Dental assistants are crucial to maintaining a productive and successful practice, as well as enhancing the patient experience. But the demand for dental assistants is now outpacing current numbers, causing many practices to experience staffing shortages that force patients to wait longer for appointments and decrease practice productivity. In this article, licensed dental assistant and Zirc product specialist Kay Hickey shares how Zirc’s Mr. Thirsty One-Step can help practices dealing with fewer dental assistants get through their busy days more efficiently.
I have a feeling that many of you reading this will be able to relate to the frustrations many dental groups and DSOs are dealing with. As a product specialist at Zirc Dental Products, my colleagues and I work with dental professionals every day discussing how we can help improve efficiencies in their affiliated practices. We are hearing more and more DSOs complain that they have unsuccessfully been trying to hire dental assistants and they are struggling to even get applicants. In fact, I am a licensed dental assistant and left clinical practice about three and one half years ago to take this position at Zirc. The dentist that I worked for still hasn’t found a permanent replacement for me, and they continue to work shorthanded.
Running an emerging dental group or established DSO, you know just how busy and stressful it can be to have even one of your team members call in sick. Imagine having to go into that kind of hectic work environment day after day. It negatively affects the affiliated practice, from the dentist to the patient, and everybody in between.
“The dental industry is in critical need of dental assistants. There is a severe shortage. One dentist told me that I could have 122 dental assisting students this year and it wouldn’t be nearly enough to cover what the industry in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky needs. The demand is exceedingly greater than the supply.” – Karen Spradlin, dental assisting instructor, Cincinnati Dental Assistants Society (College Foundation of North Carolina)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states, “Employment of dental assistants is projected to grow 19 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.” The ramifications of assistant shortages are plenty. Patients will have to wait longer for appointments, and appointments will last longer because the dentist will be working without an assistant. This will decrease production and it is likely that the quality of care will decrease as well.
Dental assistants are crucial to a productive and successful practice, not to mention the patient experience. Unless and until there is a viable solution to the dental assistant shortage, there are ways to counter the negative effects of the crisis.
One great way is the Mr. Thirsty One-Step, a hands-free, isolation and evacuation device. You simply hook it up to your existing HVE valve. It has built in bite block that will comfortably hold the patient open, retract the tongue, protect the cheek, all while providing continuous suction. If that sounds a lot like what your assistant would be doing while you are prepping a tooth, it’s because it is! I wish I would have known about Mr. Thirsty when I was working in the clinic. I can think of so many occasions when Mr. Thirsty would have made such a difference throughout the course of a day! Not only when we were short staffed, but a whole lot more!
Often times when I am demonstrating Mr. Thirsty to dental assistants, the initial reaction I get is, “So, what am I supposed to do if the dentist uses Mr. Thirsty?” or, “I am being replaced by this gadget?”
Let’s think about that for a minute. What is the job description of the dental assistant in your practice? I can assure you it is more than sucking spit and wrestling tongues! There is patient education, post-op instruction, impressions, fabricating bleach trays and mouth guards, room turnover, sterilization, inventory management, equipment maintenance, radiographs, charting, and the list goes on and on.
For example, if you have a crown prep appointment scheduled at 3:00, but an emergency patient was squeezed in at the same time, the dentist can start the crown prep with Mr. Thirsty while the assistant can seat the emergency patient, review their health history, take preliminary notes, and get a radiograph.
I can recall on many occasions that a patient would be scheduled to come in to get a retainer or bleach tray that I didn’t have time to finish. It would stress me out trying to figure out how to get it done before the patient arrived, all while performing my other duties and assisting the dentist. How nice it would have been to have an isolation device like Mr. Thirsty so the dentist could work on a patient while I took the time I needed to fabricate the dental appliance.
Hygienists would benefit from using Mr. Thirsty, too. Hygienists usually don’t get an assistant. Using an ultrasonic scaler or trying to do sealants by yourself can be really tricky, especially if you are dealing with a patient who gags easily or has a strong or wiggly tongue! By using Mr. Thirsty, the hygienist would finally get that third hand they always wished for!
Whether your dental group is dealing with clinical staffing issues, or just want to find a solution to create better efficiency and less stress during the work day, Mr. Thirsty One-Step is the answer. You will find that you will save up to 29% chair-time to create more productive practices, all while providing a better patient experience.
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