Challenging Best Practices in the Dental Industry
Every industry abides by best practices, and for good reason. Best practices, often established by industry leaders, point the way to achieving excellence with consistency. But best practices evolve in any industry over time, and if you don’t keep up, there’s the risk of failing to run your business in a way that has your customers benefiting from a leading edge approach. In other words, you fall behind.
Dentistry is no different. The profession, more than a hundred years old, has seen several phases of development. As with any other profession, there are thought leaders who push the envelope of practice standards and renewed focus in patient care and comfort. And yes, some fall behind.
But leaders in dentistry, both young and old, those with decades of experience or merely a few years, show a proclivity for adopting new treatment modes, equipment and supplies, and technology to keep the patient experience as the main driver of their practice. In the last decade, several new developments have emerged and converged to highlight what the best in the dental industry are doing to advance their profession on a daily basis.
Adjusting to Patient Needs with Ownership and Referral Models
The last decade has seen rapid growth in the multi-dentist practice model, especially with the rise in dental service organizations. While most practices are still held by solo dentist entrepreneurs or a few partners, many dental chains are thriving across the country.
Regardless of your model, whether it’s a one-stop shop for traditional, general dentistry housed with specialities like endodontics, or the typical solo general dentist who maintains a robust referral network for specialty needs, it’s important to run the best practice possible that aligns with what your patients need. Some are more comfortable with building trust with an individual dentist, while others love the convenience and in-house resources of a chain.
Integration of Software
The best dentists are always innovating, committing their investments to tools that help their patients understand their own needs. Gone are the days of showing murky traditional x-rays. Now, with the magic of chairside computers and great software, dentists and their assistants can translate x-rays into diagrams that show length of gum measurements for each tooth, diagnose conditions, communicate, and treat with greater precision.
Further to developing patient understanding and trust, dentists also utilize innovations like intra-oral cameras. When they display images captured from diagnostic exploration on a 21-inch screen, for example, they can instill confidence in the patient that they do, indeed have a cracked tooth or a chipped crown and aren’t over-diagnosing to non-existent or minor issues.
With the rise of infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis, dental offices have turned to their supplier teams to address effective infection control. The move to using disposable, single-use products and increasing the need for autoclaving has been significant and widespread. Using products like Reflective Shields Plus minimize the amount of times technicians and dentists must place their fingers inside a patient’s mouth.
Perhaps more importantly, leading dental professionals select Level III masks, which offer the highest levels of infection protection for both patient and provider, for virtually any treatment or procedure. Level I masks are used for routine examinations in many offices, however, Level III masks provide added protection during cold and flu season.
Many leading technicians have switched to braided cotton rolls for moisture management, making a big difference in patient comfort for clinical work. Cheaper traditional rolls often fail to hold their positions in longer procedures and must also be replaced more frequently.
But industry leaders in dentistry aren’t just thinking about patient comfort in the clinic; they’re also focused on quality of life at home. Many offices are doing a brisk business in appliances like snore guards and mouth guards. New best practices suggest that the best dental staffs want to get their patients’ teeth clean and healthy, but also help them sleep better and chew better. These same offices are using intraoral or digital impression scanners, not only to optimize patient comfort, but also to improve the accuracy of the impression.
While it’s true that best practices drive any industry, yesterday’s standards of excellence don’t point the way forward--and the world of dentistry is no exception. Thankfully, many dentists have committed themselves to innovations that serve the needs of patients and keep their teams safer and healthier, too.