Are Your Dentist’s Tools Clean?

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It is extremely unlikely that you get HIV from a dentist appointment.

Fox6Now.com: Tomah VA dentist accused of using improperly cleaned tools resigns

I shouldn’t read news as I always have something to say about them. This news above reminded me about working in the UK and how the instruments were cleaned there.

This Thomas VA dentist is not the only dentist that is underperforming in the instrument cleaning. There are dentists who have read this news and have wiped sweat from their foreheads and thanked their lucky stars it wasn’t their name on the headlines. Honestly!

Let me tell you how things were done in six of the practices I used to work in the UK. I will first go through the correct way of cleaning the instruments.

This I How It Should Be Done

1. Disinfect the contaminated instruments preferably in a washer disinfector like Miele Dental Disinfector

With this washer disinfector the cleaning job is half done. You just put used instruments within 4 hours of using them to the washing cycle and you get disinfected instruments in less than an hour (no need to soak them in anything prior the cycle).

No scrubbing is needed which will minimise the accidents of nurses cutting themselves.

2. Dry the instruments thoroughly. Use pressurised air on all the hard-to-reach areas like matrix retainers, sonic scaler tips, forceps.

3. Place the instruments that  don’t need to be sterile on the metallic tray to be autoclaved. Put the instruments that need to be sterile in pouches and close the pouches.

4. Put all the instruments in an up-to-date vacuum autoclave and run the cycle. Once they are cooked, put them in cupboards or drawers to be picked to the surgeries.

Simple and pathogen-free tools.

This Is How It Should Not Be Done

None of the surgeries I worked at in the UK had washer disinfector. Instead there was a dish brush and Hibiscrub. Yes, you read it correctly. Hibiscrub was used like washing up liquid on dish brush and the instruments were washed over a sink in the surgery. But this was done only up until health and safety regulations stated that using dish brush was a health hazard – there was too big risk of an injury from sharp instruments.

Once the instruments were brushed with Hibiscrub and rinsed with water, the instruments were placed on metallic trays (no drying) and put in the Instaclave, the simplest of the simplest model (non-vacuum). If there were surgical instruments, they were either put on the pouches and put on trays without closing the pouch. The pouch was closed after the cycle in the Instaclave. Sometimes the surgical instruments were put on the trays without pouches and once they had gone through the cycle, the nurse put them in the pouches that were taken straight from the package. This of course meant that the pouch was non-sterile as it had not gone through the cycle in the autoclave. Non-sterile pouch equals non-sterile instrument – no matter if the instrument has gone through the cycle.

So needless to say that many things went wrong. And let me clarify that all the above was done in the surgery. Every surgery had their own autoclave – just about five feet away from the patient.

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This was the typical setup in the dental surgery in the UK for cleaning tools used on patient

The Question: Did I Do It Too?

Well, as much as I think that you live by the rules of the country you are in, I did not follow this questionable way of cleaning instruments. I did inventory on surgery’s storage room and found a container with a lid. I asked the practice manager to order me instrument disinfection liquid. I had to do some convincing before the liquid was ordered – understandably of course as no-one else was using one. So why should I?

So all my instruments were brushed with dish brush under running water and then placed into this container which had disinfection liquid in it. The instruments were kept in there for the recommended time, rinsed with water, dried and then put in the Instaclave.

Not perfect, but enough for me to have a clean conscience.


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It’s ok to swallow, it’s only water… Or is it?

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Yet Another Anti-Patient

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How on earth did I not remember this type of Anti-Patient? I guess it is all coming slowly (but surely) back to me after returning to work.

Before you read any further, it might be good idea to read my post Anti-Patient so you know what I am on about.

Anti-Local Anesthesia

Now, this type of patient is not so uncommon in the dental chair. Let me tell you about the two of the most typical situations I face.

Patient Case I

I am about to start the scaling and root planing and I can tell from the looks of the gum that it is going to be painful. I offer local anesthesia (LA) but the patient declines by saying:

“I once had such a bad experience with LA that I have not taken any since..”

Or

“Oh, I never take any LA, not even when I have a filling done.”

I explain that it will most likely hurt but the patient does not change his mind. Not even when I explain we could use topical LA (I use Oraqix) which would not require needles.

So I begin the treatment. The sonic scaler goes relatively well but when I begin to scale those deep pockets the patient is jumpy (as if somebody was poking his limbs with a needle), turns his head suddenly (exaggeratingly) and is kinda slowly sliding towards my lap as he’s pushing from the handles of the chair.

After I have nearly injured my own finger and patient’s lips for the third time because of the unpredictable motions and after I have three times asked patient not to move his head, I stop the scaling and tell the patient that I won’t be able to carry on unless he keeps the head absolutely still. Because it’s not safe. I offer the LA again and usually at this point they agree.

Patient Case II

The patient (who also just declined LA) keeps still throughout the treatment (scaling) and says she’s fine when I ask her if she’s ok  (multiple times). So naturally I carry on to finish the treatment.

Once the patient gets up from the chair she does not look happy and says

“It hurt a lot.”

Or

“Oh I hate having this done.”

Or

“It’s never hurt before.”

Soooo annoying! Did I or did I not offer you LA? Of course it hurts if you decline LA when it is recommended. And why would you say you are fine when you are not?

What is the most annoying in all this is that she will go and tell ten of her mates how horrible experience it is to have the teeth cleaned. Simple marketing rule – bad experiences you tell to ten people, good experiences to one. So unfair!

Ever Seen a Patient with an Implant? Read This!

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Today I saw a patient who had had an implant done to replace upper right first molar. The implant treatment was finished a year ago in another practice.

Since then the patient had seen hygienist twice in my practice. The implant crown itself looked immaculate but the gum was very red and puffy and it bled heavily after probing.

I knew what to ask next and I even knew the patient’s reply to this.

“Were you told how to clean the implant at home?”

“No I wasn’t” replied the patient with is-it-supposed-to-be-cleaned-expression on his face.

This happens too often. Almost every time I see a patient who has recently had an implant done.

Note for all the dental professionals who make the implant treatment’s final stages and do not give oral hygiene instructions (OHI) for the patient:

You should always tell and show how the patient can clean these costly pieces of metal and porcelain. It is your responsibility as a dental professional and the paying patient’s right!

Can you give me any other excuse for not giving OHI than the fact that you are too busy making money and forgetting the basics? I believe you cannot.

And you hygienists who see patients with implants:

  1. Always check how the patient is cleaning them. More so if the gum around the implant is either bleeding or there is plaque around it
  2. Advice if necessary and show in their mouth how it is done
  3. Check if the patient understood your instructions by asking them to show they can do it. Teach them if they struggle
  4. Check on a follow-up visit that the gum has healed. If not, refer to a dentist

Why Is It So Important?

With the implants it is vital that there is no bleeding in the surrounding gum. They will get an implant’s equivalent to gingivitis – peri-implant mucositis which can lead to the peri-implantitis (same as periodontitis with teeth) very rapidly. The worst case scenario is that the implant will lose it’s integration to the bone which could have been easily prevented.

The patient I saw today left home with instructions on how to look after his implant. And I will see him for a follow-up visit to make sure the gum has healed (can you see the shining halo around my head?).

Honestly, it’s not that hard to do your job properly so shape up please!


Here‘s further reading on the subject.

Part I: Is It a Skyskraper? No, It’s Your Ego

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On my second post I promised to write about personalities of the staff in dental practices and how they may affect the dental practice and the treatment given to the patient. I’m going to fulfil this promise today. And on my next post. And the next.

I am going to write a series of posts about this topic. Each post will have a viewpoint of one dental professional. Today it will be the hygienist’s.

I’m Not Going to Play with You

As long as there have been dental hygienists there have been dentists who are afraid of losing their living because of them. These dentists either refer only the simple scale and polish to the hygienist or do not refer at all.

They treat the patients with advanced gum disease themselves as it requires more visits. More visits equals more money per patient. And the money is the only motive they have for this silly way of practicing the dentistry.

The problem with these kinds of dentists is that most often the hygienist would have better skills to treat the advanced gum disease than the dentist and this is revealed when the patient sees the hygienist six months later. Often there is subgingival (invisible) calculus still left even though it should have been removed on the first course of treatment. Plus the patient has no clue how to clean her teeth effectively.

Big Ego

It is a fact that the oral and maxillofacial surgeons have a big ego. Or to precise – they have a huge ego. But in my opinion they have all the right to have one. They NEED one to be able to perform all the talent requiring hocus pocus on patients mouth, jaw and face. Plus they don’t use their ego against co-workers or the patients.

But when a dentist has a big ego it rarely is attractive or talent enhancing. I will give you an example from a real life.

A dentist does a check-up for a patient. Then the patient sees a hygienist for a scale and polish. Whilst scaling with curettes the hygienist notices there are potential cavities in three different sites and she checks the patient’s x-rays. The x-rays confirm the suspicion.

The hygienist checks the dentist’s notes for the check-up visit to see if there is a treatment plan to fix these cavities. There isn’t. It appears as if the dentist has missed the cavities when doing the check-up.

The hygienist sends the patient back to see the dentist. When the dentist sees the hygienist’s message about the cavities he acts as if the patient has come in unnecessarily.

“I’m sure there’s nothing there”

he says to the patient. He quickly checks the sites with a mirror, sighs and continues by saying

“One of these suspected cavities is a borderline cavity. We could do a filling for that so that you didn’t come this far for nothing. The other two we can still monitor.”

The hygienist sees a patient for another scale and polish couple of weeks later. She checks the dentist’s notes and realises that only one cavity has been filled. She asks the patient if the dentist has asked her to come back to have the other two to be done. Negative.

The hygienist is baffled. She checks again with her curette the other two suspected cavities. The instrument goes between the filling and a tooth and sinks deep into a soft area – it is a cavity for sure.

The hygienist decides to ask another dentist to come and have a look there and then. The dentist confirms the two remaining cavities and recommends the patient to have them filled.

At this point the patient is very confused. Who is not doing their job properly? Who to believe?

This was just one example. There are plenty more but I won’t write them down as I am not writing a novel. But my point is that when a lower ranking dental professional finds something the almighty dentist didn’t the ego goes before the patient’s best interest.

Not good. Not good dentistry at all and everyone who recognise themselves from this should be ashamed.

But why the dentist did not notice the cavities even from the x-rays? That is completely another story.

Hygienist’s Difficult Role

It is tough to be a hygienist. They often have skills to make the same diagnosis as the dentists but only the dentists have a right to make one. The hygienist must always remember to add a question mark after their findings or the hell will break loose and she is quickly put back to her place by the dentist who kindly reminds her that she has no right to make a diagnosis.

And when she finds something that the dentist missed she will be between rock and a hard place. Especially if the dentist does not agree with her because of the big ego problem. The confused patient often thinks the dentist was right which makes the situation even more difficult.

But the time is on hygienist’s side. She has recorded every finding on the patient’s dental records – with the question marks! She has recorded that she has consulted a dentist. Sooner or later the cavity (or whatever her finding was) will get worse. There will be pain. Or the crown will come off as the cavity has eaten the tooth under it and perhaps so much so that it is beyond repair.

The dentist can only hope the patient do not file a complaint.

Lonely Rider in a Cupboard under the Stairs

Another side of being hygienist is the fact that they are often quite alone in the practice. It is often so that the practice has only one hygienist. This means they don’t have peer support in the practice. Peer support is something that every dental professional would need.

Also the hygienist is given the oldest dental unit in the practice and the smallest room, the one without a window. Or perhaps the room under the stairs. Not sure if the Harry Potter fate has happened for real – perhaps it was just sarcasm from a hygienist that I once knew?

Conclusion

Why do the dentists feel so threatened by hygienists? Why is it hard to be wrong or admit that you have missed something? Why do they need to feel and let others know that dentists are at the top of the command chain?

I’m afraid I do not have the answers. One dentist once said to me that the dentists are non-qualifiers for medical school which means that the dentistry was not their first choice of profession. Are these kinds of dentists letting everyone else suffer for their disappointment?

I will remind you that not all the dentist are like this of course. But in my current workplace two out of four dentists are. That’s 50%. That’s a lot!

I hope practice owners will start to value their hygienist more than before. And get them the brand new dental unit, a saddle chair (or whatever chair the hygienist prefers) and curettes the hygienist wants so that there would be even a small chance to work in an ergonomic position during the treatment. After all they bring in steady flow of cash with very little expenses.

And dear dentists, we are all equal human beings no matter what our profession is.


You might also like these posts:
Part II: Just Another Day at the Office
Part III: I’m Sorry but I Did Not Get Qualified So That I Can Make Coffee for You

Cold Sore Is Herpes – Cancel Your Dental Appointment Because Your Dentist Won’t!

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A patient came in for a long appointment to have a bridge done. This appointment was to include filing down the teeth to abutments which meant that the high speed drill was to be used. A lot.

High speed drills have water cooling system and this means there are aerosols in the air when the drill is used. And the aerosols carry pathogens from the patients mouth as far as two metres (about 6,6 feet) from it’s origin.

The nurse noticed that the patient had a large cold sore on a lip. Dentist appeared as if he had not noticed it and asked the patient to sit down in the patient chair. Chair was tilted back and when the dentist put his fingers inside the patient’s mouth the nurse discreetly pointed out the cold sore. The dentist carried on with the treatment and ignored the cold sore.

The nurse was worried. Very worried. And she had all the right to be. She knew the cold sore virus – herpes simplex – can easily spread to her eyes and hands, dentist’s eyes and hands, patient’s eyes and mouth via the aerosols produced by the high speed drill.

Herpes simplex virus in the eye can result in blindness. Herpes infection on hands (herpetic whitlow) of a dentist/hygienist/nurse might force a career change as one cannot do any treatment on patients when the herpetic whitlow is active.

But the nurse didn’t have any other option but to continue with the treatment as the dentist is considered to be the one who is more educated in the matters of health and carries the responsibility of the treatment. This means the dentist makes the decisions behalf of the nurse and the patient whether to continue with the treatment or not.

Now it might be a good idea to read one of my previous post about integrity of dentists so you understand the motives behind the dentist’s decision in this story.

So on they went with the high speed drill. For an hour and a half.

Less than a week later the nurse developed a bad head ache and the next day she had sores in the mouth. Two days later she had temperature of 40 degrees and the mouth, gums and lips were full of painful sores. The GP diagnosed a primary herpes and prescribed anti-viral medicine. She was off work for a week.

When the patient with the cold sore was seen the next time in the surgery he had small blisters near the operated site.

Cold Sore Aka Herpes Simplex 

Before the anti-viral medication was developed the primary herpes used to be an infection that was often lethal. The doctors treating the patients with primary herpes could only cross their fingers and hope the patient will make through it. Many didn’t.

It can still be lethal but we have medication to treat it.

Most of the people get the primary herpes as a child and it often is asymptomatic. If contracted as an adult the primary herpes can have more difficult symptoms.

The primary herpes can be followed by secondary herpes (recurrent infection) – most commonly as a cold sore on a lip. The most frightening one of the recurrent infection of herpes simplex virus is encephalitis.

Guidelines for Treating Patient’s with Cold Sore

I used my friend Google and she quickly found me several sites that were unanimous about what us dental professionals should do if we see a patient with a cold sore.

Do not do any treatment that can be postponed!

To convince you I copy-pasted guidelines from couple of sites.

Elective dental treatment should be deferred for patients with active lesions as aerosolization of the virus may occur during dental procedures, placing both the patient and oral health care provider at risk for possible infection or re-infection.

Elective treatment should be postponed until the lesion has healed completely. Though the patient may be comfortable after you have applied a topical medication, there is still the risk of spreading the disease to the health-care provider.

Because herpes is transmittable to patients from dental health-care professionals who have active lesions, there is a risk of spreading this disease. The guidelines from the CDC are clear. Each of us has to keep patient safety and staff safety a priority.

Conclusion

The guidelines are clear. The medical facts are clear. Why do dentists still treat patients with cold sores and risk the health of the nurse and the patient, let alone their own health? They if anyone should know how serious risk it is to treat a patient with a cold sore.

So why?

I’m afraid you might know what’s coming (especially if you read my post Morals in Dentistry). Yes, the only reason for this kind of selfish and negligent behaviour from a dentist is GREED. And perhaps small amount of twisted enjoyment of having power – being almighty in this little world that has two people the dentist can make decisions for.

When the patient walks in the surgery with a cold sore it is simply just not acceptable to reschedule the appointment even though everyone’s health is at risk. No, no. Profit overrules the reason. Shame you who just recognised yourself.

I know there are also hygienists who see the patients with a cold sore. But this is because they don’t either know better or because they are not practice owners. Refusing to see a patient with a cold sore is not considered to be in the best interest of the practice. Plus what can you do if the patient with a cold sore just saw a dentist for a filling and is scheduled to see you for a scaling. How can you say no when the dentist said yes?

It requires lot of self confidence and experience to be able to stand up for you right to decide for your own health. Something the nurses do not have a chance to do. It proves once again how the dentist-nurse relationship is nowhere near about equality as co-workers. Not even in the matters of personal health.

I reschedule the appointment if the patient has a cold sore. And the next appointment won’t be sooner than a fortnight. I also use the opportunity to inform patient about the herpes simplex and ask patient to cancel the appointment next time when he gets a cold sore before the dental appointment.

And seriously (for all the dental professionals):

Applying Zovirax and placing a plaster on top of the cold sore before doing the treatment is just simply bonkers.


 

You might also like

Repost with Forewords: Cold Sore Is Herpes – Cancel Your Dental Appointment Because Your Dentist Won’t!
Google for a Day – Comprehensive Answers about Cold Sore and Dentist

And here’s some further reading about the guidelines of seeing a patient with a cold sore.

Don’t Let Just Anyone Touch Your Occlusion

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Grinding or clenching of the teeth is a very common problem. It is a nasty problem for its bearer as it causes pain in the muscles and in the jaw joint, headache, toothache and even disturbed sleep at night. If nothing is done to the problem the teeth will eventually suffer from the grinding especially if the occlusion is imbalanced. There will be a recession in the gum, worn enamel, chipped enamel and periodontal problems to start with.

So if you do know that you grind or clench your teeth at night – or even more so if you clench your teeth during the day which is a definite sign that you do it also at night – go to see your dentist. But here’s an important advice:

Do not go to see just any dentist. Find a specialist in prosthodontics and stomatognathic physiology (even better if one has a PhD).

Why? I will tell you the reasons from my own experience.

My First Mouth Guard Or Should I Say Bite Block

I am a dental professional and in my early career I was quite naive and thought that all the dentist can do all the stuff they are taught at school. I was so wrong.

In my first year after graduation I had a bite guard made by a regular dentist in my practice. I soon realised it wasn’t perfect and sought help from a specialist in prosthodontics who was working in our practice.

The first thing the specialist did was that he filed away about 0,7 cm (0,28 inches) of the hight of the bite guard without fitting it in the middle of the filing. Once he was done with the filing he started to adjust it to my occlusion. He was covered with acrylic dust and he did lots of eye rolling and head shaking.

He told me that the bite guard is not ideal and it would be better to have it redone. I never really used it after that and I carried on suffering from the grinding and clenching of the teeth.

My Second Mouth Guard – When Desperate You Accept Anything

Couple of years later I lived in another country and once again sought help from a dentist for the grinding. She recommended me an anterior night guard (also known as NTI or MCI) which she did routinely for every patient suffering from grinding.

Now I tried to find you a web site that had a photo and impartial info about anterior night guard but wasn’t able to find one. So I took a photo of mine. I must apologise that the device is not in a mint condition anymore. There is my current mouth guard (that I will tell you more about later in this post) in the photo for comparison.

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NTI/MCI/anterior night guard on the left

I felt this anterior night guard – I will call it MCI from now on – relieved the symptoms I had. I was very happy about the dentist and the MCI. Until I spoke to a former colleague of mine, a very good dentist.

He warned me that I was in risk of developing an anterior open bite due to a use of MCI. I did not second guess him once he explained the reasons.

With MCI the back teeth do not make contact. And when the teeth don’t make a contact with the opposite side they will erupt while the front teeth are kept in place by MCI. The overerupted back teeth cause the open bite in the front. Simple as that.

We’ve all seen what happens to a tooth that lacks an opposing partner in occlusion. It overerupts!

So I got an advice to use the MCI for 2 weeks and then keep 2 weeks break to avoid the overerupting back teeth. So I did. But it did not keep the symptoms of grinding at bay.

My Third Mouth Guard Was Almost What It Should Be

Five years later I was back in my home country where I was advised to have a mouth guard done by a dentist in my practice. I did and she removed my upper wisdom teeth so that it was easier to have the mouth guard done. Once I received the mouth guard I didn’t feel it was helping me at all.

At this point I had had enough of the dentists in this matter and decided to see a specialist in prosthodontics. One that was known to be a good one.

The specialist did a careful examination on my teeth and the mouth guard. He said the mouth guard was ok’ish and that he just needed to adjust it. I also showed him my MCI which he advised to use only as emergency basis and only 4-5 days in a row.

I told to the specialist that I have a feeling that only my last molars were in contact. He checked it and said there was no imbalance – meaning that my bite was as it should be. I also asked if I should do the exercise for the jaw muscles. The specialist said there is no benefit of it.

I had to return to see the specialist every 6 months and every time he adjusted the mouth guard and charged quite a lot even compared to the specialist’s fares.

After 3 years of using the mouth guard there was a hole in it. I had apparently “bitten” through it. It was time to have a new mouthguard done.

My Fourth And Current Mouth Guard

For one reason or another I did not completely trust the specialist I had been seeing so I asked for recommendations of specialists from my colleagues. Based on the recommendations I went to see a specialist in prosthodontics and stomatognathic physiology – she had PhD too!

I was kinda shy when mentioning that I have a feeling that only my last molars were in contact – well hell yeah, one specialist had told me I was imagining things.

Only this time I was told I was right. She also told me that I have a partial anterior open bite. I was flabbergasted. I knew that not all the dentist master the matters of occlusion but even the specialists get it wrong!

And once she had done her magic about my occlusion by balancing it I felt the difference immediately.

By the way – my intact upper wisdom teeth were unnecessarily removed by the dentist who made my third mouth guard. A mouth guard can be done with the wisdom teeth in place as long as they are nicely positioned as mine were.

So after I had my occlusion sorted out I got my new bestest of the best mouth guard. It is amazing I must say. It brought me an immediate relief. But I was only half way through the treatment.

I was booked to see a dental hygienist who did massage for the muscles of the jaw in 3 separate visits and gave instructions (based on the specialist’s recommendations) on how to exercise the muscles by stretching and strengthening them. I realised that having a mouth guard is not enough. It won’t take away the root cause of the grinding which in my case was the weak muscles that did not support the jaw.

The MCI I was not allowed to use again. I did not argue with that.

Conclusion

I, a dental professional had three mouth guards (including the MCI) done until I got a proper one. None of the dentists I saw for the mouth guard had a clue about occlusion or what is the best treatment for it. The second specialist was only concentrating on the mouth guard and did not find the imbalance in my bite. Naughty naughty. I guess he was concentrating in money making – I sense these things as I am HSP – and that was probably one reason I didn’t go back to see him.

I worry over the patients who do not have an understanding of what is right treatment for grinding and clenching of the teeth. There are lots of people using MCI every night and they have been using it for years and years. Do they realise that the open bite they have developed is caused by the use of MCI? No they don’t as the dentist won’t necessarily tell them – especially if the patient is seeing the same dentist who recommended the MCI (see my previous post about this phenomenon). And it is not guaranteed that another dentist will tell either.

Also very commonly the treatment dentists offer for the grinding is the mouth guard. And only the mouth guard. But that is never enough! The best thing any dentist can do for the patient who is suffering from the grinding is to REFER to a specialist.

Important information for the patients: You can make a self referral to a specialist by simply booking an appointment. They will not say no to the new patients. Be prepared to pay more for the mouth guard but it is money well spent.

The occlusion is a delicate thing. I always advice patients not to let just anyone adjust the bite. It can go from bad to worse. You are in better hands when seeing a specialist in prosthodontics and stomatognathic physiology. The higher educated one the better – in any health matter.

I learned my lesson the hard way. I suffered from the grinding for many years. I lost two intact wisdom teeth unnecessarily. And I can’t help but think that the malocclusion on my back teeth and the partial anterior open bite were caused by the MCI. There was a dreadful moment when the specialist was thinking that I might need crowns for my intact canine teeth to fix the open bite and to get enough support for the side movements of the jaw. So I can count myself as lucky that the malocclusion could be fixed by simply filing the teeth.

Phew!


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Eeny Meeny Miny Moe – Which Type of Tooth Wear?

 

 

Morals in Dentistry

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It’s time to get serious again. In this post I will get to the bottom problem of the dental industry. The lack of morals and the urge to maximise profit at the cost of the individuals is like a plaque that sticks around before the cure is found. For about half of the dentists I have met fall into that category and that’s a lot considering that we – the health care workers – should be the ones having the highest integrity of all.

What I will do next is give examples of the lack of morals amongst dental professionals. It will be just a (thin) slice of a (big) cake but you will get the idea no doubt. For clarification, all the examples are from real life and witnessed by yours truly.

NHS Dentists

For those who are not familiar with the NHS, it is the UK’s National Health Service. The NHS dentists work under a contract and receive payments for the treatments done.

Before the year 2006 (when the contract was replaced with a new one) the misuse of the system was widespread. The dentists were laughing at the system that was like a gold mine to them. They could easily make an outstanding pay by doing certain treatments that would not raise questions. It did anything but raise questions. The treatments made them look like they were concentrating on preventive care and looking out the patient’s best interest.

A revelation:

The truth is that they did not care about patients. Patient was merely a tool for money making. An example: The dentists made fissure sealants for every patient who did not have them and they made them from first premolar to the last molar. There was no evaluation if the fissure sealant was needed and it was an easy treatment to justify to the patient as it was preventive treatment.

“It prevents you getting a decay…”

Who would say no to that?

Fissure sealant was very quick treatment to do as it could be done in batches (all the premolars and molars from the left side in one go and next the right side) guaranteeing a very productive day moneywise for the dentist. There are probably millions of people in the UK whose teeth are coated with fissure sealants.

Eventough the NHS contract was renewed in 2006, the dentists found new ways of misusing the system.

Root Canal Treatment on Wisdom Tooth… What The?

The most immoral dentists have found a way to make the most out of every tooth – moneywise. Normally the decision to remove a fully erupted wisdom tooth is made lightly if there are any problems like decaying, periodontal problem, malocclusion with the tooth. But more than once I have seen wisdom teeth that have been heavily filled, root canal treated and even have had crowns on them (on top of the root canal treatment).

There is no other explanation to this than a dentist who is practicing dentistry only to gain wealth.

Performing Treatments Without Having the Skills

Some dentists suggest treatments they have no skills to perform and charge the patient as if they were specialists. An example: A dentist recommends periodontal treatment to the patient. The course of treatment consists four 30 minute visits to remove calculus one quadrant per visit and the cost is the same as if a periodontist would perform the treatment. Once the course of treatment is done by this wannabe specialist, the patient goes to see a hygienist for oral hygiene instructions. The hygienist soon realises that there is still lots of subgingival calculus left and therefore the gum disease is still active.

The hygienist does her best to remove the calculus (which she has skills for) and the patient is left under an illusion that nothing is wrong.

It is called collegiality what just happened. Dental professionals covering for each other’s mistakes and malpractice.

Root Canal File in the Root Canal

In our business the equipment can malfunction and instruments can break in use. In these cases it is good practice to tell the patient what happened. For example a curette’s tip can break inside the pocket of the tooth. It can be found from there but the patient needs to know what happened. Some dentist cover these kinds of incidents or mistakes they have made by simply not informing the patient. Now THAT if anything is malpractice.

An example. A root canal file broke inside the patient’s tooth whilst the dentist was performing a root canal treatment. The nurse did not notice the incident until a control x-ray was taken and the file was clearly visible. The dentist did not inform the patient about the broken file or attempt to remove the file.

Conclusion

The dental industry draws in immoral individuals because it has been allowed to happen. It wasn’t until the 21st century when the dental schools started to interview the applicants for the undergraduate programmes of dentistry. Before this the suitability of the applicant’s personality was not measured by any tests. This means there are dentists in the field that should not be dentists.

In my opinion all the dentists who have not gone through the MMI should be asked to have one. If they fail, they should be struck off their profession.

But no test is a fool proof way of finding the bad seeds. The most rotten souls can often talk their way through any obstacles. And the reason why these individuals are drawn to the dentist’s profession is the well known fact that they make rather nice pay (here’s one article about it).

 

 

 

Do You Recognise the Gum Disease?

Dental Revelations Blog

Be careful next time you open your mouth in the bus. I might be sitting next to you.

Many people have gum disease without knowing it and it often comes as surprise when they are told about it at the dentist. Even bigger surprise would be if they knew how many dentists do not recognise the gum disease or know what a comprehensive treatment is for it.

I have seen countless amounts of patients in my career whose gum disease has gone undetected. It’s astounding! I’ve had patients who have visited the hygienist and the dentist every six months but still there is massive amounts of subgingival calculus around every teeth. And it is deep and tough to remove.

Just guess the surprise of the patient when instead of having a 15 minute check-up and 30 minute hygienist visit like normally, she will now need three 60 minute visits to remove the calculus thoroughly and a 4th visit in three months time. To be honest, this upsets me often. It’s not that difficult to diagnose the gum disease. It’s not rocket science for crying out loud!

I have spent way too many hours explaining why my colleagues have not noticed the gum disease. And my efforts for not sounding too annoyed at my fellow professionals sometimes fail miserably. Luckily, most of the patients take it relatively easy and do not demand compensation from the previous dentist. Instead they are normally very grateful that somebody caught the condition.

There will be information for professionals next but the patients benefit of reading it too. If you are a patient you can move on to the end of this post if you want to skip the professional part.

So Why Don’t You Recognise the Gum Disease?

There are five probable reasons (add more to the comment box if you wish).

Lack of time. In 15 minute check-up the dentist should go through the medical history of the patient, check the teeth (loose fillings, decay, fractures etc.), the soft tissues (inside the cheeks, tongue, lips, roof and floor of the mouth and the throat) and the gums. Plus there might be need for the x-rays. Fifteen minutes simply is not enough for this considering that the disinfection business before the next patient should be done as well. Even 30 minute appointment might not be enough.

The X-factor. By X I mean money and it is related to the time issue. Dental practices have 15 minute check-ups because instead of having two patients in an hour that pay X amount for the visit they can have four. Four times X is better than two times X. At least for the practice.

Lack of basic skills. We have an instrument which finds any gum disease from any patients mouth when used correctly. Or when used. It is not by default that this instrument, perio probe finds it’s way to the check-up tray. I have seen dentist doing the check-up by using the sharp explorer only. And even if the perio probe is used, it is used incorrectly and the gum disease goes undetected. Even a gum specialist (periodontist) has failed at this and I will tell you more about it later in this post.

Lack of experience. When you are an experienced dental professional (either a dentist with a great interest in the gum disease or a hygienist) you can recognise gum disease from a distance. I will give you an example.

You sit in a bus on your way home and somebody sits next to you. He yawns and 3 seconds later your nose detects an odour you rather not smell on your free time. Periodontitis (aka gum disease)! Thank goodness the bus has a good ventilation and the odour is soon gone and you hope he keeps his mouth closed for the rest of the journey. Then the guy’s phone rings and it’s his mother…

I can often recognise the gum disease by just looking at the patients mouth. The gums have a certain look on the sites of the pockets. Even if there is only one deep pocket in a healthy mouth, you can spot it out by the looks of the gum. It is difficult to explain how they look so I won’t even try. Anyone experienced know what I mean. The point is that the more you examine the gums and find the sites where the deep pockets, subgingival calculus and gingivitis (bleeding of the gums) are, the more you learn to tell what looks normal and what doesn’t.

But do not worry if you are a newbie. Just learn to use the perio probe correctly and you will be fine!

Forgetting how smoking hides the gum disease. Heavy smoking can make the gum disease invisible to the eye and often the dentists and hygienists are misled by the looks of the heavy smoker’s gums especially if the oral hygiene is good at that very moment. Heavy smoker’s gums look healthy and pale. There’s no sign of the red and swollen gums. No sign of the bleeding after probing. And yet the disease is there.

Even if the gum disease is not visible to the eye with the smoker, it is still there for the perio probe to find but with the smokers you really need to master the technique. Often the smokers gum line is very tight and it is difficult to find access to the pocket (once you do, don’t let it out until you have probed the whole side of the tooth).

Use of the Periodontal Probe

When I was at dental school learning the arts of the dentistry, one of our teachers (a periodontist) said one day annoyingly “They didn’t even know how to use a perio probe!” At that moment we were practicing scaling in the school’s clinic but this outburst was not addressed to us students (thank god as the teacher was scary as hell) but to a group of dental hygienists who had come to revise perio skills at the dental school. This one sentence has stayed in my memory for some reason and only until now I understand what she meant and why she was so annoyed.

Not only the hygienists fail in the technique of the perio probe but also the dentists and even the periodontists. I will tell you about one periodontist who saw one of my patient.

I had referred the patient to the specialist with all the relevant documentation (x-rays, perio chart etc). When I saw the patient 6 months later a course of treatment was finished with the periodontist. I examined the patient’s gums and found a 10 mm pocket on one of the molars. The depth was the same as before referring. The patient told me she was going to have a control visit soon with the periodontist so I wrote letter about the persistent pocket.

Three months later I saw the patient again and nothing was done to it. A periodontist had said to the patient that there is no pocket.

No pocket! I’m going to show you the pocket!

I took my DSLR and put a perio probe into the pocket and fired away. The patient got the photo on cd and gave it to the periodontist on the next visit. I’m afraid my story ends there. I never saw this patient again as she got retired and was not able to see me as we were too expensive.

Ten millimetres deep pocket and it went unnoticed by the specialist even when the location was pointed out. What chances do the rest of us less-educated ones have if the one wearing the black belt in our industry is not able to do it?

Note to all dental professionals who examine patients gums: Please check your perio probe technique. There are plenty of information about the use of the perio probe on the internet plus hands on courses at the dental schools. And those who are not using a perio probe, shame on and start now!

What Is the Gum Disease?

I won’t go much into details about the gum disease but I will tell you the warning signs when you should visit your dentist:

  • your gums bleed when brushing/flossing/eating or they bleed spontaneously
  • your gums hurt when brushing/flossing/eating
  • your teeth have become longer over the years or they have tilted/rotated/moved
  • your teeth feel loose
  • you have wider gaps between the teeth than before
  • somebody has told you often that your breath smells. Gum disease doesn’t always produce bad breath especially in the early stages. It is the advanced periodontitis when the smell can be obvious to everyone else except to the bearer. But how many of you tell the other person that their breath stinks? Not many, unless it is your spouse in concern

The gum disease is always caused by the bacteria in your mouth. When the bacteria is removed effectively and regularly the chances for you getting a gum disease are minimal. But even if you are looking after the teeth well (brushing thoroughly twice a day and cleaning between the teeth once a day with a product that was recommended by the hygienist) go to see your dentist if:

  • you are a heavy smoker (here‘s why)
  • you have a diabetes
  • you are pregnant

If the gum disease is left untreated it will result in loss of tooth. It is also associated with certain illnesses so your general health is to be concerned as well.

If you want to find out more please visit American Academy of Periodontology’s site which provides lots of useful information for the patients.

How Is It Treated and Can I Do It Myself?

The gum disease is treated by simply removing the bacteria (both soft bacteria, plaque and hardened bacteria, calculus) and teaching the patient the correct techniques for removing the soft bacteria regularly by themselves.

Anyone can start better oral hygiene routine at home without seeing a dentist. Getting rid of the daily build up of bacteria effectively may cure the gum disease. This means brushing twice a day with electric toothbrush and cleaning between the teeth preferably with something else than a floss (floss is better than nothing of course). You could try Gum Soft Picks at first. Aim to the size that feels slightly tight between the teeth.

But remember, you are not able to remove the hardened plaque (calculus). Also if the calculus has build up below the gum, you will need to see dentist (for an assessment) and hygienist (for scaling) to stop the gum disease progressing.

A revelation:

There is no easy way out of the gum disease. It will most probably hurt like hell and the gum will bleed (in some cases heavily) in the beginning when you brush and clean between the teeth. If you at this point stop e.g. using an interdental brush that was recommended to you or you use it every second night because you think you are harming the gums, the gums will keep on bleeding and hurting. You will never get out of the vicious cycle. So persevere, be brave and have a faith on us professionals.

Sometimes if the gum disease has advanced to severe stage, you might need surgery on your gums (performed by the periodontist).

 

 

Soap Opera of the Dental Practice

Sandbox-3239

Sometimes colleagues act like kids in a sandbox. On a frosty day.

The next time you lay back on dentist chair to have either check-up or treatment done, instead of concentrating on squeezing the handles in a fear of the pain and unknown, pay a close attention to the chemistry between the dentist and the nurse. If you are lucky, it can be very entertaining to watch and listen, and you forget the whole business of being nervous.

Ideal Dentist-Nurse Relationship

An ideal relationship between a dentist and a nurse is such where mutual respect prevails. They are two human beings, professionals working together for the patient’s health and earning their living. Both of them understand that one could not work without the other (at least without seriously compromising the safety of the patient) and especially that they could not work without the patient. They may be good friends that go beyond the working day.

Dentist-Nurse Relationship from Hell

It can be a sign of a non-working relationship if it is the nurse that calls your name at the waiting room of the dental practice. Not always, but often it is so.

Why? Because normally it is the nurse who has more to do after the previous patient than the dentist. The nurse spends long time wiping surfaces (should do), equipment, patient chair with a disinfectant, sterilizing instruments and preparing the room for the next patient.

Meanwhile the dentist chats with the previous patient, records the visit (takes couple of minutes, sometimes even less if the dentist is not bothered to write anything else than check-up and adding a sign that tells us professionals that nothing special was found) and checks the next patient’s treatment plan, which she should have done already in the morning. All this often takes less than what the nurse needs to do.

A revelation:

Some dentists feel that they are too highly educated to walk the aisle of the surgery to call the patient in. It is the nurse’s duty even if it meant that the dentist has nothing to do while the nurse is finishing with disinfection business (well, dentist can always have a cuppa while waiting).

Here is an example of this. I have witnessed a very highly educated specialist taking a seat in the front of the computer every time the nurse walks out to call the patient in. And when the nurse returns with the patient, the specialist is looking intensely at the computer screen looking all important and wise for few seconds and then almost like apologetically getting up (for not noticing that the patient arrived) and rushing to shake hands. This happened with e-v-e-r-y patient. Honestly.

But.

There are nurses that prefer to call the patient in from their own will. In this case any of the following won’t happen in the surgery. So keep reading!

Once you have taken a seat in the dental chair, the nurse gives you the safety glasses and a bib to cover you shirt and tilts the seat down. Here comes the next battle of the non-working relationship between the dentist and the nurse.

The ergonomics are very important in dental profession. It means early retirement or occupation change if you work in wrong positions for many years. In a good healthy working environment the dentist and the nurse have tried and tested the positions of the patient chair that is good for both of them (there will be exceptions e.g. when very large patient or heavily pregnant patient comes in).

So the nurse places the seat down and sits beside you. The dentist washes her hands (hopefully) and puts on the face mask and gloves. She moves her chair beside you and starts adjusting the patient chair’s hight and tilting-angle. If you see the nurse moving hastily further away from you or standing up, you know they do not work well together. The dentist has just adjusted the seat so that the nurse is not able to find an ergonomic position.

If they have worked together like this for years, there is lots of anger and resentment from the nurse’s side. You might be collateral damage in this war, I’m afraid. If you feel like your mouth is filling up with water, you need to swallow it a lot (by the way, you can swallow it, it’s just a tap water, is a lie and I will write about it later on this blog) or it pours out from the side of your mouth on to the dentist’s lap, it might be a silent demonstration against the dentist’s tyranny over the position of the patient chair and the patient’s head.

Twisted, but that’s how it goes.

Other Signs of Non-Working Dentist-Nurse Relationship

  • they don’t chat while treating you
  • they don’t make jokes to try to ease you fear
  • you hear lots of clatter from the instruments (they are thrown in the tray)
  • they reply cynically to one another (normally nurse to the dentist and in non-funny way e.g. as soon as I have time)
  • they argue about treatment, equipment and materials. How they should be used or should they be used at all – the dentist wins these arguments as they are the higher educated ones and cannot be wrong. Especially not in the presence of the patient
  • the nurse sits like a statue after the dentist has requested for an instrument. Just before the dentist is about to renew his request the nurse rolls her eyes and slowly reaches for the instrument

Definite Sign of Non-Working Dentist-Nurse Relationship

The nurse walks out of the surgery.

Conclusion

Just imagine what it is like to work as a pair and the chemistry does not work. It is simply and utterly torture for all including the patient. And it is very common in dentistry.

If you, a dental professional recognised yourself from the above, please start working towards a better relationship. It starts from the respect.


You might also like:

Part I: Is It a Skyskraper? No, It’s Your Ego

Part II: Just Another Day at the Office

Part III: I’m Sorry but I Did Not Get Qualified So That I Can Make Coffee for You