WHAT DO WE NEED TO ADDRESS IN ORDER TO HANDLE THE CURRENT NEW NORMAL IN OUR DENTAL PRACTICE?
Nobody has an idea on how far and wide the effect of this pandemic will hit all of us especially in our profession wherein social distancing is not just possible when we are doing our actual treatments. This is also not to mention the presence of aerosols, droplets and fomites that we do deal with in our everyday dental practice. Thus, infection control practice which, let’s admit it, has been taken for granted for quite sometime by dental practitioners, is now the front and center of our daily dental management in our business. With this line of thought, DMD cEnter would like to discuss a list of things we need to check if we are actually dealing with these issues that can exponentially affect the viability of our dental business versus the safety and protection of everyone involved in our dental practice.
On this article, let's discuss the types and modes of action of chemical sterilization in the practice modern dentistry. We need to identify them and the types of instruments we are dealing with. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dental instruments are classified into three categories according on the risk of transmitting infection.
I. PATIENT MANAGEMENT
Long gone are the days when we can just easily accept walk-in patients without much protocols or have patients waiting in our reception for their appointments. In the new normal, we all have to deal and learn with the use of technology. We have to try, do and implement the following:
1. E-mail and Mailer Applications
2. Voice Message
3. Social Media
4. Practice Website
The protocol of accepting patients during the initial spread of this virus must be as much as possible be continued based on the strict CDC and OSHA guidelines because the virus continues to mutate and change. This may greatly affect our financial standing, but, by innovative thinking, creating and doing our own personal steps that’s possible in our own practice that can be blended with safety protocols in our dental practice will make your transition to what we used to have and to what is now.
II. STAFF MANAGEMENT
As owners we are burdened with the cost of our dental practice and this include the salaries and benefits of our staff, if we do have one. If we have financial worries, then, our staff have the same concerns especially if they didn’t have much room in saving up prior to this pandemic and the fear of losing their job with us. This is a burden on both of us. Thus, it is our duty to assess well the income coming in and be able to analyze our ability to sustain our staff’s financial needs and our obligations to them. We have to check every avenue in order to hold off letting them go as a part of being humane, therefore, we have to do research on the following solutions if applicable to us.
1. Government Financial Assistance on Businesses
2. Scheduling of Patients
3. Adjust Working Hours
4. Find Creative Means to Increase or Sustain Income of the Clinic
III. HIRING ASSOCIATES AND HYGIENISTS
Not all dental practices are losing money during this pandemic. In fact, because many of our dental competitors either close down or lessen their working hours, the need for available dentists to handle dental concerns of patients increases. Although, these dental practices who are thriving during this time are not many, these will also help in providing jobs and opportunities to dentists, dental hygienists and others. On this situation, as owners, we have to be sure we can sustain this growth and be able assess well the market. It is important because we do not want to be hiring people and then just let them go in a matter of few months. We have to be able to give them job security if we feel we need to hire people to address the growth of your dental practice.
IV. DENTAL SUPPLY COMPANIES
Our dental materials and equipment need to be replenished, repaired and maintained. That’s simply a given factor in our dental practice. Prior to the pandemic, many of practitioners use dental supply companies not only as their suppliers for the dental materials but their financial lenders as well. We tend not to pay them immediately and pay our supplies by installment. This kind of practice has been greatly reduced since the pandemic. As many dentists negate their debts and not properly paying them, many of the dental suppliers now require us, dentists, to pay in cash. If we will look at this negatively, then, of course, it will be hard on our part to financially continue our practice. However, if we will approach this in a way of developing better on how we handle our finances and stocks in our dental practice, then, this can result in a very positive effect. By paying immediately our dental suppliers, you are able to get discount in price if they offer, you won’t have to deal with stress on how you will pay your loan as you won’t have one, and, you will truly just buy what you need and what’s of quality to sustain your dental practice.
V. MANAGEMENT & MARKETING
In order for all of us to survive and even grow our dental practice during this pandemic crisis, we need to be willing to learn new things, be innovative and be creative. We cannot just insist to stay on what we are used to, complain and refuse to change. If this is the attitude we will bring in our practice now, then, I must be honest with you, you need to close down as you will just eventually lose more money by practicing. If our dental practice is our bread and butter, then, we need to study and get trained on techniques and methods on how we can improve and make it work on the current normal way. I must say, one of the good things that this pandemic brought into the table is changing the attitude of dentists toward advertising and marketing. I am always been against on restricting dentists to market and advertise their practice especially if it is done tastefully, professionally and ethically. How will the market knows you exists if there’s no marketing and advertising? Well, this pandemic changed that. You now have to learn and attend training that will deal with the proper management and marketing of businesses and apply as much as you can what you’ve learned from those trainings in the premise of what you can afford and feasible for your dental business.
In truth, this pandemic didn’t just bring all negative stuff in our lives. In fact, it forces us to change our wrong behavior, attitudes and mindset as it placed us in a “no choice” position zone. I believe that it took this pandemic to make us all wake up for what we often take for granted such as management, marketing, infection control, and financial issues of our dental practice. Now is the right time to address and face these problems, find solutions and implement them. You will be surprise that it can actually change your dental business for the better.
Dr. Mary Jean Villanueva - Editor | Writer