Day: November 29, 2021 (page 1 of 1)

Don’t be afraid of big data

During the first years after I graduated from my first dental school in Iraq in 2009, I had never used to deal with practice statistics, surveys, and digital quality measures. As I moved to other countries where I worked or studied in the dental field, I also did not find many data-driven private practices where I worked at.

Dr. Al Sammarraie

However, after getting my second dental degree in California and starting my first job in community health care, which involves multiple practices that serve thousands of patients. My new role as a site dental director opened the door wide for me when it came to big data. I realized collecting and analyzing data can tremendously affect the quality of care we provide.

I believe that dentists today should count on incorporating data-driven goals in improving the quality of dental services. The data collected at various points of dental care can be essential for delivering timely and improved care. Clinics could work smarter to improve the quality of dental services while spurring innovation.

With many dental practices adopting electronic dental records (EDR), collecting data about your dental practice and patients are now easier.

When done right—and with the help of office managers and your dental team—data analysis can result in improved quality of dental services as well as practice workflow.

By collecting and analyzing your mass of data held in the EDR, you could help drive improvements in the following areas of your dental practice. Here are some examples on how big data can help:

Improve Population Health

Data can help you identify patients at a higher risk of developing chronic and severe oral diseases. You can then implore them to make an appointment and prevent the danger to the overall systemic health. This will not only improve their health but also reduce the cost of getting quality healthcare.

Reduce Missed Appointments

The EDR can be used to identify the people who are at the most risk of missing an appointment and the underlying reasons.

This ensures that you can follow up on the group and take other measures to understand their reason for failing to show up. Moreover, it ensures that you can maximize the time with the patients that willingly show up.

Real-Time Prevention of Oral Health Deterioration

Analyzing patient data in real-time alongside historical data allows you to identify potential issues that could otherwise get out of hand if not acted upon with urgency. With data analysis, you can take note of the inconsistencies in oral hygiene and prescribe the requisite remedies.

There is no doubt that big data is already affecting dentistry for the better. Data analysis will be vital in ensuring that you improve customer service delivery by working smarter.

Moreover, integrating new dental information with historical medical information for each patient will result in a better understanding of disease patterns. This ensures better preventive measures and improved quality of dental services.

When I started practicing data management and quality metrics, in the beginning, I thought it was easy to achieve a significant increase in any quality metric shortly if you only add more patients. After a while, I realized that things are not easy as they seem. Improving clinical performance and quality productivity needs a lot of work, chiefly understanding your weaknesses, strengths and working hard to invest everyone’s best towards the ultimate goal: caring for patients.

Data showed me trends in many practices that open my eyes to dig into root causes of wins or losses. For example, our sealant metrics met our quarterly defined goals. Still, when I brought all data together (patient ages, erupted, unerupted, partially erupted, or restored teeth, recall-due visits, schedule utilization, and availability). I found that we could do better and more than what we proposed. Such data-driven speculation was a reason for a pilot practice to modify our workflow. We revisited our results after 90 days. The results were outstanding; our metrics showed an 8% increase compared with last year or other clinics that did not establish the pilot workflow. Because of the data, we learned that we could do better than we thought before.

Other examples include treatment completion and cases like dentures or RCTs. With detailed data reports, we tracked our average starting and delivery days. We reviewed our workflow to find the best practices to ensure that our respective patients are getting the best quality treatment on time. Sometimes, a rapid jump in your metrics or a rapid drop indicates a training issue like wrong documentation, incorrect coding, etc. This will allow the clinicians or managers to identify areas of improvement and training.

Having a data-driven mentality, in my opinion, helps achieve quality and productivity at the same time. It will keep the team focus on our mission and be more engaged with the clinical aspect of dentistry.  For example, it’s important to understand why dentists care about preventive care, a recall system, continuity of care, and the various treatments.

Do not be afraid of numbers. They do not turn people into statistics; statistics turn patients into healthy people.

Do you think that EMR can be used to improve quality and productivity in solo practices? I would like to learn from your experience in that at private offices. Please DM me at [email protected] or LinkedIn

Editor’s note: For more information on electronic health records, visit the ADA FAQ Index web page.

Dr. Muhalab Al Sammarraie is a New Dentist Now guest blogger. He grew up in Baghdad before coming to the U.S. as a foreign-trained dentist. He obtained his D.D.S. with honors in 2019 and became a member of the A.D.A., California Dental Association, and the San Diego County Dental Society. While working towards his second degree, He accrued remarkable leadership experience working in public, private, and non-profit sectors. He led many departments and oversaw process improvement in education, social services, and community health. Dr. Al Sammarraie is currently a site dental director at AltaMed Health Services, the nation’s largest FQHC. Outside of dentistry, Dr. Al Sammarraie supports activist groups in Iraq that help war victims and displaced people find educational opportunities and medical care.

Business side of dentistry: Hiring for newbie practice owners

Editor’s note: This is the seventh article in a series exploring the business aspects of the dental profession, from starting a practice and marketing to hiring staff and finances.

Dr. Deshpande

If you live in city like Seattle, you’ve already heard of how difficult it can be to find good team members. I’ve heard these statements repeated so often in our Society meetings, I’ve lost count: “We have a shortage of hygienists here,” “Finding and training a great dental assistant is so hard, this is why our turn-over is so high,” “So and so’s front office manager recently embezzled from them.”

Horror stories are everywhere. As an entrepreneur, it is important to separate fact from fiction and to not get discouraged by the trials and tribulations of running a small business. When you signed up to have your practice one day, you also signed up to spending half your life sharpening your business acumen!

Here are some tips for hiring that might help you stand out as a worthy employer in your market:

The interviewing stage:

Think of interviewing someone as giving them the privilege of being with your family for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week, for the rest of their life. Make it difficult yet rewarding for the new employee. Think acutely about your brand, create in your mind what would be the ideal employee in your practice, and then consider where this person might be located so you can go find them!Look for employees everywhere (not just the Facebook dental community, or on Indeed), particularly the hospitality sector where employees have amazing customer service skills. Well-known restaurateur Danny Meyer describes the “51 percent rule” in his book, Setting the Table — a must read for new practice owners. “When evaluating potential hires, 51 percent of the weighting is given to emotional intelligence, and 49 percent to technical skills. There’s extra percentage points given to the emotional side that can’t be taught.”For every candidate you invite for an in-person interview, complete a thorough background check, look at the candidate’s social media, and call up two of their references. Have them meet the team. Does your team approve of them?Consider also creating a network in your local community, and volunteer in dental assisting and hygiene schools so you can meet new grads quickly!

The on-boarding stage:

Create a robust employee manual that details job responsibilities. Record and create short videos and upload them on a website like Kajabi, so processes can be explained to a newcomer with ease. Your training will soon be online and convenient for everyone to access.Set up days where you would check in with a new employee at 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months. During these audit sessions, check their clinical progress and give them an opportunity to ask you questions.

We discuss all this and more in our bi-weekly meetings at the New Dentist Business Club, a Seattle-based nonprofit. To join, email us at [email protected]

Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in San Francisco. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada earned her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018 and is a 2020-2021 UW-LEND fellow. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys teaching at the New Dentist Business Club and improving access to technology in healthcare via her involvement in Samsotech. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website for more information.

Editor’s note: We know that finding the right practice can be overwhelming and time consuming. That’s why the ADA created ADA Practice Transitions (ADAPT), a service that matches you with practices that fit your practice approach and lifestyle. We provide customized resources to ensure you feel confident in your decisions and an ADA Advisor supports you during each step of the journey. Learn more at

Everyone Matters: Seeking leadership diversity in organized dentistry

It has been a long but fulfilling 10 years of hard work in organized dentistry – or “dental-land,” as I like to affectionally call it.

Dr. Patel

I often talk about losing my community of colleagues and friends once dental school graduation happened, and how my work in the associations has brought me a new community. They are the support system I didn’t realize I needed, the mentors who have worked through countless personal and professional situations with me, and the friends who still stand by me, no matter what.

I am lucky.

My most favorite person, the one who I have always looked up to first (and the most), also happens to be my boss, my father. Through his eyes, with his wisdom, we have treated generations of patients in our hometown, Westchester County. It has, and continues to be, the best journey I have ever taken.

But what of the students, residents, and new dentists, who are our successors? I decided long ago that I was going to work hard to pay these blessings forward however I could. For me, its been my work with the new graduates, the members of the dental education community, and those trying to find their way, that has been the most rewarding.

Women, ethnic minorities, and new dentists (the American Dental Association defines new dentists as anyone who graduated less than 10 years ago from dental school), are flooding into the workforce in ever increasing numbers.

The American Student Dental Association, our counterparts in the dental education system, is full of driven, motivated, bright individuals, who lead their organization with conviction and fairness, and truly represent a diverse and inclusive body, reflective of its members.

What about us? The ADA and its tripartite – the state dental associations, and our local component dental societies, are made up of volunteer dentists who move through the ranks of leadership in various pathways to councils and committees. As the landscape of dentistry changes, are we, too, striving to be diverse and inclusive? Some would say yes.

The ADA Institute for Diversity in Leadership teaches valuable leadership skills to a small group each year, culminating in a project that puts these skills to use. I am part of this year’s class. Collaborating with the others in my group, learning and growing, and hearing their insights, have been amongst the most invaluable takeaways for me. It also opened my eyes to the incredible discrimination that we, as younger members of our profession face.

Our House of Delegates is the voting body of our association and is 483 members strong. New dentists make up about 30% of active ADA membership but only occupy 5% of the delegate positions nationally. Yes, some states strive to work at filling the pipeline to leadership with a diverse range of doctors. Many of the most qualified amongst us are former ASDA leaders. However, there is a marked drop-off of former ASDA leaders staying involved in organized dentistry in similar capacities to what they were in dental school.

Why is this?

I can speak from my experience. I have been told I was too young. I have been told I was too inexperienced. I have also been told that new dentists will never be allowed in positions of leadership simply based on age.

For some, this may have put up an unsurmountable barrier. For me, it fueled my desire to fight back against these conscious (and unconscious) biases by working hard and providing real results in the work of the association.

To that end, the New York State Dental Association, my home state organization, passed a resolution in 2019 marking out a new dentist position on every state council. This is in alignment with the council system at the ADA. It was a hard-fought victory, and even on the floor of our House of Delegates, the same concerns were brought up.

After hours of emotionally draining testimony, a colleague of mine stood at the “pro” mic and simply said the following, which brought it home for all of us. Her words were “We are all dentists, aren’t we? We have the same degree. We are all humans.” As she stepped of the floor, there was a stunned silence in her wake. Her words rang true.

There is still much work to be done, together.  The statistics support this. Our leadership is not reflective of the changing landscape of dentistry, and if we are to secure the future of our profession, this must change. Change is hard, and change takes time. But I believe in us. And I believe that we can do better. Because, everyone matters.

Dr. Amrita R. Patel grew up in Chappaqua, New York, and graduated from the New York University College of Dentistry in 2011 before completing a general practice residency at the Nassau University Medical Center. Dr. Patel is a general dentist in private practice with her father, Dr. Rohit Z. Patel, in Westchester County, New York. She chaired the New York State Dental Association New Dentist Committee, is the International College of Dentists – USA Section Fellow Ambassador of Social Media, and currently serves the new dentists on the American Dental Association Council on Dental Benefit Plans for the 2020-21 term. She is also among the recipients of the 2021 ADA 10 Under 10 Awards.

Is residency worth it?

In my senior year of dental school, I was at a crossroad between pursuing a year of general residency and job opportunities.

Dr. Ahmed

The opportunities were attractive positions that promised continuing education and a competitive salary. Despite the heavy recruitment efforts, I decided to forgo another year of income to pursue an advanced education in general dentistry program.

Like many dental students, I felt my dental school provided a good foundation, but it was ill equipped to provide necessary training to meet the demands of our patients. I knew I needed to see and do more to gain the trust of my patients.

I spent hours scouring the internet, searching different forums to determine which programs were the “best” and worth the loss of income. I narrowed it down to programs that were responsive to my emails, provided a descriptive summary on their web page and places I preferred to live. This narrowed my options substantially because frankly I found many of the programs were vague and failed to differentiate themselves.

I made sure that the programs were not an extension of dental school (and I mean the bureaucratic b.s. that sucked the fun out of dentistry) or a year of doing more of the same procedures (which is obtainable through work experience).

I wanted the experience to be impactful via exposure to advanced treatments and comprehensive real-world decision-making.

Several applications and interviews later,  I landed in Phoenix, Arizona.

More than a year later, if I were to ask myself if it was all worth it: the answer would be absolutely YES!!!

I originally struggled with the idea of sacrificing another year of income while debt kept piling. But today, I am glad I invested in my education instead.

My experience was challenging, insightful and full of adrenaline. I did cases that I would never imagine doing as a new graduate. In that year, I discovered a love for implant surgery, found great mentors, and gained appreciation for removable prosthesis. I can confidently say I am able to manage my patients complex needs safely (within a reasonable scope), and that feeling is priceless.

To those in the same crossroad, or are feeling unsure, residency may be just what you need.

Based on my experience, here are a few things to consider when selecting a program. Some of these questions may feel intrusive, but consider how much you are required to share as an applicant while on the contrary you may know very little about your new dental family.

Rather than asking the usual question of “How many of  x, y, z  each resident do?” consider asking:>How are cases distributed among residents?Does the resident treatment plan?Learn about your dental directors.>Do they have teaching experience?Are they paid on production or strictly hired to teach?Will there be time set aside to discuss cases?Find out the long term vision of the clinic.>What is their focus?Will there be other programs or training held at the clinic? For example, my clinic also provided live patient implant training.How does the resident fit into those programs, and is there any conflict of interest?Discuss if there is routine performance evaluation and feedback.>Will there be opportunities to receive and provide feedback? What is the frequency?How are you evaluated?Who is your confidant if you have staff challenges?How many assistants per doctor?

Good luck!

Dr. Nashid Ahmed is a New Dentist News guest blogger. She is general dentist in Phoenix, Arizona. She earned her dental degree from Indiana University in 2019 and completed an AEGD in Phoenix. During her free time, she likes to explore the city of Phoenix and the great outdoors of Arizona. She enjoys hiking, biking and trying new restaurants. She also enjoys reading and blogging about career development and workplace culture.

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