hygienist videoThis statement comes from a Canadian dentist who admits he feels uncomfortable communicating with his patients about their oral health prospects. He blames his dental school training for his singular focus on the teeth. And no doubt there is also blame directed to the insurance companies who prefer to pay for surgery rather than prevention and risk assessment.

Many professions are trained to conduct certain activities which are subsequently rendered unappealing or uneconomic by changing consumer taste or technological advances. For example, my wife was trained as a librarian at university but found upon graduation, that the internet re-wrote her job description. She adapted.

In dentistry and hygiene, however, there seems to be a high resistance to going beyond the teeth, beyond a narrowly defined scope of practice, beyond the mask.

As a result, dentistry has got too expensive. This is because dental surgery is labor-intensive with no real growth in productivity. A dentist saw perhaps 10 patients a day 10 years ago, and he/she sees 10 patients today. The same applies to dental hygiene. So, the only way of increasing one’s income as a dental professional, is to raise your hourly rates.

And also as a result, dental waiting rooms are getting empty and in turn, dental incomes are falling according to the ADA.

So “treating teeth” may be what the dental schools do.

But it is not the path to better incomes and a fuller waiting room. New thinking and more particularly, new services which lower costs, are needed.

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