Best Practices When Performing Veterinary Dentistry
Practicing dentistry can be like opening a birthday gift — you have no idea what you’re getting until you unwrap (or X-ray) it. What looks to be a routine cleaning in the exam room can quickly turn into multiple complicated extractions and even oral surgery. That surprise can be challenging enough, but what do you do when the truly unexpected happens? Are you prepared to provide the best patient care no matter what?
If your answer is no or you’re not sure, consider these best practices for providing high-quality care for every patient, every time.
1. Keep Backup Handpieces
Sometimes equipment has a hiccup. The key to it not being a problem is to be prepared. Every veterinary clinic needs spare high and low speed handpieces. This investment will pay for itself the first time you don’t have to wake up a patient and reschedule a procedure due to a handpiece issue. That dreaded call to the client to inform them of the issue can be avoided by having spare handpieces. Hopefully this will not happen often, but you will be glad you had a spare when it does. Backup handpieces also permit you to continue procedures while you sterilize equipment between patients and prevent the spread of disease. Be prepared—make sure backup handpieces are available at your clinic.
2. Clean and Condition Your Handpieces Regularly
One of the best ways to avoid handpiece failure is to perform regular maintenance. Cleaning and sterilizing between patients not only prevents cross contamination but also keeps the components operating smoothly. Conditioning the handpieces will prevent premature turbine failure and ensure proper light and water distribution. Start the habit now to maintain your handpieces and keep them in top shape. Aside from handpiece maintenance, make sure the entire staff knows how to maintain the rest of the dental delivery system, including the compressor and PSI settings.
3. Don’t Underestimate Ergonomics
Operator performance matters just as much as equipment performance. Dental procedures can put a strain on your neck, back, hands, wrists and eyes. Over time, these issues can have a detrimental effect on your career, and even end it. Stay healthy and productive by following good ergonomic habits.
First and foremost, stop standing. A stool designed for dental procedures will reduce strain on the neck and back. Look for dental seating that provides lumbar support and allows both feet to be planted firmly on the floor.
A height-adjustable table is ideal so your legs can go under the end rather than straddling. Since not all staff on a team is the same height, adjustable tables can accommodate all team members who perform dentistry procedures. This type of table will not only be more comfortable but will allow full range of motion around the point of care.
Furthermore, a pair of eye loupes will not only provide magnification to see more detail, but also help you sit up straighter (as seen in the photos above) to reduce strain on the spine, neck and shoulders. Swivel-style handpieces on your dental unit will allow freer wrist movement and reduce operator fatigue. Begin implementing these equipment enhancements today to create better ergonomics in your clinic.
4. Invest in Staff Training
Veterinary dentistry is a team sport and every employee has a role in patient care. All team members, from the front of the hospital to the back, must understand the importance of good oral health and should fill a specific role when it comes to patient care. Training your entire staff ensures your team and clients get consistent messaging and patients get improved clinical care. With better care, more patients get treated and leave the clinic pain free and happy. Investing in a well-trained team can reduce staff turnover, empower your team and prevent gaps in clinical capabilities if someone does leave or calls in sick. Partner with experienced professionals who can offer comprehensive dentistry training for your entire staff.
5. Workflow and Design
A dedicated space for dentistry procedures enables the team to be more efficient from patient induction to recovery. Having everything you need for a dentistry procedure in a designated space cuts down on the back-and-forth time obtaining materials from other areas of the hospital, which may also take attention away from the patient and lengthen a procedure. Having the appropriate space for staff to work around the point of care is important for the patient and prevents team members from trying to work around each other in tight spaces. The design of a dental space can either enhance workflow or impede it.
When it comes to performing dentistry, the unexpected is unavoidable. Follow these best practices to prepare your clinic to provide high-quality dental care to all your patients — all the time.