understood by all. 

It also demonstrates to the team that you are truly committed to the idea and will put forth the sustained effort necessary to see it through to the end.  

Prepare a document that you can share that has the following elements!

-       Current State

You need to understand and explain what the current situation is, related to the new idea, so that you can prepare a document that will show where you would like to be.  By identifying current inefficiencies or costs associated with the current method, it becomes possible to determine the net change of the idea you plan to implement.

-       Benefits of the new process

Create a list of the benefits that this new product, system or program can bring to your practice, and your clients.

-       Risks

Most people don’t like to talk about risk, but it is important to bring these risks forward and discuss them with the team.  Risks that aren’t exposed at the beginning appear to be bigger than they actually are and can sometimes highjack the idea during the implementation.

-       Proposed Costs

There are two types of costs that need to be identified.  The initial implementation cost as well as the ongoing operating cost.  Initial costs are the up-front costs and effort required to get the new process in place.  The operating costs reflect the specific time, effort and expense required to maintain the new process.

Summary:  Profitability and the Bottom Line

By comparing current costs to the proposed costs plus all the other benefits identified, it becomes possible to put together a single document that outlines the reasons (both fiscal and non-fiscal) to proceed.


For your reference, please find a few examples of how you can present your ‘case’:


1. Crest Oral B Program has a great program (www.healthypracticenow.ca) that is designed to help make the dental hygiene department more productive, it puts systems in place, recommendations for treatment, it empowers your clients and it involves the entire team.


On presenting this to your team:

a)     Show examples of a few current ‘recare’ clients:  How often they come in for treatment, the average revenue for each, what kind of treatment they receive, how long their appointments are and the self-care given to them.

b)     Show the same few ‘recare’ clients and apply the program to those clients and show the difference in the treatment received, the length of appointments, the frequency of the appointments, how the responsibility shifts to the clients, the team involvement

c)     Compare the revenue from the current situation to one of being on the program

d)     Show how the program works (visit the website and do the Practice Assessment together)

e)     Offer to bring in a sales rep if you need help to ‘close’ the deal, making sure that the dentist is present at the demo


2. Operatory Instrument Management Program (OIM Program) offered by D-Sharp, illustrates the potential savings associated with an instrument maintenance program versus what most offices do to maintain their instruments.  By plugging in your current situation, it is possible to use this format to evaluate whether moving to a managed program would deliver a significant benefit to your practice.  

a)     Show the current situation of your instruments:  How often your instruments get replaced, the cost of new instruments that you have purchased in the past, the organization of the instruments, purchasing of the instruments and the time spent, the sharpening situation, how much time it takes to sharpen, when do the instruments get sharpened, and if you can – the cost of the dental hygienist being paid for sharpening time.

b)     If you have a dental hygienist in your practice that you hear is “heavy handed”, note that.  Most times than not, it is the instruments in the hands of the dental hygienist rather than the dental hygienist him/herself.  Many clients try to switch dental hygienists or simply leave the practice.  Show the cost of losing a client (ex $10,000 over a lifetime of a client). 

c)     Show the benefits of being on the program for the client, the dental hygienist and the practice.

d)     Show the cost of the instruments per month by being on the program, and the time saved by not having to organize ordering, sifting through instruments to find the sharp ones, disposal of the instruments


3. An electronic periodontal probing method

a)     Show the current situation:  The time in the chair to probe, if an assistant is required and the cost associated with that.

b)     Show how this new technology will help you, the response of the client, the ease of use, the time saved.

c)     Compare the cost of the device to what it is currently costing you.

By being prepared, recognizing your current situation and knowing your facts, you will feel confident in presenting your case to your employer and your team.  By releasing the ‘intrepeneur within’, your practice will reap the rewards, your ‘job’ and professional satisfaction will soar, and you will become a valuable asset any office would be lucky to get.  

Warning:  If after consistently demonstrating your commitment to improve practice productivity, you do your homework and present well thought out strategies to improve the practice but you STILL can’t break in and help make a difference, you may not be in the practice that is best suited for you.  But that’s for a different article!!

Good luck!