Give them something extra

March 21, 2012

We see it, hear it, read it, and we live it every day. Our economy has taken a dive and it has shown in the bottom line of our dental practices. So what can we do to help counter the effects of the downturn? One of the great things about being a general dentist is we have the opportunity to provide a diverse offering of services to our patients. I’ve been practicing for nearly 13 years, and still thoroughly enjoy the diversity of being a general dentist every day. Each day is different from the last and you never know what you might get tomorrow.

We see it, hear it, read it, and we live it every day. Our economy has taken a dive and it has shown in the bottom line of our dental practices. So what can we do to help counter the effects of the downturn?

One of the great things about being a general dentist is we have the opportunity to provide a diverse offering of services to our patients. I’ve been practicing for nearly 13 years, and still thoroughly enjoy the diversity of being a general dentist every day. Each day is different from the last and you never know what you might get tomorrow.

This diversity can work to our advantage in our current economy. By offering a wide range of services, we can keep more production in our office while keeping our patients happy. Patients already know us and our staff and are generally comfortable with us. It can be very stressful for them to be referred to a specialist for treatment. It’s an unknown to them and often they are very happy if we can perform the service for them.

However, we also need to be honest with ourselves and know our limits. Don’t be afraid to tell patients when the service they need is beyond your capabilities and you feel it’s in their best interest to see a specialist. They will respect you for being honest and showing you are more worried about their health than your bottom line.

So where can we expand our range of services? In recent years, there have been some great products brought to market that can allow the general dentist to spread his or her wings.

Root canals

The root canal is one of the most feared procedures in dentistry, but technology is helping to change that. When I graduated from dental school, we were taught the old crown down manual technique for doing root canals while still taking radiographs to determine working length. Now, with the simple addition of an apex indicator, an endodontic handpiece and a method of obturation, it is easy for general dentists to perform simple root canals.

An anterior tooth or premolar can be completed in a very short period of time while keeping more production in house. We can perform most anterior and premolar root canals the same day the patient comes in with a tooth ache. Your patients will be thrilled that you saw them for their emergency and took away their pain by performing the root canal that day. For molars, we often access the tooth and perform some cursory cleaning and shaping of the canals to remove the majority of tissue, alleviating their pain. We then schedule them back to complete the root canal.

Orthodontics

Ever contemplate providing orthodontics? With a minimal investment in a few courses, even the novice dentist can provide simple orthodontics in their practices with clear aligner products and services such as ClearCorrect.

I am sure you see it every day. The middle age patient who had orthodontics as a child and either never wore retainers, or quit a long time ago. Usually the lower anterior teeth have shifted as well as some of the maxillary anteriors. These patients usually do not want to go through brackets and wires again and can be very conscientious about their smile. By offering an alternative to conventional orthodontics, you can increase production and provide another excellent service for your patients.

Case selection is key when delivering services such as ClearCorrect. Start off with simple movements and as your experience and confidence builds, you can tackle more complicated movements. The staff at ClearCorrect is there to help you along the way with clear and precise treatment plans for each step of the treatment. If the movements are not following along as predicted, you have the opportunity to take a new impression and continue with treatment. ClearCorrect sends you the aligners as treatment progresses, so you can easily make any necessary changes during the course of the case.

Providing a service such as ClearCorrect also can increase your number of new patients. I have had many new patients come to our office because they are friends or family of a current patient undergoing treatment with clear aligners. They see the results and how simple the treatment is and are very excited about getting started themselves. Often, we see patients who have completed the ClearCorrect treatment inquire about other cosmetic services once their teeth have been straightened and whitened. As a courtesy to our ClearCorrect patients, we give them free bleaching gel, which can be used in the retainers at the completion of treatment. Now that old PFM crown or composite filling is looking a little out of place and they are more than happy to have it replaced.

Extractions

Another area where dentists are often lacking in training is surgical extractions. With a few courses and some investment in equipment, most straight forward surgical extractions can be performed by the general dentist. Depending on your comfort level, you can choose to what extent you offer surgical extractions. In our office, we do not perform impacted wisdom tooth extractions; however we don’t mind getting out the handpiece to go after a molar that has broken at the gum line.

When in doubt, refer out

While these are all great services to offer in your practice, it’s important to remember to not go beyond your comfort level. However, as your experience increases, you will find yourself performing more complicated procedures and providing an excellent service for your patients in an office they already know. Your patients will appreciate your wide range of services and you will find your appointment book filling up with a diversity of services that will help keep your bottom line in the black for years to come. 

About the author

Dr. Derek Draft, a general dentist practicing in Grandville, Mich., graduated from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry in 1998. He lives in Zeeland, Mich. with his wife Heidi, daughter Ashleigh, and son Hayden. Besides spending time with his family, he also enjoys playing volleyball, skiing and modeling 1/8th scale trains.