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Ethel Hagans is a dental hygienist first, and then, the author of the book Extraordinary Dental Care. She is obsessed with motivating hygienists to raising their level of care, in order to woo their patients into patterns of great oral hygiene. Her motto: “In the end our main goal is to make sure their teeth outlast them!”
Time is money, but you shouldn’t be forced to diminish the quality of care you provide to your patients.
We’ve all heard the overused cliché “time is money,” and this rings especially true in dental offices where the amount of work that’s packed into each day is reflected as such. Although the quality of care should never be sacrificed for a higher quantity of patients, it is still key that any hygiene department stays productive, on schedule and profitable.
Having what you need to succeed will allow more time to be dedicated to doing just that, rather than being wasted on events such as unforeseen circumstances, staffing issues, or simply sifting through drawers of worthless instruments. Being properly equipped with the right tools and right people works wonders and allows you to easily reach your daily goals without pulling your hair out in the process.
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1. Having the team on the same page
Every minute in an office is crucial, and your day is filled with patients whose time is equally important to them. Many have taken the morning or perhaps an entire day off from work in order to have as much dental work completed as possible. This can be effectively achieved but only if the entire team is on the same page, especially when patients are double-booked for appointments between your hygiene chair and the dentist.
The morning huddle is a remedy to this, and I’ve seen it work beautifully for all offices that participate. During the huddle, you should lay out the schedule as well as daily goals and any mishaps or medical problems that may arise during appointments. I generally like to schedule my SRP cases either first thing in the morning or right after lunch. That way, I’m more alert and refreshed during the procedure.
2. Having assistants
Though some may tend to forget, always remember that as a hygienist, you’re also the second highest money-making producer of the office. So it’s absolutely imperative that your time and effort is treated as such. An example of this would be an office I worked in where we had a “floating” assistant. He was extremely helpful and was always skillfully present to help everyone. He would not only take X-rays and seat patients, but he would even polish them when we sometimes happened to be extremely behind schedule.
Being bilingual also proved invaluable when it came to our Spanish-speaking patients. He would discuss their dental and medical history and relay the findings to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know a little Spanish, but not nearly enough to replace him. Having team members who speak the same language as your patients not only helps bridge a possible language barrier but also allows the patient to better understand and feel more comfortable about the treatment he or she will be receiving.
3. Having the proper instruments and equipment
Despite being oftentimes flat-out ignored, instruments are near and dear to each and every hygienist. Imagine your patient is seated and you’re doing great on time, but your ultrasonic is on its last legs and you suddenly find that it won’t turn on. Now, your production and schedule are both in jeopardy. What do you do? This happened to me at an office I was temping at. The ultrasonic died and water was everywhere. The other hygienist came in the room and said, “We should’ve replaced it a long time ago.” I looked at her, still shocked, and said, “You think?!” I was already behind and my patient still had to be anesthetized by the dentist. So, as a solution, the other hygienist instructed me to look in the hygiene drawer in the back near the lab, and there I would find some extra instruments that would get me through my SRP appointment. I should have known something was wrong when she had said near the lab!
Nevertheless, I went anyways and what I found was a drawer filled with bags of broken, rusty, outdated instruments that would’ve been better suited to the trash. I immediately told the other hygienist I couldn’t do anything with what I had discovered in that drawer, and that none of it was suitable. She replied that I could use her room, since her patient had cancelled, and I felt relieved. Afterward, I exclaimed to her, “I don’t know how you do it!”
Your time and productivity are important, and you can’t perform optimally if you don’t have the right equipment. You will be stressed out all day trying to keep up with a schedule that doesn’t have the right equipment to meet your needs. In the long run, this type of environment will wear you down both mentally and physically. I suggested to her that she have a conversation with the dentist about the dilapidated state of the instruments, especially since a lack of money wasn’t the issue here. The doctor had all the latest and newest equipment, including a CEREC machine for making on-site crowns, along with laser handpieces, and a space-age, state-of-the-art Panorex machine that would make any patient feel like he or she were aboard a space vessel.
Time is money, but you shouldn’t be forced to diminish the quality of care you provide to your patients simply to provide an even greater number of patients that same level of diminished care. So, to maximize your time, find an office that’ll provide you with the right equipment, a helpful team and the freedom to schedule effectively. These combined factors will not only ensure you’re able to administer platinum care, but will also give you a day that won’t stress you out. This will nevertheless empower you to be the best that you can be. Because when it comes to stress, no one has time for that!