When you begin incorporating orthodontics into your practice, you may realize that you have to make some changes to keep up with demand. In this video interview, Dr. Suzie Bergman (a POS instructor from Vancouver, Washington) shares how and why you should enlist the help of your entire team to make your orthodontic cases as efficient, productive and profitable as possible.
Watch the video interview or read the full transcript to get Dr. Bergman's expert insight!
IVETA MERKER: Hello everyone, we are here today to welcome the multi-talented and fabulous Dr. Suzie Bergman who is teaching the dental assistant class the next three days at our POS Headquarters. Welcome, Suzie.
DR. SUZIE BERGMAN: Thank you, Iveta.
IVETA: Suzie, in your experience and in your opinion, what are the main factors that the doctors need to focus on when they are trying to incorporate orthodontics into their practice?
DR. BERGMAN: That's a great question. That's actually the first topic that we go over in the Assistant and Team Training seminar. There are actually 3 things to consider. So the first one would be that the doctors need to have effective systems in place and they need to have the proper inventory so that they can be efficient which equals being profitable. And then the second thing is that they must delegate to train staff. When we go to our medical doctors, the nurse comes in takes our vital signs, and the doctor could do that, but the doctor's usually doing something that the nurse can't do, and it's the same concept in ortho. And then the third thing would be that they really need to understand the economics of ortho. So the front office also needs to be trained so that they're able to help with billing ortho and financing and scheduling for productivity.
IVETA: So we usually say that when somebody is starting ortho, everyone should be on board, correct?
DR. BERGMAN: Exactly, yes definitely. The doctors are excited when they start learning and they have a lot to learn, so the sooner that the assistants can take some of those responsibilities, the more time the doctor has to learn the theory. And assistants are very good at these clinical duties. They get excited about the opportunity to do ortho because they feel like they have a part in creating the smile for their patient. And another thing that the ortho assistants are very good at is they're involved in the administration in terms of ordering the appliance and maintaining inventory, and they can actually help the rest of the office get involved with ortho so they are able to explain things to the front office about the procedures that we're doing and how much time is involved. They can encourage the hygienists to ask that question, "Have you ever thought about straightening your teeth?" and teach the hygienist some of the simple tasks like just untying the wire so that the patient can get a really nice prophy.
IVETA: And it is also very rewarding for the dental assistant and the whole staff when the patients are happy.
DR. BERGMAN: Yes, it's so true. I think that what is so exciting with ortho is we watch people [transform]. When they're kids, we watch them mature, and when they're adults, we watch them gain confidence. So everyone in the office feels like they had a little part in that.
IVETA: So Suzie, what are the main aspects the dental assistants can be helping the dentist in every day orthodontics?
DR. BERGMAN: You know, it's different than general dentistry. In orthodontics, the assistants are doing the bulk of the clinical work. So every state has its guidelines and it's important for doctors to check their state guidelines to find out if they need expanded functions, certificates. But in general, the assistants do everything from taking records to helping the doctor with band and bond procedure. They do the archwire tie ins and change appliances. They order and maintain inventory, make retainers, help with deband. And one of the really important thing that the assistants do is they encourage and educate the patients.
IVETA: For the dentists who cannot send their assistants to our classes, what are the other options that you would recommend to do?
DR. BERGMAN: Well one of the things that we offer at Progressive is the in-office consulting option and that works really well for some doctors who can't send their assistants on the scheduled date, or maybe they have a high volume practice and a lot of staff. So for those practices it makes more sense for a doctor to actually come to their office or for them to travel to the instructor's office if it's close by. And I've done that a few times.
IVETA: I know you have.
DR. BERGMAN: Yeah, it's really fun. I think that what's nice about it is we can tailor it so it's exactly what they're looking for. If they want their front office staff to have a little bit of education and then go back to what they're doing, that works out nicely. And sometimes I will bring my assistant and she can work directly with the assistants on how to organize the operatory while I'm talking to the doctor about something else, and that's something that I think we should encourage people if they get frustrated that they just are not able to attend.
IVETA: I know you are very excited about teaching tomorrow. What are some of the topics that you are going to cover in the 3 day class?
DR. BERGMAN: We really go over A to Z in the DA class and I just love it because the assistants, I can see their confidence building over the 3 days. We start out at the beginning just like we have a patient and we go through obtaining records, processing the records, the consultation, and then we go into what's actually going to happen when we band and bond our patient and they come back for the reties. The assistants get to do those activities hands on so that they feel confident when they go back to their practice and they're ready to help their doctor. And we talk about some of the accessories and other appliances that will be used throughout treatment. On Sunday we go over ceph tracing and model measuring. A lot of doctors like to delegate that to their assistants because they just don't have the time for it and assistants enjoy learning that they're usually pretty computer savvy and it's a fun switch from the clinical things. So we go over that, we also talk about retainer fabrication, organizing the operatory and anything that they would really like to know that is going to be their responsibility once ortho is part of their practice.
IVETA: Well that is great, and we always try to highlight that anyone who attends the dental assistant class they can always watch the video and review it. We also encourage the doctors to come with their dental assistants, they can attend free of charge. Do you find it helpful when the dentist comes with the assistant?
DR. BERGMAN: I do. I notice that they sort of feed off of each other's excitement and they're able to talk about specifics that they're going to incorporate once they get home, so that is always a good thing.
IVETA: So Suzie, in your years of experience, what would you say the cons might be when the assistants are helping with the ortho patients and do you have some tips that can prevent any of those issues?
DR. BERGMAN: Yeah, so you know most the time when assistants are involved with ortho it's a positive thing for everyone. But once in a while things can get a little bit murky if there is a lack of communication or a lack of preparation prior to an appointment and that just leads to frustration and disappointment. So, it's very important that everything is in place before the patient comes so that we don't have to have someone get up and go find something that they forgot or that they didn't order, you know? So preparation is very important. And then it's also the communication between the doctor and the assistant. The doctor needs to state clearly what the goals are for the case, what we're doing today, what we're doing next time. And I like to think of it like baking a cake, you know? When you assemble your ingredients and you add them at the right time, you end up with something sweet, so we want to end up with a sweet smile!
IVETA: So thank you so much for spending your time today and for the wonderful tips that you have for the doctors that are considering sending their dental assistants and I am sure so many people will benefit from this wonderful seminar, so thank you again.
DR. BERGMAN: Thank you, Iveta, it was my pleasure to be here.