Talking about some business — yours!

Dec. 1, 2001
One side effect of trade publications is that opposition is identified.

by Mark Hartley

One side effect of trade publications is that opposition is identified. The articles can be summarized by the question, "Guess who's raking us over the coals these days?" Professional magazines might as well print a bunch of "bull's-eyes" targets too and insert them into the pages. Members of a profession could tear the targets out of the magazine, and, while stalking professional battlegrounds, slap the targets onto the backs of the "enemy." When the printed "bull's-eyes" are all gone, a profession can revert to writing by hand the standard "kick me" on blank paper and slap those on the backs of the bad guys.

If there's a problem in a profession, somebody's causing it. Somebody takes the heat for what's wrong within a profession. Trade publications devote at least a few pages each year discussing who the troublemakers are. If you're a dentist, you slap a lot of targets onto the backs of personnel from insurance companies. If you're a hygienist ... well, who's the boss?

As far as I'm concerned, RDH likes dentists. As I've written in this space before, American dentists are a source of pride because they are the best in the world at what they do. But there are a few cheapskates out there who somehow get enough influence to the point of causing serious discussion about the viability of slave labor in dentistry. We have to keep an eye on them, right? In doing so, though, we get locked into the pattern of using the word "dentists" to describe this group of malcontents (because there's always more than one), and, before you know it, the language sounds like all hygienists hate all dentists, and vice versa.

As you know, that ain't so.

I was reading Dianne Glasscoe's Staff Rx column this month about buying holiday gifts for the boss, the dentist. What a nice touch! Hygienists acknowledge their respect and appreciation for an employer with gifts, often inexpensive ones from the heart.

But it was a specific comment by one of the doctors that grabbed my attention. The doctor told Dianne that a gift "just doesn't do it, and isn't needed. If anything, it is slightly embarrassing because there isn't much that I really want. At this point in my life, the relationships are far more important and valued. When someone brings in a bucket of homemade soup and shares a bowl with me and anybody else at the end of a long busy day — that is a real Christmas present, even if it happens to be in mid-July."

I have a feeling that this sentiment is hardly unique in dentistry.

On a more serious note, Kristine Hodsdon devotes yet another Esthetic Hygiene column to challenging RDH readers to becoming more aware of the business of dentistry. In this particular case, she writes about the comfort level you should have when discussing restorative fees with clients.

Hodsdon's underlying motivation to her exhortations is simple enough to understand. Many wonderful opportunities exist for taking clinical hygiene to the next level. The technology that the market now brings to the hygiene operatory is astonishing, as are many of the upscale materials available. But in any business — not just dentistry — the employer needs to feel that an investment in resources will yield good results. Basically, what we're talking about here is old-fashioned number-crunching and excellent communication between the various divisions in a business — in this case, the hygiene department and the restorative department.

Since hygienists tend to be more excited than dentists about the true potential of a hygiene operatory in 2002, guess who needs to take the initiative? You. Unfortunately, hygienists usually are about as well prepared for the business side of dentistry as dentists are. Dental schools and dental hygiene schools, for the most part, remain focused on ensuring that clinical skills in dentistry are superb.

You end up brainstorming about the "business" after you graduate. One inspirational resource that I recommend is the Dental Economics' Cosmetic Dentistry conferences hosted in Las Vegas every February. Dr. Joe Blaes, the editor of Dental Economics, has done a marvelous job of creating "tracks" for dentists, hygienists, and staff. Some of the brightest minds in contemporary dentistry participate in the program, and approximately 400 hygienists have attended the Dental Economics conference during the past two years.

Hygienists, of course, are not required to "stick together;" they can wander into some of the courses for dentists and assistants. But, for this year's program, Dr. Blaes invited Tricia Osuna, Kristy Menage Bernie, Kristine Hodsdon, Bobbi Anthony, and Trisha O'Hehir to lead the hygiene "track."

Cosmetic Dentistry 2002 (February 14-15 at the Las Vegas Hilton) is an excellent opportunity for an entire staff to envision the optimal care that you want to offer patients. For more information, call (888) 299-8016, or review the related advertising (pages 50-52) in this issue.

In closing, I want to wish all RDH readers a happy holiday season!