New Patients, New Treatment Opportunities
Dr. Nancy Haller
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Last October, I had the privilege to work with a savvy dental leader and his team. Although the practice was productive, he wanted to take the business to the “next level.” A two-day team retreat was a sizable investment, but he knew that employee performance is directly correlated to practice profitability. In other words, the purpose of training was business-focused, not just a feel-good reward. The team with whom I worked showed tremendous courage and discipline. My prediction was that they were on their way to “extraordinary levels of success.” Here’s the six-month update. It starts with an email I received from the Office Manager, “Mary” (the names of the dentist and employees are not real names).
Hi Nancy, We have transitioned through our office remodel and the digital equipment! (We made it!) We have added a second hygienist 2 days a week and hope to add a third day this summer. Our current second hygienist can only work 2 days a week and we are interviewing for a third one in June.
It's just in the past few weeks that everyone is really starting to relax and have fun again. (You know how rocky transitional periods can be). The office turned out beautiful, the team is comfortable with all the new digital chairside technology. The practice is growing—we are averaging about 50 new established patients a month. Dr. Smith is booked out farther than he has ever been, as is the hygiene department. Julie is diligently applying the calculations she learned at the hygiene training. Attending your classes really helped us to communicate much more freely. We refer back to the information frequently. Especially the "triangle.”
[For my readers, the following is an example of a “triangle”: Marla the hygienist is angry at Ann the chairside because Ann didn’t clean up her trays before she left the office. Instead of talking directly with Ann, Marla vents to Jane (who dislikes Ann) because Marla’s intent is to have someone join her in feeling angry at Ann and she knows that Jane will agree with her. No positive outcome will occur as a result and lot of emotional energy is wasted. Relationship back-biting worsens and practice productivity is sabotaged.]
My question for you is: Even though we refer to the workshops often, have the Mission Statements posted, and things are going well, where do we go from here?
Here’s my reply, and hopefully some ideas to strengthen your team.
Hi Mary, Time flies! During the two days we spent together, you came to know one another in a deeper, more meaningful way. You created strategies for making your working processes more productive.
First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS on all the accomplishments…
I’d say that was cause for celebration. Therein is my first recommendation—the team needs to honor the successes you have achieved.
It could be something simple like ordering in a six-foot subway sandwich and having a two-hour lunch to relax. Or it could be a more elaborate fun-day when you all go bowling and have pizza. It should be a group activity. Although I love spa-days, those are individual rather than team-oriented.
Regardless of how you decide to mark your achievements, set aside time within the activity to talk with one another. Everyone should answer these two questions, beginning with Dr. Smith:
As you consider the next steps, discuss the following:
Be as specific as possible about the behaviors you did or the actions you observed in teammates. I encourage each of you to continue to invest in building a stronger, more cohesive, more productive team. With a little extra attention, everyone will yield even greater results.
I hope you will keep me updated about your team progress. Until then, I send warm regards. Nancy
Dr. Haller is available for team building and dental leadership coaching. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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Implant dentistry is a proven treatment option for patients with missing teeth. However, many people do not understand what an implant is or how it functions. They may have unrealistic expectations of what implants can do for them, or they may be so afraid to have one placed that they turn down a chance for a true improvement in their lives. Your patients may be candidates for implants. What do they need to know and how can you talk to them about their concerns in regards to understanding dental implants?
Patients need to understand why missing teeth should be replaced in the first place! Most people would not want to have a tooth missing where others could see. What about missing teeth in the back of the mouth? A large number of people do not know that along with affecting appearances, any missing tooth can affect the health of the mouth and the way that the rest of the teeth fit together. They do not realize that teeth on either side of an empty space may tilt into that space, or that teeth opposite an empty space can drift up or down into the opening. Remaining teeth can also become loose, start gum problems or even cause headaches due to altered biting forces. When a tooth is lost, the bone that used to support that tooth may also start to disintegrate. Teeth and tooth roots give the jawbone a “purpose.” Without them, the bone in the jaw may decline. Choices for replacing missing teeth include bridges and removable partial dentures, both tooth-supported and implant-supported.
Patients need a simple definition of an “implant.” An implant recreates the anatomy and function of a natural tooth. Although there are many styles and brands on the market, patients really just need to understand that there is a portion of the implant that goes into the bone and acts like a root, and a crown that is placed on top that looks and “acts” like a tooth. Implants can be used to support replacements, like bridges, but they can also be used to take the place of a single missing tooth. With implants, teeth next to a space do not have to be trimmed down to hold the fake “fill-in” tooth or teeth. Having an implant may also contribute to a certain amount of bone longevity. Since an implant integrates into the bone, it may give the jawbone a “purpose” and help it to not deteriorate.
Patients also need to understand that in most situations the surgical placement of an implant must be accomplished and healing must occur before a crown or any replacement can be used. A patient will be concerned about how his/her mouth will look while this healing takes place, so explain any temporary device you will provide. If your office places implants that can be loaded immediately, be sure your patient understands how to care for the implants and “crowns” before the next visit to you.
Is the treatment painful? Your patients want to know! Instead of beating around the bush, it is usually best to face this question head on, and with honesty. The placement of implants requires surgery, and though most patients will be comfortably numb during the procedure, they are likely to experience discomfort afterwards. Tell your patients what to expect and how you will take care of them, and encourage them to ask questions.
Patients want to know if their insurance will pay for implants. More and more benefit plans are including implants in their contracts within the confines of their applicable yearly maximums. Most yearly maximums are about $1,500–$2,000, so insurance may be somewhat helpful in paying toward implants. Some plans stipulate a “least expensive alternative treatment,” meaning that the carrier may only pay what they allow toward a non-implant supported, removable partial denture or full denture. If the patient’s contract specifically excludes implant procedures, they will not be covered no matter what a patient or dentist may request. Under some contracts, the implants may be denied, but the crowns or bridges placed on top of them may be covered. Implants may also fall under a dental “pre-existing” clause. Such clauses are not as common as they once were, but some plans still specify that for a replacement of any kind to be considered; at least one of the missing teeth to be replaced must have been lost or removed while the patient was covered by the existing plan.
It is important to check with the patient’s plan prior to placement of implants so that any financial concerns are dealt with before patients get the bill. Understanding the correct way to use the dental insurance codes will help the patient to maximize insurance coverage.
Carol Tekavec, CDA RDH is the president of Stepping Stones to Success and a practicing clinical hygienist. She is a speaker with the ADA Seminar Series, has appeared at all major dental meetings and has been featured in Dentistry Today’s “Top Ten Clinicians in Continuing Education” for 9 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.