I recently posed a question to a large online group of dental hygienists. The question was: "What is the one thing you would like for your boss to purchase that would improve your work life?" I received a variety of answers, but there were three answers that stood out: (1) new and sharp instruments, (2) power scaler inserts, and (3) x-ray sensors.
The necessity of high-quality, sharp instruments cannot be overstated. My favorite dull instrument analogy is like trying to scrape paint off the barn with a football. Yet many hygienists work with dull, worn-out, substandard instruments. Why? It may be because the doctor is reluctant to purchase new instruments. All instruments wear out with use, so it's important to make sure your hygienist has the tools she or he needs to do the job. Sharp instruments decrease hand fatigue and increase patient comfort.
Many hygienists and dentists have difficulty with sharpening. If that's the case, sharpening services are available. Many years ago, I learned a sharpening technique using a handpiece and small friction-grip stone that is far better than the traditional "moving stone" technique hygienists learn in school. You can view it at http://bit.ly/2cdsqWS. Also, there are "sharpen-free" instruments available through several companies. These fabulous, razor-sharp instruments are lightweight, ergonomic, and have thin working ends that make scaling a breeze.
Equally important for hygienists is a high-quality power scaler. There are wonderfully thin inserts that allow the hygienist to debride pockets much more efficiently than with hand instruments alone. Periodontal debridement and maintenance procedures should be predominantly performed with power scalers. However, many hygienists complain that they don't have enough inserts, or the ones they have are worn down. All inserts wear down with use, and when 2 mm of metal is lost from the tip, the efficiency is reduced by 50%. So make sure your hygienist has a good power scaler and the proper number of power scaling inserts and tips to enable thorough instrumentation.
Another problem in many offices is not having enough x-ray sensors in a variety of sizes for the office. When the office has an inadequate number of sensors, staff members will waste time waiting for a sensor. Hygienists may be forced to delay taking necessary radiographs simply because of a lack of sensors. So make sure you have enough sensors in a variety of sizes.
Here are a few more items that hygienists wish their doctors would purchase or provide: loupes and headlights, a hygiene assistant, cordless handpieces, ergonomic chairs or new patient chairs, intraoral cameras, voice probes, health insurance, lunch, office cruises, digital x-rays, chiropractic visits or massages, beer/wine fridges, and a new office manager.
Do you ask your hygienist from time to time if there's anything she needs that would improve her ability to treat your patients? When your hygienist makes a request for new instruments, do you take action? Does your hygienist have a power scaler with an adequate number of high-quality inserts or tips, and enough x-ray sensors so staff members are not wasting time waiting?
Remember, your hygienist is treating your patients. It is part of your responsibility to provide all the paraphernalia needed for him or her to do the job well. If you skimp on instruments or equipment, your patients are the recipients of less-than-optimal care. Think about it.
All the best,
Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, RDH, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Please visit Dianne's website at wattersonspeaks.com. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at email@example.com or call her at (336) 472-3515.