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4 Keys to Help Protect Your Dental Practice

It used to be that dental offices existed as their own little island. The same five employees would stay for 20 years and personal and professional lines could become blurred. From dentists giving their employees loans to babysitting each other’s children, dental office staff interacted as an extended family unit. Dental office environments continually evolve and as technology advances, the landscape of employee and HR management needs to change. Time and time again, dentists don’t protect themselves or their practice until it’s too late and a former employee is wreaking havoc on operations.

Invest time upfront on simple procedures and documentation to ensure your dental practice has a trustworthy, accountable staff.

  1. Sign a non-disclosure and non-compete agreement

Create a non-disclosure for all employees, and non-compete agreement for dental associates and hygienists to review and sign. This agreement outlines that if the employee leaves the practice for any reason they (1) will not recruit patients, (2) will not tell patients why they are leaving the practice and (3) will not inform patients of their new employer. The sale of a dental practice is a common event for staff attrition to take place. With change in practice ownership, staff don’t always stay under the new dentist.

Hygienists and dental assistants take immense pride in building authentic, caring relationships with patients and often feel like they may have ownership over the relationship. Hygiene accounts for about 30 percent of a dental office’s business. Don’t allow your hygienists to reduce the selling value of your practice or impact your revenue if they leave on unhappy terms.

 

  1. Perform criminal background checks

Criminal background checks are a common hiring procedure across industries to give a comprehensive report of a candidate’s history and background. This ensures you’re hiring dependable, ethical staff members. Some dentists may feel criminal background checks are big deal or “over-the-top”, but you are ultimately protecting your practice and business.

 

I’ve worked with several dental practices that did not complete criminal background checks prior to hiring front office staff resulting in bad hiring decisions of former convicted felons. One red flag to be aware of is extreme gaps in employment history. This can sometimes indicate potential past criminal history. And remember, this isn’t a matter of a lack in trust, but having a low-cost solution to making smarter hiring decisions and protecting your patients, staff, and practice.

 

  1. Document all employees have received (and agree) to the dental office employee manual

A dental office employee manual outlines procedures and expectations for each employee of a dental office including, standard conduct, dress code, HIPAA and OSHA compliance, etc. To ensure compliance, each employee should receive a copy of the employee manual and provide a signature that they have received it. Documenting the rules and employee’s signatures of agreement will help with employee and HR relations if situations arise.

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Keeping Your Patients Safe: Proper Dental Practice Infection Control Procedures

Proper infection control is a top priority of any dental practice to ensure the health of a patient is not compromised and to prevent the spread of disease and germs. Each dental practice must meet compliance and standards outlined by their state dental board. Achieving infection control is just the tip of the iceberg – it’s imperative to keep accurate and timely documentation of your dental office’s infection control policy and manual, staff training log, equipment and tool sterilization reports, etc.

Aside from maintaining the health of your patients and staff, having proper infection control protocol can safeguard your practice against retaliation. What kind of retaliation you may be asking? Disgruntled former employees. Time and time again, I’ve worked with clients who have experienced huge headaches because terminated employees alerted their respective state dental boards and made a claim on their former employer (insurance fraud, improper infection control procedures, etc.). State dental boards must investigate each claim they receive. Following a thorough weekly checklist of infection control activities can help keep your dental office up to date and ready for inspection at all times .

Infection Control Policies and Procedures Check List

  • Have a detailed infection control policy and manual for your dental practice printed and available for all staff members.
  • Keep a detailed training log that outlines each training, certification (i.e. CPR) staff member name and title, and their signatures confirming completion.
  • Keep a weekly log to record and stay consistent with sterilization testing of your dental equipment each week.
  • Some state dental boards provide an infection control manual. Obtain a copy online and use this manual as a guide to ensure compliance.
  • Plastic materials (i.e. x-ray holders) used to be the standard, but now tools must be autoclavable.
  • Never re-use disposable products. In attempt to save money, offices think they can wipe or spray these kinds of products for a second use.
  • Keep dental instruments in their sterilized bag up until they will be used on the patient. Reducing outside exposure will ensure proper infection control.
  • Always cover instruments, tools, and materials that may not be in use (i.e. containers for cotton balls). Aerosols can travel and stick to surfaces farther than expected.
  • Spend extra time wiping down every surface every time a patient is seen.
  • Keep your office’s ‘permissible practices document’ up to date. This document outlines all of responsibilities and tasks administered by each dental staff member.
  • Be sure to properly dispose of needles and biohazards, and keep documentation of removal.
  • Film x-rays are lined with lead – be sure to properly dispose of the lead foil. Additionally, save amalgam fillings for scrap metal.

Proper infection control management requires thorough documentation of your office’s day-to-day processes. Though infection control is expensive (I estimated it to cost $25/patient twenty years ago), it’s necessary for the health of patients, staff, and a well-run dental practice. Also remember, you don’t have to let the inspector in your office if they arrive unannounced. You can ask them to come back when the time is convenient for you.