The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in major changes in day-to-day life across the country. Dental practices have been forced to close and can no longer see patients for typical appointments.
One silver lining during this challenging time is that teams have free time to tackle projects which they otherwise could not. We spoke with several dentists about seven ways that they're using this time to stay productive and get ahead for the future.
Table of Contents
- Staying Available for Emergencies
- Implementing New Systems & Processes
- Using Teledentistry
- Taking Continuing Education & Leadership Courses
- Improving Digital Marketing
- Implementing New Technology
- Doing Spring Cleaning
Staying Available for Emergencies
Several of the dentists we spoke to emphasized the importance of staying available to connect with patients in emergency situations. "Being able to reach me or the other dentist in my practice is the number one way to prevent them from going to the emergency room," says Dr. Bill Busch of North Kansas City Dental. "We make ourselves as available as humanly possible at all hours of the day. We’ve had a few true emergencies that we’ve been able to solve but I am glad that our patients were able to get in touch."
Dr. Bobbi Stanley of Stanley Dentistry in Cary, North Carolina agrees. Dr. Stanley shared that "the number one thing we're trying to do right now is let the public know that we're open for any dental emergency – so if they're in pain, they're welcome to come in."
Implementing New Systems & Processes
Another productive use of time during the COVID-19 lockdown is implementing new systems and processes. This will improve practice operations when we return to normalcy.
According to Dr. Justin Bonner from Bonner Oral Surgery, "Many dental offices operate without formal systems in place. Formalizing the day-to-day activities of the office can be beneficial for the existing staff, as well as any new employees that might join the team in the event of any turnover. One simple task that can be done from home is to develop the office manual or employee handbook. The ADA has a resource to help with this."
This time can also be used to organize the operations of recently acquired practices. Dr. Daniel Rodda, from Oasis Dental Care shared, "We recently took over practices from two different retiring dentists, and we have been learning as we go. We're using this time to get everything organized and to finish writing our standard operating systems."
Dr. Rodda shared specific processes that his team is focusing on. "Currently we’re creating written training manuals to help new hires get up to speed with knowledge and skills faster and easier," Dr. Rodda says. "We're also creating checklists for daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. This will help with employee accountability, improving patient experience and outcomes, and overall improve practice organization."
Several dentists mentioned implementing teledentistry to screen emergency patients, do problem-focused evaluations, and even lead smoking cessation or oral health classes.
"Teledentistry can be used to continue treating patients while still observing social distancing and government regulations," added Dr. Bonner. "Many cases, such as a toothache, may be appropriate for a trial of antibiotics to see if this can temporarily resolve the pain until after the current coronavirus crisis is over. This allows us to maintain some degree of revenue, as well as helping patients avoid hospitals and reduce our team's risk of being exposed to coronavirus."
Dr. Stanley is optimistic that some of the patients seen through teledentistry now will become good customers when the crisis ends. "Many people who request a virtual consult will not come in after the shutdown is lifted – but a few will," she said. "If those few are interested in big-ticket items, then they easily make up for the time we spent doing the virtual consultations."
In fact, many dental software companies have quickly implemented teledentistry platforms to support dentists during the crisis. Simplifeye recently launched Simplifeye Connect, and DentalHQ has added teledentistry to its software platform.
Taking Continuing Education & Leadership Courses
Other dentists are using the time to take continuing education and leadership courses.
"Continuing education has always been so important to me, allowing me to provide the best and most up-to-date dental care for my patients," said Dr. Summer Holloway from Floss Dental Boutique. "What better time, now with so much extra time, to really take advantage of continuing education and bolster our knowledge!"
A few continuing education opportunities dentists could participate in include:
- Implant courses with Straumann
- Align Technology courses for Invisalign
- Courses to better understand guided surgery with the use of CBCT technology
"Leadership courses have also been a top priority for me during this time of shutdown. I am a huge advocate of learning ways to become a better leader for my team both in a crisis situation as well as day-to-day when we get back to some sort of normalcy," added Dr. Holloway. "For example, I have just completed a 2 day, 12 hour course on Leadership and Strategic Planning with SPEAR dental education"
Improving Digital Marketing
Another common focus shared in our conversations was digital marketing. Dentists believed that now is a good time to learn new social media skills and improve existing digital assets. Specific projects that dentists are spending time on include:
- Learning how to create and post effectively on social media
- Doing a brand refresh
- Make the practice website more user-friendly
- Creating videos, guides and other educational content to add to the practice website
"We are already observing a big shift toward getting things done online," shared Dr. Golpa from G4 by Golpa. "From now on, people will expect an online presence or online consultations. Websites and social media are now true storefronts for many companies."
Implementing New Technology
Multiple dentists are focused on implementing new technology during the coronavirus pandemic. Their goal is to create a more efficient practice that their teams are excited to return to.
Dr. Jason Hui from Paragon Dentistry shared that he is working with his IT company to upgrade their server and workstations. "Windows Server 2008 is longer supported and we upgraded to Windows Server 2019," Dr. Hui said. "We also installed more RAM and SSD hard drives on all computers to improve efficiency and speed."
Dr. Lawrence M. Lesperance from South Gables Dental has upgraded his clinical software, as well as business and marketing applications. Dr. Lesperance added that "we also purchased new devices to improve the patient experience. For example, we upgraded our CEREC milling unit to decrease the amount of time needed for our one-visit porcelain crown appointments."
Doing Spring Cleaning
Several dentists also indicated that they're using this time to do a spring cleaning. This includes organizing the physical office, and getting rid of products and services that are no longer needed.
"Normally everyone in our practice works at a fast pace, so it’s easy to let our in-house laboratory, operatory equipment and supply drawers and supply closets simply exist," shared Dr. Lesperance. "During the COVID-19 shutdown we’ve been going through drawers, restocking supplies and equipment and cleaning up computer files."
Dr. Joyce Kahng from Orange + Magnolia Dental Studio is using this time to do a financial spring cleaning. "I am going through all the books and cutting out all services we no longer need," she added. "Mean and lean."