KOMET Korner Q&A with Shari Becker, CDA, RDA, FADAA, for August 2010 DAD

Aug. 25, 2010
In this month's KOMET Korner Q&A, Shari Becker, CDA, RDA, FADAA, gives her opinion on pay discrepancies in the dental assisting field, how to approach a patient regarding a possible eating disorder, and how to properly use social media to market a dental practice.

KOMET Korner welcomes back our friend Shari Becker. Shari has been tbe treatment coordinator at Snow Dental Care in Danville, Calif., since 1996. She’s been teaching dental assisting for more than 15 years, and helped develop the Shari Becker Provisional Fabrication Kit (TD 2118) for KOMET USA.

This month, Shari gives her opinion on pay discrepancies in the dental assisting field, how to approach a patient regarding a possible eating disorder, and how to properly use social media to market a dental practice. If you have something you want to ask the KOMET USA panel of assistants, please e-mail [email protected]. We promise to answer them in the next available issue.

DAD: I read in a past issue of Dental Assisting Digest that there is a huge discrepancy in pay for dental assistants. There is almost a $21,000 gap between the highest (District of Columbia) and the lowest (West Virginia). Why is there such a difference? We’re all doing the same work, right?

Becker: The most probable reason for the pay discrepancy would be cost of living. From state to state and within each state there are cost-of-living disparities. I even see cost-of-living disparities in my own state of California, where there is a significant wage difference even within a 25-mile radius of where I work. In addressing your second question, not all dental assistants perform the same duties. Each state has its own dental practice act, outlining and detailing the scope of practice for dental professionals. The duties for a dental assistant also vary from state to state, which would have a direct reflection on wage.

DAD: I believe one of my patients has an eating disorder because of her increased decay and gum deterioration. In addition to these signs, I’ve noticed a change in her weight and appearance. How do you suggest I go about talking to my dentist, and more importantly, my patient about what I’m seeing?

Becker: I suggest you start by sharing your concerns with your doctor. Schedule some time during the day with the doctor when you won’t be interrupted and will have ample time to discuss the patient. When your patient comes in for her next visit, you may want to schedule additional time for you and your doctor to chat with her in a non-threatening way and discuss your clinical findings. If the conversation originates from a place of caring, she may open up. At the beginning of every appointment, we ask all of our patients if there has been any change to their health or medical history since we last saw them, even if it was just a day or two ago. Have a discussion with your patient and inform her that you noticed an increase in dental decay and irritated gums. Ask her if she’s noticed a difference in her oral hygiene. This may help start a conversation. Your doctor may want to share with the patient that her type of dental disease can often stem from a medical condition. This way you both can then make a judgment based on her response. She may deny any knowledge of her condition or she may open up. Either way, you should allow extra time during her appointment to talk to her and consider referring her to her physician for additional assistance, if she so requests.

DAD: I see pros and cons to using social media in the dental office. I know it’s a great way not only to market myself, but my dentist and the practice; however, I’m leery of saying anything to patients because no one can control how they feel about the practice or the industry. How do you suggest we use social media in our office?

Becker: These days, there are so many social media marketing options. It’s important to think through what your goal is for using any social media or marketing tool. It can be difficult if there is no way to monitor or control comments, and you should show caution when considering which social media to use. It is, however, a great way to make announcements, introduce new technologies and procedures, and help patients become better acquainted with staff. There are ways to set up accounts where viewing of comments can be limited. Being specific in your intention with any social media and maintaining a professional approach should encourage more positive results and hopefully discourage any negative comments from patients.

About Shari Becker, CDA, RDA, FADAA
Shari Becker has been a full-time chairside assistant for Dr. Stephen R. Snow in Danville, Calif., for 15 years, and has been an RDA and CDA since 1985. Shari is on the faculty at the Mt. Diablo Adult Education Center in Concord, and has been teaching dental assisting for more than 15 years. She is a member of the American Dental Assistants Association, the California Dental Assistants Association, Diablo Dental Assistants Society, the California Association of Dental Assisting Teachers, and the California Council on Adult Education. She is a fellow of the American Dental Assistants Association and is currently serving as the 12th District Trustee to the American Dental Assistants Association, representing California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Guam. She has served in many capacities on the local, state, and national levels, including president of the California Dental Assistants Association and president of the California Association of Dental Assisting Teachers. Shari is currently working in conjunction with dental manufacturing companies to heighten the awareness and acknowledge the contribution of dental assistants to the profession of dentistry.