by Karen Kaiser,

Cutting back painlessly

Oct. 1, 2010
Many clinicians may have negative reactions when they hear their dentists say, "We need to cut back supply spending in the hygiene department."
Many clinicians may have negative reactions when they hear their dentists say, "We need to cut back supply spending in the hygiene department." This may mean going with less inventory of a favorite brand or fewer instruments, or equipment ordering may be put on hold. Looking creatively and resourcefully at the cutback can allow your hygiene area to stretch hygiene dollars and continue to deliver excellent patient care.

Scores of hygiene operatories have transitioned to using largely disposable products. The convenience of disposables makes the idea of using nondisposables seem almost substandard. Prepackaged angles, individual unit prophy cups, and disposable mouth mirrors are the norm. Maybe your office is considering digging into the hygiene operatory drawers and returning to the nondisposable angle, lubing it, and making it ready for use. When the expense of disposable mirrors or unit prophy cups places strain on the hygiene budget, it's a good idea to consider some products that will help ease the transition.

When it comes to per patient unit prophy cups, there are many to choose from. Several offer more than just grit and add the benefits of remineralizing, desensitizing, and even cavity-disturbing sweeteners. If the thought of finding a less convenient paste appalls you, check the brand you prefer and see if there are any upcoming promotional or bulk sale specials such as "Buy so many boxes, get some free."

But perhaps the practice needs more drastic savings. Consider using a jar prophy paste as opposed to unit cups, and dispense just as much of the paste as you need to minimize paste waste. Young Dental has a cost-cutting 8.8 oz. jar of coral prophy fine grit paste in spearmint or bubble gum flavors. You can dispense as much or as little fluoride polishing paste as you need.

If you return to the reusable prophy angles, consider the cost of the cup. AllPro dental has a screw type or snap-on cup that is reasonably priced at around $20 per gross. The cups are latex-free and available in vanilla, tropical, or strawberry scents, and in web or ribbed inner cup designs.

Perhaps your practice has opted to convert to nondisposable mirror heads and handles. Disposable fiberglass mirrors may be reused, but after time will require complete replacement. Reasons for replacement include scratches on the face, or autoclave handle distortion. Cone socket mirrors simply screw into a handle, can be autoclaved again and again, and then replaced as needed. Several mirror sizes are available to complement your handle of choice. Parkell offers a 20/20 double-sided metal mirror that is a sturdy cheek retractor that offers great visibility.

Another thing that can make a hygienist feel uneasy is determining what homecare products the office can do without while trying to stretch the office dollars. Some dental company cutbacks have decreased the amount of free product samples available to offices. Consider becoming an online subscriber to product or company Web sites, where coupons and timely offers may bring welcome savings. Maybe the office has opted to discontinue buying patient-size samples of a product. Instead, when available, offer patients a coupon as a complement to your professional recommendation.

Many companies offer excellent savings plans when an office enrolls, and some offer free products when purchases are made. Investigate these savings. Diatech offers a collection of bundled products that is very inexpensive. The Signature collection includes 72 adult and child size toothbrushes, two boxes of prophy angles, and two boxes of paste. Also included are a dozen orthodontic kits that contain toothbrushes (travel toothbrushes also), threaders, floss, orthodontic wax, interdental and end tuff brush, and mouth mirror, all in a plastic box, plus even more.

Hygiene dollars can be stretched when you give other quality products a try.

The author did not receive compensation for products mentioned.

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis' Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates.

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