Letters from Readers

Catch the Spirit

The spirit of America and the spirit of Christmas is goodwill toward people of this good earth. What better time than Christmas to put that spirit into action?

For the past 12 years, Santa has parked his sleigh in our dental office right after Thanksgiving. By the week before Christmas, the sleigh is overflowing with toys for the Salvation Army to distribute to needy children. Each family receives toys for their children and a box of food just before the big holiday.

A week or so before Thanksgiving, our patients receive a newsletter asking them to donate new, unwrapped toys. We ask them to bring their receipts with their donation, as we match the total dollar amount at the end of the toy drive. Our cash donation is used to help support the homeless projects.

The response from our patients and their friends is overwhelming. They often inquire about the toy drive several months before the holiday season. In 1989, Santa's sleigh was filled. By the following year, we had to add a giant stocking to our reception area to hold all of the toys. Since then, we have had to bag up the donations as we receive them, for there is little room left to display all of them by the second week of the drive.

While it is certainly not the focus of our toy drive, an unexpected surprise for our office is a substantial increase in the number of new patients from this event. The goodwill of our patients and our colleagues fills our office every holiday season — and fills our hearts. The Christmas season is little brighter because so many of our patients share their caring spirit with less fortunate families. Please find a way to pass this contagious spirit along — the rewards of doing so are beyond words.

Happy holidays to all! If you have any questions, please feel free to email our office at tmbell@proaxis.com.

Thomas M. Bell, DDS
Salem, Ore.

Supply and demand?

I feel that Dr. Hamric's article ("Ten Reasons Hygiene Fails as a Profit Center," Dental Economics, September 2001) was well-intentioned and has some valid points, but it missed the all-important issue in the analysis of why doctors have a problem with their hygiene departments failing to thrive financially like they should.

I love to practice general dentistry, and after practicing for more than 25 years in a small, rural, lower-income village, I think that I have gotten the "hang of it." Over the years and with considerable effort and luck, I have managed to attract and maintain between four and six full- and/or part-time hygienists to my practice at any given time in my single office location.

I don't claim to "know it all," but I do have a master's degree in administration. I have had a soft-tissue management program even before the makers of Rotodent promoted it years ago. I built the practice and team into producing over $1 million per year almost 15 years ago, and currently expect to do about $2.25 million this year.

I have tried on numerous occasions to institute accelerated hygiene practice, hygiene assistants, perks, and bonus plans — but without success. I truly believe that the biggest problem facing hygiene departments is the critical shortage of hygienists. Dentists in my region historically go begging for them, and some have even resorted to "stealing" staff from other offices out of desperation.

I feel that hygienists know about this coming right out of school, and consciously or unconsciously play it to the hilt. Hygienists typically dictate their salary, benefits, accommodations, where they will work, and how they will work. Dentists in my area must acquiesce to their demands or lose their dental hygienist!

The first order of business is to address the hygiene shortage by increasing the number of graduates. Only then will the finer points of dental hygienist utilization be truly possible — and it will come naturally.

Timothy C. Canty, DDS, MPH, FAGD
Round Lake Beach, Ill.

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