Were you there?

Sept. 1, 2006
Where were you on May 11-13, 2006? If you weren’t in Indianapolis at the Professional Dental Assisting (PDA) conference, you missed a very special event for dental assistants.

By Mary Govoni, CDA, RDA, RDH, MBA

Where were you on May 11-13, 2006? If you weren’t in Indianapolis at the Professional Dental Assisting (PDA) conference, you missed a very special event for dental assistants. It was the first conference of its kind exclusively for dental assistants. There were excellent continuing-education courses, networking opportunities, social events, and product exhibits. The very best part about the exhibits was that the companies and their representatives who attended truly understood the value of dental assistants and recognized our influence and involvement in product purchasing decisions.

As many of you know, it isn’t always easy to get attention or information at a dental convention if you are a dental assistant. There are still many companies who believe that all product purchasing decisions are made by the doctors and hygienists. At the numerous meetings I have attended, I have observed dental assistants trying to ask questions and get information from exhibitors, only to be ignored in favor of the doctors and hygienists at the booths.

At PDA it was all about you, the dental assistants. And the attendees clearly demonstrated their interest in learning about new products, learning to more effectively use products, and discussing product enhancements. I have never been more proud to be a dental assistant than I was that weekend to experience the incredible energy, enthusiasm, and dedication of all who attended. A huge “Thank you” goes out to PennWell for providing us with this opportunity, and many thanks to all of the exhibitors for your participation and support. I hope that this year’s exhibitors will be back next year, joined by many more. My greatest hope, however, is that many more dental assistants choose to attend and enjoy this fabulous experience.

Having said all that, I also want to issue a challenge to you as dental assistants to become efficiency experts in your practices, always looking for ways to improve the patient care experience and to increase productivity and profitability for the practice. One way to do this is to continually research new products and equipment. Stay up to date on the many new and enhanced products available and work with your doctor(s) and team members to determine if any of these products could make your jobs easier and help your bottom line. Here are some that I think deserve consideration.

X-ray sensor holders/positioners: Placing digital sensors and phosphor plates can sometimes be challenging, and several products have been introduced that help facilitate placement. The first is the Phosphor Ray digital phosphor plate holder from Steri-Shield. It is a disposable device that looks somewhat like the old Snap-A-Ray holder. The device aids in positioning the phosphor plates in the anterior and posterior, and will not scratch the phosphor plate. It is designed for use with the bisecting-angle exposure technique.

The SuperBite® Senso digital sensor holder from Kerr is a great efficiency tool. The device is a sensor holder and position indicator that adjusts for anterior and posterior exposures, and the endo version has a built-in channel that accommodates an endo file for easy positioning during root canal procedures.

In addition to holders and positioners, Strong Dental has introduced Slip-Ease® X-ray Comfort Pouches. The pouches cushion the corners and edges of traditional film, digital sensors, or phosphor plates, and can be used for multiple exposures on the same patient.

Curing lights: I prefer a cordless curing light for ergonomics and flexibility of use. Some of the early cordless models were bulky and heavy, but the more recent models are small, lightweight, and very easy to manipulate. Some examples are the Satelec® Mini LED™ from A-dec, the Celalux LED from VOCO America, and the SmartLite® PS LED from Dentsply. All three are compact and lightweight. The SmartLite has the most compact charging station.

Lip and cheek retractors: Utilizing cheek and lip retractors increases effectiveness in many procedures, including taking diagnostic photographs, sealant placement, and whitening. Finding cheek and lip retractors that are easy to place and comfortable for patients can be challenging. The Comfort View™ lip and cheek retractor from Premier is one of my favorite devices in this category. It is a hands-free device that retracts both lips and cheeks, allows for easy placement of suction tips or saliva ejectors, and is autoclavable - unlike many other types of cheek retractors.

OptraGate® from Ivoclar Vivadent is another innovative lip and cheek retractor that looks somewhat like a dental dam. It is latex-free and comes in two sizes.

Composite instruments: Two instruments that are unique in their time-saving applications are the CompoRoller™ from Kerr and the Universal Composite instrument from Garrison Dental Solutions.

The nonstick tips on the CompoRoller allow for layering, contouring, and smoothing of composites during placement, which can decrease finishing time after curing. The instrument is double-ended, and the tips are disposable and come in cone, cylinder, and disc shapes. This is an excellent tool for expanded-function assistants who many times work alone when placing restorations.

Garrison’s Universal Composite instrument is a multifunction, multitipped instrument that combines condensers, carvers, burnishers, and contact formers into one instrument. This again is a great asset to expanded-function assistants who are placing composites without an assistant.

Dental dams: Utilization of dental dams is, in my opinion, one of the most effective isolation methods to ensure a dry field for placement of sealants and composite materials. But, placement of traditional dams can be time consuming and technique-sensitive. Several companies have introduced dental dams that streamline this process. The dams are contoured, framed and, in some cases, pre-punched for ease of use and application.

OptiDam™ from Kerr, Flexi Dam from Hygenic, and Insti-Dam™ from Zirc are available in latex and non-latex versions, and have flexible frames. Check these out.

Hemostatic gauze: ActCel from ActSys Medical is a new type of gauze that converts to a hemostatic cellulose gel when it contacts blood. It is excellent for surgeries and other procedures where control of bleeding is critical. This product can be especially helpful for patients who may be taking anticoagulants or who may have conditions that cause increased bleeding time. The gel is easily removed by water, saline, or hydrogen peroxide.

Cements: I always encourage assistants to investigate the many new developments in cements because they are some of the most commonly used products. Most manufacturers are converting the traditional liquid/powder and two-paste systems into dispensing cartridges that provide convenience, easier and more accurate mixing, and reduce clean-up time. Rather than highlight specific products here, I encourage you to explore the options available for the cements that your practice currently uses with success. Chances are that your “favorites” are available in new formulas and packaging systems.

This is a very brief overview of what’s new and innovative. Get excited about new products. Be a researcher in your practice. And mark your calendar for May 10-12, 2007 for the second annual PDA conference. See you there!

Mary Govoni is a certified and registered dental assistant and a registered dental hygienist with more than 34 years of experience in the dental profession as a chairside assistant, office administrator, clinical hygienist, educator, consultant, and speaker. She is the owner of Clinical Dynamics, a consulting company dedicated to the enhancement of the clinical and communication skills of dental teams. She can be reached at [email protected].