By Kristine A. Hodson
Have you ever heard two sides of an argument and agreed with both? Party A definitely makes sense and sheds new light on the issue. Yet Party B also has valid reasons and concerns. What do you do? Who do you side with? Is it really necessary to draw that line in the sand and dare your adversaries to cross it?
A hybrid is a mixture — a combination of diverse properties or ingredients. It can even be used to describe a group of people. A dental example would be a hybrid composite restoration, which is a combination of larger particles (often stronger ingredients) with smaller particles (often more polishable). When they are combined into one material, the end result is a restorative material that is both sturdy and beautiful.
Hygiene is more than periodontal probing, toothbrush recommendations, or selling dentistry. Are all these components important? Abso-lutely, but my goal is to bring together hygiene with perhaps more untraditional as-pects of care, research, and dentistry. Combine the traditional and untraditional as-pects of hygiene to create a hybrid out of what was once two separate entities.
Frequently, during our clinical days, we find ourselves deciding what is important to accomplish. We all know the drill — greet, shake hands with the patients, escort them into your hygiene domain, a small amount of chitchat, pre-procedural rinse, review and update medical history, take blood pressure, perform intraoral and extraoral cancer exams, update FMX and pan, take intraoral pictures, six-point probing, caries assessment, evaluate existing restorations ... on and on and on.
So, as the clock ticks, we begin to ask ourselves, "Should I update Mrs. Rampant Decay's full mouth X-rays this visit or wait until the next?" "Should I talk about Mrs. Checkerboard's smile, or give a fluoride treatment?"
The hygienist may feel overwhelmed and frustrated because the dentist often does not realize what services are actually performed in a routine hygiene visit. I often read articles in dental publications, popular magazines, newsletters that the doctor turns to for "help with hygiene." The articles often have titles such as, "Is An Hour Too Long For A Cleaning Appointment?" The authors are either "experts" or "sages." Often times, it is hard to tell the difference.
They appear qualified to provide "profitable advice" because they took a turn at cleaning teeth and now know how to solve all of the other doctors' problems because they have "lived it." They list the duties that hygienists perform for a "cleaning" and then proceed to give efficient and time-saving advice. Sometimes, this list of duties is laughable, because it never even mentions six-point periodontal assessments. Not to mention that the "solution" to the hygiene situation usually comes with a price tag of a minimum of $395 to purchase a videotape or an "all you need to know" workbook" or a "laminated chart."
This blatant advertising, from a hygiene perspective, taints any value the message may have. Then these ideas, printed in popular "National Enquirer" informational sources, are taken as the Holy Grail for hygiene. The solutions to the hygiene efficiency and time dilemma cannot be thought of as a meal — prepared, consumed, and then forgotten. The hygiene department is a dynamic, ever-changing entity and its challenges cannot be easily solved in a quick-fix manual titled "Ten Steps to Hygiene Profitability."
Do we perform quality patient care or cut corners to stay on schedule?
A colleague, Vicki McManus, RDH, has dubbed this type of thinking as living in the "Land of Or." She explains, "In the Land of Or there is a belief that there is never enough time or resources to complete a job or to provide all the services we know are necessary to maintain high levels of clinical excellence and patient satisfaction. In the Land of Or, teams are busy putting out fires and simply surviving from one day to the next, hoping that each will be a little better than the previous."
McManus continues, "There is hope for those living in the Land of Or, but it will require teamwork and a desire to live in the Land of And.
We can have high quality patient care and stay on schedule. We can provide outstanding services and keep our fees reasonable for the area. We can create a productive practice and have a low stress environment. We can have education on periodontal health and restorative dentistry."
Here is McManus' road map to the Land of And. "First, compile a list of all the things you are currently doing well. Then compile a list of all the current challenges. Please do this in the correct order! If you compile challenges first, it will be difficult to remember what you are doing well."
Once you know where you are, and where you want to go, you can begin to plan the journey by combining and mastering three areas of your professional growth: clinical skills, communication skills, and management skills. Attending diverse continuing education programs can mean balancing periodontal concerns, dental materials, case presentation, leadership, and smart business practice programs.
Begin by scheduling a meeting with your doctor. Share with him/or her your vision of the hygiene department and where you want it to be this time next year. Let your doctor know what additional qualifications or support you will need to make this happen. One commonly used quote is, "There are no bad people, just bad systems." And working in the Land of Or is a bad system.
What are the payoffs for moving out of the Land or Or? These may include increased career satisfaction, increased patient focus, improved team relationships and increased net profitability. Although it may sound silly, changing one word in your vocabulary could create an entirely new standard for your hygiene life.
My challenge to my readers is to let me know what connections you are developing or seeing emerge out there in the marketplace. Let's explore the opportunities together. E-mail or call me, so we can discuss what works and what does not work. By expanding the community voice and issues, none of us need remain in the Land of Or. Instead, we can move to the Land of And, where our new outlook can produce an effective hybrid.
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, is an international speaker, author, and software developer. She is the author of Demystifying Smiles: Strategies for the Dental Team. The book is available online at www.pennwell-store.com. She can be contacted about speaking or coaching at kahods [email protected]. Visit her on the Web at www.hygienemastery.com.