Network with sales reps

By Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH

Show and tell, a time-honored technique going back to preschool days, is an integral part of communicating with patients. The other day I was walking through the new clinic at Rock Valley College. There were large, classic mouth models -- the kind used to demonstrate basic home-care tasks perched on top of the cabinet throughout the clinic.

Later in the afternoon, several students wanted to test the look and feel of an American Eagle XP double Gracey instrument, a new design to them. The students were fascinated with the idea that XP technology is sharpen free, but they also understood that XP uses a modified scaling technique from what is used with a standard stainless steel scaler or curette. While they scurried off to get their standard mouth models, part of their original instrument kit, I retrieved several XP instruments from my bag.

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The students eagerly picked up the posterior double Gracey, remarking how lightweight the instrument felt. Lightbulbs started going off as they realized the ergonomic benefits of having two cutting edges on each blade, a configuration that combines the performance capabilities of two separate curettes into one instrument. Then they experimented with "shaving the deposits off," a technique that requires a lighter touch and a feather-light grasp in contrast to popping off deposits, a method that requires more force and a tighter pinch-grip on the instrument handle. The end result of using XP technology correctly is less stress to the clinician's hands, reduced force translating into greater patient comfort and a huge savings in time since XP instruments maintain a sharp edge throughout the life of the instrument. The minutes that XP technology saves can be spent on billable procedures or even taking a real break, giving our musculoskeletal system a much-needed rest period.

Fast forward to the Yankee Dental Congress, a huge dental meeting that takes place every January in Boston. I'm always on the search for new ideas and new products that will make our jobs easier and more fun. It's also a nice way to renew friendships. Dentistry is a small business. Many sales representatives really love working with dental professionals and are constantly striving to find new ways to make our practices less stressful by providing new and innovative products and technologies that help us deliver superior clinical outcomes.

As I was walking through the exhibits, I spied Mike Gregory, manning the Kilgore booth. Kilgore International distributes and manufactures models used in the health-care industry. Mike and I go way back. Nearly two decades ago, I started teaching hands-on ultrasonic/ergonomic courses and wanted a model to demonstrate new techniques. Mike was the company's sales guy who went all over the country selling models to schools and practicing dental professionals. I'll never forget how patient he was at the Texas State Dental Meeting. Mike helped me customize the perfect model that would demonstrate the benefits of the newest, thinnest ultrasonic tips.

Mike joined Kilgore, a small company based in Coldwater, Mich., 25 years ago. He started in shipping and receiving and quickly moved into sales. From day one, Mike and I hit it off, so it was fun to hear that several years ago Mike purchased the company from the son of the founder, a true testament of going from the basement to the boardroom. Hard work and a friendly can-do attitude paid off for Mike.

During the chat, I started playing with the models on the counter and one really caught my eye, a model depicting the progression of periodontal disease, complete with teeth that were mobile! What fun. The mobile teeth can be moved in any direction, and also are depressible -- finally a communication tool that demonstrates disease in a very visual and tactile sense. Always curious, I wanted to know how Mike came up with the idea of making the teeth mobile. Mike used to reglue model teeth that came loose after many convention demonstrations. The repairs inspired the idea of models with mobile teeth.

Our conversation morphed into workshop training techniques. Cindy Purdy and I both use a Kilgore head/mouth model mounted on a portable stand in our hands-on ergonomic workshops. There's nothing like being able to learn how to use a saddle stool or try out a new pair of loupes while practicing on a typodont that is mounted at a realistic patient height. Speaking of learning, Mike then showed me a new, compact mounting system that attaches to either a patient chair or a tabletop. Rather than just being a static pole holding the head in a stationary position, the new mount features a 360-degree swivel, rotating the head from side to side and allowing the mouth model to be positioned chin up or chin down. These new features mean students can now learn instrumentation in a much more realistic manner.

Not only is Mike dedicated to making and distributing precision dental models, he also inspires people and gives back to the community. Every summer he provides jobs to local area high school students who are interested in pursuing careers in dentistry. At Kilgore they get a chance to learn more about dentistry, learn the meaning of real work, and earn some money that can be put toward their college education. Mike insists on paying these students more than the minimum wage, knowing that his investment provides these students with a solid dose of reality.

Being able to touch and feel a product with guidance makes more sense. Being able to realistically demonstrate disease progression to a patient makes communication so much easier. It is all about the experience. It's all about creating a better comfort zone. Hats off to people like Mike Gregory and companies like Kilgore and American Eagle for helping us have more fun and do better work.

ANNE NUGENT GUIGNON, RDH, MPH, provides popular programs, including topics on biofilms, power driven scaling, ergonomics, hypersensitivity, and remineralization. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award and the 2009 ADHA Irene Newman Award, Anne has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston since 1971.

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