We are inspired by the ingenuity and resilience the entire dental community showed during 2020, and want to see you and your practice thrive in 2021. Here are nine key strategies we are seeing that made a positive impact on the dental industry this past year:
- Use Social Media to Connect with Your Patients
- Leverage Teledentistry
- Share Information Within Your Network
- Do More Dentistry In One Visit
- Use Powered Scalers and Polishing Tools Safely
- Level-up Your Infection Control Game
- Invest in Your Team
- Model Work-Life Balance
- Enjoy Your Dentistry
Use Social Media to Connect with Your Patients
The World Health Organization advised against “non-essential” dental care in the wake of the pandemic — routine check-ups, dental cleanings, and preventive care — until COVID-19 transmission rates significantly decreased. This message compromised the intimate link between oral and overall health. In response, dentists took to social media to reverse the “non-essential” notion, reminding their patients of the integral role oral health plays in systemic health. In addition, they shared the precautions followed to ensure patients’ health and safety. Dr. Maria Sebastian posted a video showing patients the steps her office is taking to create the safest possible dental experience, and her clients are responding. “Most of them want to come in. I think we’re very lucky.” Social media helps you build stronger relationships with your patients.
Teledentistry hit its stride in 2020. As Dr. Bryan Laskin, DDS says: “It’s the hottest thing in dentistry right now.” COVID-19 required dental practices to offer more virtual visits to patients than ever before. More populations were able to have access to dentistry, including those in rural areas, which have been historically underserved. Virtual calls allowed for efficient initial diagnoses, while allowing dentists to see fewer patients in person to ensure safety for everyone.
Share Information Within Your Network
With scant information on how to procure PPE, dental professionals relied on WhatsApp threads, Facebook groups, and other modes of communication to get necessary information on how to sustain their businesses. “Personally, I could not have gotten through this pandemic without the support and camaraderie of the people of Smile Source,” says Louis Kaufman, DDS. Information-sharing proved to be one of the most beneficial ways to stay abreast of the impact of COVID on dental practices, and it fortified the clinician community.
Do More Dentistry in One Visit
You might think every dentist’s hope in 2020 was to maintain a 2019 schedule. Not so. With the shift to remote work, we’re seeing that patients are willing to do more complex work in a single visit because they have more time on their hands. (And they can turn the camera off on Zoom if they need to recover from cosmetic procedures.) Dr. Marc Liechtung, DMD, suggests: “Do the second crown, take out the second tooth and bone graft it. Do what you would do on the second visit.” Dentists and patients alike preferred fewer repeat visits during the pandemic, and this approach proved to be more efficient and beneficial for everyone.
Use Powered Scalers and Polishing Tools Safely
Throughout the pandemic, the CDC advised against aerosol generating procedures (e.g., use of dental handpieces, air/water syringe, ultrasonic scalers). The need to treat patients remained, even though 60% of Americans postponed their dental appointments in 2020. Delays in oral care oftentimes lead to greater build-up in patients’ mouths, and high-speed tools are the best way to fight decay. There is a way to do it safely. As Rella Christensen, RDH, PhD says: “Use your intraoral device and HVE tip within 2 inches of the working area to ensure safety.” Without assistants to hold an HVE, hygienists found ways to perform these procedures and minimize aerosols using tools like the Isovac and Isolite. Your patients deserve the highest standard of care.
Level-up Your Infection Control Game
Michelle Strange, RDH, says: “Because [of COVID-19], everybody is hyper-focused on infection prevention. But only 50% [of clinicians can define the hierarchy of controls].” We need to do better. To reduce risk up to 90%, add a second HVE to your existing intraoral device, use operatory foggers, hire infection control personnel, and hold team trainings on the new devices. Dentists have always been good about infection control, but 2020 drove them to take the next step. A multi-layered approach is most effective.
Invest in Your Team
Your team is your gold. Practices that invest in their employees’ professional and personal development have higher retention rates. Marc Leichtung, DMD wants his team to know they’re valued. “When my team said, ‘Doc, I have a problem with childcare,’ I said, ‘Let’s use the lunchroom and bring your children.’ When my assistants needed to learn how to take impressions, I brought in a professional trainer.” If your staff is trained, well-equipped, and supported, they will feel motivated and fulfilled, and are likely to stick around for a long time. When the whole team feels appreciated, everyone wins.
Model Work-Life Balance
We’re seeing that dentists who spent more time out of the office in 2020 felt less stress as they enjoyed side hobbies, meditation, and spending time with family. Dr. Ana Vasquez recommends that we learn how to manage our energy during COVID. “As a leader, you have to show up and allow your team to be human. Let them know it’s okay not to be okay. Help them manage their energy.” Many dentists are reprioritizing how they spend their time, practicing better self-care, and choosing to work fewer hours going forward to maintain a healthy work/life balance. Reduced stress leads to a stronger, more resilient practice for the clinicians and team.
Enjoy Your Dentistry
Practices that focused on streamlining mundane tasks and processes came out ahead. For example, in 2020 we saw that the top 10% of performing offices hired a person dedicated to calling patients every 2-3 months for recall. Another opportunity for efficiency is ending the battle against moisture. Dr. Pavel Krastev says, “I look at Dentistry as an art…and I’m tired of fighting the tongue and saliva.” When you can focus on your craft, you’re free to do what you love. Make your practice more efficient and enjoyable.
We made it to 2021, and we’re hopeful looking ahead. The strength and resilience built in 2020 will pay dividends this year. We applaud our dental community for their hard work and commitment to keep mouths healthy. Here’s to a year of smiles ahead!