Let technicians polish dental practice success

Let technicians polish dental practice success

Jun 01, 2006

Behind every flourishing dental practice is a great veterinary staff. If you want to move forward with your veterinary dental practice, it's time to get your technicians on board.

Photo 1: Properly attired technician examining a patient's mouth.
Recently, there was an interesting discussion on the Veterinary Information Network concerning a veterinarian who wanted to "get into dentistry." This doctor purchased a dental X-ray unit, and he expected the dental segment of his practice would just grow. The reality: Nothing happened.

His next move was to urge his technicians to obtain proper dental radiology continuing education. Still, the team didn't bite. Out of frustration, he delivered a hard-line ultimatum. Unless his technicians became proficient in their role with dental radiology within three months, they would be fired.

The threats were in vain. He sought advice on what to do next. The answers from fellow VINers focused on training, compassion and reiterating the philosophy that learning is a journey, not a destination.

Table 1 Technician tasks
So what is the answer to this veterinarian's dilemma? How does a veterinarian motivate his or her technicians so they can improve the medical delivery of dentistry to patients?

Jim Collins, in his book "Good to Great," analogized that successful company leaders acted as bus drivers steering their company in the right direction. The "bus" needs to be loaded with the right people, and they need to be in the correct seats. This analogy is very appropriate for our practice team as they work to deliver oral assessment, treatment and prevention of veterinary dentistry. The practice owner needs to decide the extent of dental services to offer — oral assessment, cleaning and prevention with non-surgical extractions; endodontics, orthodontics and/or oral surgery. This first (of three) articles will focus on the technicians' critical role, followed by the veterinarian's connection and finally address client responsibilities.

Who's driving anyway?

Photo 2: Sterile examination pack.
You would think that the veterinarian acts as the driver for veterinary dentistry: not true. In most practices, veterinary technicians often determine the success or failure of this important veterinary discipline. Without trained, capable and eager technicians, the "bus" and journey can only go so far.

Roles delineated

When it comes to organizing veterinary dentistry delivery within a practice, the veterinary technician should be assigned important duties from equipment and material procurement, maintenance, sterilization, procedure preparation, information gathering (probing, charting, X-rays), teeth cleaning, polishing, barrier gel application as well as client education before, during and after these procedures (Photo 1).

Equipment and material management

Here are some duties to consider for your technicians:

  • Preparation of dental packs.
  • Sterilization of dental instruments.