November is Diabetes Awareness Month

November 1, 2012

Back in 2001, when I was president of my local dental hygiene component, I received a flyer from one of the local hospitals announcing a diabetes fair.  The theme was ‘Diabetes from Head to Toe’,  so, I called and asked, “who’s covering the mouth?”  Total silence followed by “no one has every contacted us about this before.”   Fortunately, they welcomed us, and that led to an invitation to exhibit at the first Diabetes Expo held at Navy Pier in Chicago. Thus began a ten year plus relationship between the West Suburban Dental Hygienists’ Society and the American Diabetes Association.

To say the event was eye-opening would be an understatement.   We met single and double amputees, people who were legally blind, and those just struggling with their diagnosis.  What many of them had in common was that they had no idea that diabetes impacted their oral health.  Many had not had a dental visit in years; and more importantly, their medical providers were not even recommending it.

What was even more shocking was the lack of knowledge that most medical professionals had in this area. One physician actually asked me why we there.  He had no idea that diabetes increased the incidence and severity of periodontal disease.

According the American Diabetes Association, 25.6 million adults have diabetes.  Nearly 11 million of them are age 65 or older.  That’s a lot of people who need our help.

It’s time to take our message out into the community.  Volunteer at a local health fair.  Contact the diabetes association in your area and see what opportunities are available.  People will be receptive to your message.  I know the volunteers from West Suburban find the day very rewarding.

Coaching Tips for Patients

October 16, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of presenting coaching tips for patients to dental hygiene students at the Florida Dental Hygienist’s Association meeting.   I’m sure many of them wondered about the topic.  After all, mastering the art of scaling teeth is generally a top priority since it’s a necessary element in passing board exams.  Yet as I told them, all of you will learn to scale teeth.   The harder piece to learn is how to motivate patients.

Most of us haven’t received any formal training on the art of behavior change.   Much of what we glean is through trial and error.   And often, it’s easier to figure out what doesn’t work than what does.   Repeating the same information again and again is tiring – for us and our patients.

If you want to gain some new insight into behavior change, I highly recommend the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Health.   Don’t be surprised if some of what you learn is counterintuitive to our traditional approach.

One of the best things I learned from the Heath brothers was how to reframe my approach to self-care.  For example, what is one reason we often hear for not flossing?  How about too busy or not enough time?   I know you’ve heard it, and I know you didn’t buy it.

What if you asked your patient this; ‘in addition to tooth brushing, how much time do you have to clean in between your teeth?”  Do you think they would say they have at least one minute or even two?  I bet they would.   So following the Heath philosophy, you would then introduce the product you want them to use.  You might say something like “one product that can be used in one minute is a Water Flosser.” Would you be interested in trying it?

Time is everyone’s most precious commodity and one we can’t get back.  I encourage you to try this approach and share your results.

Celebrating National Dental Hygiene Month

October 8, 2012

October is National Dental Hygiene Month.   What are you doing to recognize and celebrate your value as a dental hygienist?

Yes, I mean you, Ms. or Mr. Dental Hygienist.   What are you doing to recognize and honor yourself and the important work you do?

Are your struggling with what I just suggested?  I bet you are.  It’s a foreign concept to most of us.  You might be thinking ‘I wouldn’t even know where to start’.

Let me help you.

  1. Know what your production is on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.  Only by knowing how you contribute to the basic revenue of the practice can you successfully position yourself for any type of salary increase.
  2. Track the number of restorative and cosmetic services that you recommend and are completed.  This may take some coordination with other staff members.    Yes, it will further show how you contribute revenue but it also demonstrates that you are team player.
  3. Document your referrals.  This is broader than you might realize.  Ask new patients why their friends or family referred them to the practice. Perhaps you will learn it’s because of you.  Or maybe you recommended someone who became a new employee.  This likely saved the practice from placing ads and/or a prolonged search.
  4. Search for ways to reduce expenses.  Is it possible to order some of your supplies in larger quantities to get a better price?  Often times, we do the same thing out of habit not realizing there may be better, more cost effective options.  Be proactive.  A reduction in expenses helps improve overall profits.
  5. Consider ways to add new dental hygiene revenue streams.  Many people shy away from product dispensing because they are afraid the patients will think they are ‘selling’.  Another perspective to consider is that you are saving them time by having the recommended product on hand for them to purchase.

You don’t need to start with everyone all at once.  I do think that if you do not currently monitor your production totals, this is must.  If you hate math, an Excel spreadsheet is easy to set up and will do the math for you.  As you get more proficient you can add other items to track like the restorative and cosmetic services piece.

Most of us don’t like to think about what we do in terms of money and production.   However, this aversion to budgets and financial realities makes us vulnerable in the workplace.  In a tight, job competitive economic environment knowing your value can make you more important than ever.


Nearly Half of US Adults Have Periodontal Disease

September 26, 2012

Recent data from a Journal of Dental Research study indicate 47.2% (64.7 million) Americans age 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease.  By demographic, the prevalence of periodontitis increases to 57.2% for those ages 50-64 and 70.1% for those 65 and over.

For practicing clinicians, this is likely not news.   You know they have perio; you see it every day.  The bigger issue is how to convince the patient it’s a problem that needs treatment sooner rather than later.

We tell them, we tell them again, and sometimes again.  You think, they must know or what is it that they don’t know that I could tell them to make a difference.

Rather than giving them more information, what if we focused on trying to make the patient ‘feel the want’? Change often results from creating feelings.  Why is whitening so popular?  It makes us feel good.

How do you make patients ‘feel the want’ for periodontal therapy?  One way is word choice.   Which words demand more attention; telling them they have periodontal disease or calling it an infection?  How about the pocket?  A bit of a mystery to most patients, I’m guessing.  What if we referred to it as a  ‘wound’ – and the treatments we suggest as ‘wound healing’.  I’ve heard it said that in a patient with a moderate to severe periodontal infection, if the diseased pocket epithelium was laid out end to end, it would result in an infection the size of palm of a hand.  Think your patient would defer treatment for a wound that size?  Likely not.

What about self-care?   We can carry the infection theme by suggesting ways they can ‘disinfect’ their mouth at home on a daily basis and prevent a reoccurrence of the infection.

Would these things help patients ‘feel the want’?  I think so.  What do you think?  What ways have you been successful getting your patients to ‘want’ periodontal therapy or adhere to regular home care?

It’s okay to be weird!

August 20, 2012

So says Seth Godin in his new book “We Are All Weird.”  Since I’ve been known to say on more than one occasion that ‘weird is vastly underrated’ Godin’s ‘manifesto’ as he calls it, got my attention.  Now mind you, we aren’t talking about being a ‘weirdo’; by that I mean the person who causes the hair on your arms to stand up but rather the willingness and confidence to let your ‘uniqueness’ show.

When I first started out as speaker, it was important to me to ‘fit the mold.’ I thought that was the key to success in this business. But over time I learned the best speakers are the ones that stay true to themselves.    Allowing your audience to see who you are and what you stand for helps you have the highest level of engagement and bonding with your learners and is for me, the most joyful part of being a speaker.

I’ve met a lot of interesting (weird?) people at my courses and at trade shows, and even though I may be viewed as the ‘teacher’, I’ve learned so much from my attendees.  The desire to stay connected post-course is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog.  I also wanted a place we can share our ‘uniqueness’ and grow as individuals.  I welcome your comments and ‘weirdness’ is always welcome!