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

Dec. 14, 2010
In this month's KOMET Korner, Shari Becker, CDA, RDA, FADAA, talks about the importance of an assistant's professional appearance in the office, how you encourage your office to keep up with OSHA guidelines, and how you can educate your patients about the oral-systemic health connection.

This is the final KOMET Korner for 2010, and we want to thank our readers and those who submitted questions throughout the year. We are expecting even more success in 2011, but before we move into the new year, we want to welcome back Shari Becker to KOMET Korner. This month Shari talks about the importance of an assistant’s professional appearance in the office, how you encourage your office to keep up with OSHA guidelines, and how you can educate your patients about the oral-systemic health connection. If you have something you want to ask the KOMET USA panel of assistants, please e-mail your question to [email protected].

DAD: I’m seeing more assistants (both young and old) working in the profession with visible piercings and tattoos. As an educator, do you instruct your students about the importance of their professional appearance? If so, what has been their reaction?

Becker: In my 15 years of teaching, our dental assisting program has always focused on professionalism, which includes appearance. We discuss issues relating to tattoos and piercings with our students at their orientation. Our school policy states that tattoos are not to be seen and must be covered by clothing or removed. Facial piercings should also be removed, and only small stud earrings are allowed. Most of our students understand that they have entered a “profession” and not just a “job,” and agree with our policy on tattoos and piercings. If a student does not comply, he or she may be removed from our program.

DAD: How do you encourage your team to keep up with OSHA compliance standards? Also, does your office follow any of the guidelines set by OSAP?

Becker: In California we have to comply with the state’s Division of Safety and Health requirements, as well as national OSHA standards. With our annual staff training, it is fairly easy to stay abreast of the most current issues of concern in the office environment. As OSHA is designed to keep employees safe, it is in the best interests of all staff members to comply with their standards. Practice makes perfect, and if there are new requirements, we communicate them as a staff and make sure we are all on the same page. If the employees are safe, patients should also be safe. As for OSAP (Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention), we follow all applicable guidelines and recommendations. OSAP is a great resource, with science and studies to back their recommendations. They are also a terrific source for teaching tools such as charts, checklists, articles, and research. OSAP also has area and state consultants and speakers available for educational meetings.

DAD: There have been many articles published in industry journals about the oral-systemic health connection; however, I don’t think there has been enough in the mainstream media about this issue. How can our office educate patients about this health concern?

Becker: A new organization called the American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH) has been formed, and it met for the first time in October to specifically address this growing area of concern. Dental leaders from across the country formed the organization with the intent of opening up communication between dentists and physicians regarding patient health. In the past, both dentistry and medicine have been limited in sharing information and working together on behalf of the patient’s general health; however, that is changing. There are a number of organizations and programs with great information, such as Oral Health America and Smiles Across America. Both have newsletters and resources that may be helpful to you and your patients. You may want to start by getting your staff more educated on this issue, and then develop a strategy to implement a protocol in the office. Start a conversation with every patient to inform them that your office cares not only about their dental health, but also their total health. You may think about developing a script to help staff members get started. Everyone in the office needs to be able to start a dialogue with every patient regarding this important area. Update your patients’ health history each time they come in by making sure you have a current list of all medications, including supplements, vitamins, and herbs. You also need to make sure you have each patient’s current physician’s name and phone number. You might want to consider developing an annual dental health report that you send as a courtesy to each patient and their physician. This could be set up easily as part of your recall system on each patient. For the community, maybe you could offer an educational meeting to local physicians to share some of your dental exam techniques. You could also write an article for your local newspaper on these issues and tell readers how your office is taking steps to educate patients.

About Shari Becker
Shari Becker, CDA, RDA, FADAA, 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, Calif., 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 California Association of Dental Assisting Teachers. Shari is an editorial board member for Inside Dental Assisting magazine. She 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.