Reopening Your Practice’s Doors: Obstacles and Solutions

Resuming regular dental appointments is a big step for everyone involved in your dental practice. All of Canada is in the process of reopening important services. While the processes and timelines differ between provinces and territories, the whole country is moving in the same direction. There are various challenges dental offices have to confront in order to get back up and running. In this blog post, we are discussing some concerns dental professionals share regarding reopening their office for routine appointments, and also providing links to some solutions. 

Resupplying for your reopening 

Dental professionals are facing various challenges ranging from vague and nondescript guidance on reopening to limited PPE. Toronto dentist Natalie Archer addressed the shortage of PPE in a recent article. Many dentists donated a lot of their supplies to hospitals at the height of the health emergency, and are now having difficulties resupplying their own practices. The shortage of personal protective equipment causes delays that are not only detrimental for dental offices, but also patients, many of whom are overdue for their recare appointments. To help healthcare providers with their reopening, a group of organizations set up the Rapid Response Platform to help Canadian providers obtain their necessary PPE for the workplace. 

Reformatting your day 

While keeping your schedule full maximizes your office’s potential, health and safety must be the priority. Some offices are eliminating overlapping appointments, while others are implementing measures that allow for social distancing while still attending to multiple patients in the same time frame.  

ABELDent's Patient Manager

While it is inconvenient, and may result in appointments that are delayed for weeks based on patient availability, these measures are a necessary challenge that practices have to address in reopening. Some ideas for making waiting areas a safer space include asking patients to wait in their car, or taking away complimentary items such as books/magazines to minimize the spread of germs. Different dental offices will have different approaches to social distancing, but implementing the options that work best for your own practice is a great way to make sure protocols are regularly followed. 

There is no doubt that when you reopen your doors, business is not going to be the way that it used to be. While there are many challenges to overcome in terms of reopening, there are also opportunities to find innovative solutions that work for both your team and your patients. Some things that your practice offered in the past may need to be suspended, such as complimentary waiting area items, or walk-in appointments. Making some changes now to protect your team and your patients will help your practice grow and prosper in the future. 

Video Tutorials Part II: Quick Scheduling Tool

A month ago, our team posted our first video to our new video tutorial series. If you missed the video, you can see it here. The first tutorial covered ABELDent’s clinical sidebar, which is a feature included in the new updated version of the software. Our video tutorials show you how you can use these new features everyday in your office to make managing your dental practice easier than before. 

Our new video focuses on our quick scheduling tool, which hygienists and receptionists can use to quickly find openings for patients. This feature allows you to quickly find an opening based on the patient’s next due date, as shown in the video. 

This feature is particularly useful for scheduling routine appointments ahead of time, and only takes a minute to find the next time/day for the patient. Using these new features allows dentists, dental assistants, hygienists, and receptionists to have extra time to focus on providing the best possible care to patients and improving patient relationships.  

If you are interested in what is demonstrated in the video and want to learn more, feel free to contact us for additional questions or a demo. Our team is working from home, but we are still available 24/7 for any inquiries you may have. 

3 Reasons an Oral Health Blog Boosts Your Practice

Health professionals are preparing to reopen to the public, presenting an excellent opportunity for creating informational materials. As you reopen your practice, educating patients on the measures you and your team are taking to ensure everyone’s safety will encourage your patients to come in, as well as dismiss any misinformation that they may have regarding their safety. Making information readily available via social media, your website, a company blog, or even flyers and handouts benefits both your practice and your community. This blog post focuses on the reasons for having a dental blog for your office.

Valuable patient treatment is not limited to work done inside of the operatory. Providing regular and digestible resources for your patients to improve their health literacy improves their wellbeing. Having an understanding of their own oral health generally makes patients more enthusiastic about their oral hygiene and necessary dental treatments. This naturally leads to increased patient influx due to word-of-mouth, as well in more recent times, good practice reviews. 

While it is important to continue accumulating positive patient reviews by providing exceptional service, posting expert blogs builds practice credibility while contributing to your practice’s online presence. Great blog posts in turn also foster more positive reviews that together drive more patients to your practice. Maintaining positive reviews is one of the many reasons for having an office blog. For this post, we will present three specific ways that maintaining a blog can boost your business. 

1. It influences how prospective patients perceive your practice 

Instead of first visiting physical locations, people these days tend to screen businesses online beforehand. Potential patients may be curious about your office’s values, the treatment that is offered, and your quality of service. Prospective patients often refer to public reviews and your homepage first for this information. Unfortunately, several bad reviews can turn potential candidates off if even if they may not appear credible. However, if you provide a blog, you can present your business values on your own terms. Providing regular blog posts adds value to your online presence and works to build trust with your audience. Potential patients can read your own content, which is highly preferred in comparison to reading medium-to-low rated reviews that are beyond your control.

2. It educates your patients and the public 

When people experience dental pain, they are likely to research their symptoms online to determine whether their issue is temporary, or if they need to seek professional help. You can increase your page views to these people by properly geotagging (adding geographical identification to) your posts, implementing SEO strategies and using key words as identifiers in your post. These strategies and tools are usually included with most major blogging platforms such as WordPress or Blogger. Blogs of this type expand your public domain since they will attract both individuals researching the symptoms of their dental discomfort, and folks who are reading your posts as they are seeking out a new dentist.  

Blog posts that educate the public on good oral health habits remind individuals of the importance of maintaining a healthy mouth and potentially prompt them to do something about it. A blog that educates the public not only contributes to a healthier community that values their oral health but can also be an effective source of new patients for your practice.  

3. It shows that you care – and helps you gain patient loyalty 

person on phone texting gif

Your dental practice’s blog can subtly and over time, work to reduce no-shows and missed appointments. Regular blog posts, especially if they are sent to patients on a subscription list, create a new conduit of communication for your patients. This open stream fosters patient trust towards you and your staff and helps build credibility for your practice.  The trust formed from these blog posts builds patient loyalty that will likely translate into more booked appointments and fewer cancellations and no-shows. 

While blog posts can present this opportunity, be mindful that your patients likely receive a lot of emails per day and many may end up in their junk mail folder never to be read. As a result, they may not even see your blog posts unless they go to your website on their own..  

A strategy to combat this problem is to inform your patients of your blogs on a regular basis and what valuable information they offer. For example, try embedding a blog link in your automated appointment or outstanding treatment reminders. Additionally, you could post a sign in the reception area encouraging patients to look at your website and blog. Lastly, make sure you provide a blog link directly from your homepage so that visitors to your website can easily find your blogs. 

It may seem overwhelming – but you’re not alone 

There are many resources that are made to help you and your practice have a great online presence starting with this guide. For practical advice for starting or maintaining a dental blog check out this article.  

Even just sharing and briefly adding to posts from other authors is helpful for company blog upkeep.* For instance, Colgate’s blog covers a variety of topics pertaining to oral health with information that may be highly beneficial to your patients. Making information like easily available to your patients encourages healthy oral practices.

If the commitment of posting your own blogs regularly scares you here are some suggestions: 

  • Consider starting by writing a few posts over a few months and then evaluate your engagement 
  • Share posts or articles written by oral health experts as mentioned, but add more value by summarizing the main points so your patients can easily understand the premise 
  • Delegate blog posts to a trusted person in your office with dental expertise and/or find a team member who has strong communication skills.  
  • Do an email promotion of the posts to your patients that have given you permission for email marketing.*  

Whether it is a weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly blog post, having an oral health blog can greatly benefit your dental practice by increasing the number of positive reviews you receive, establishing your credibility in the marketplace and improving your overall patient relations. 

* Note: be sure to always give credit to the original author. 
* Note: be sure that you are acting with CASL’s protocols 

Virtual Tools to Keep Up Patient Relations

The last few months have marked a period of adjustment worldwide. Some industries are adapting to the circumstances by finding ways to work remotely and limiting social contact. Many professions, like dentistry, share a very different story, wherein most work cannot be done as it requires physical contact. While attending to dental emergencies are essential, how are dentists extending oral care guidance to their other patients? 

Dentists are employing virtual tools to facilitate conversations with patients. Virtual connections allow dental providers to continually help patients. This is the main defining factor of teledentistry, which we have spoken about in the last few blog posts (found here and here). Teledentistry includes treatment planning, video conferencing, and even telephone calls that entail a dental provider performing any kind of virtual treatment, for example, giving follow-up instructions. Various studies have been done on the validity of teledentistry. These studies are highly prevalent at a time like this, as they offer the industry a perspective on how using virtual treatment tools can objectively help dental practices and patients alike, while also acknowledging precautions. 

Teeth images coming out of computer screen

We have spoken about the various ways virtual communications aid both your practice and your patients a few times. Using resources to keep patients informed and motivated ensures that they are bettering their oral health, even if they have to delay hygiene visits. 

Try sending emails to your patients on file to inform them of oral hygienic practices they can keep doing at home. You can use your dental software’s messaging system for quick and effective communication with your patients. Reaching out to your patients in any capacity contributes to a positive doctor-patient relationship, and will benefit both them and your practice in the long run. 

Something as simple as a reassuring or informative email can leave a positive impact on your regular patients. You can also utilize your social media outlets and your practice’s website to let patients know how your team is doing or provide information on health and safety. For instance, adjusting your homepage content to address whether your office is currently accepting emergencies, or wishing good health to webpage visitors creates a great first impression. Doing this also addresses the situation, thus helping minimize patient anxieties. 

Difficult situations such as outbreaks are bound to happen. All industries face their own set of challenges, and it is important to keep looking forward and remain adaptable in a changing world. While this is a challenging time, doing the best with our available resources make our communities stronger. 


Works Cited: 

Alabdullah, Jafar & Daniel, Susan. (2018). A Systematic Review on the Validity of Teledentistry. Telemedicine and e-Health. 24. 10.1089/tmj.2017.0132.   
Arora PC, Kaur J, Kaur J, Arora A. Teledentistry: An innovative tool for the underserved population. Digit Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 28];5:6-12. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2019/5/1/6/249836 

Why Invest Your Extra Time in Treatment Planning (Teledentistry Part 2)

Case management accounts for a substantial portion of a dental professional’s career. Prescribing treatment to your patients takes time and care, as well as planning ahead for complex procedures. As discussed in previous blog posts, you can use your extra time to keep up with a number of essential business functions such as training your employees and ensuring your records are up-to-date and secured. You may consider engaging with continued learning via online courses. In this blog post, we are encouraging you to prioritize case management and patient relations to plan for when your office reopens. 

As a dental professional, your time is a valuable investment. Despite current restrictions for public health and safety, you can still use your time by planning treatments with patients that have been postponed for any reason. Even though the treatment itself must wait for a few months, various aspects of the planning process can be done now. This may include preparing financial payment plans, informing patients of pretreatment requirements, or ordering materials and instruments that you need for the procedure. As long as all communications are done safely and virtually, you can set your practice up for success when offices reopen. 

Dentist on laptop screen

By dedicating a portion of your time to case management, you are helping your practice thrive for months to come. Arranging profitable treatment that is essential to your practice will help you bring your business back to where you want it to be. Planning treatment with your patients not only financially benefits your practice in the long run but also strengthens your relations with your patients. Letting them know that you are still here to discuss their oral health goes a long way, whether it be by an automated email, or posting a notice on your website. This, in turn, can foster positive reviews for your practice, which are assets. 

Routine appointments will come naturally, as patients have gone months overdue for their dental cleaning. If you find your schedule has gaps, using your dental software’s tools such as a treatment manager assists you in finding patients who have yet to book outstanding treatment. 

Reviewing cases with your patients now prevents further delaying treatments once your practice reopens, and also helps you fill your schedule quickly with valuable appointments, putting your office back on track. 

Why Dentists Are Turning to Teledentistry During COVID-19 (Teledentistry Part 1)

Dentists worldwide are utilizing various technologies which help facilitate teledentistry during this health crisis.

Resources cite that although providers can only do limited exams and treatment planning or virtual consultations, teledentistry maintains patient relations, which is a vital aspect of owning a practice. Teledentistry also provides a way for dentists to work during the worldwide health emergency, but can also be used to enhance the daily operations of your practice under normal circumstances. 

Visuals Made Virtual

A huge part of treatment planning with patients is visually presenting the problem, and also showing the solution to keep patients fully informed. For instance, you might show your patient the x-ray of their decay, or walk through the details of a specific procedure using intraoral pictures of their problem area. 

Brant Herman, CEO of MouthWatch LLC, writes on Dental Economics points out that virtual treatment planning works well with visuals, as he argues patients understand images better than words alone. Additionally, Herman brings up the point that family members often are the final deciding factor before a patient undergoes a specific treatment. To counter familial disagreement (which is often due to misunderstanding the importance of the treatment), virtual images and videos can be kept on file and saved by the patient for family members’ understanding. 

Using Procedure Codes for Your Time

There is a section of procedure codes in the Ontario fee guide that is often overlooked, but can be effectively utilized at a time like this, especially if you are engaging with patients via teledentistry. Patti DiGrangi, RDH, speaks to this in a video addressing the impact of COVID-19 on the dental industry. DiGrangi brings up a few codes that are typically ignored, such as consultation with a medical professional, case management, and oral hygiene instruction.

Maintaining procedure codes and documentation is a priority if you are engaging with patients via virtual means. You can use your dental software at home to make chart notes of virtual meetings between yourself and your patients so when you return to the office, everything is in order, files are easily accessible, and treatment can quickly begin.

Protect Your Practice as Cyberattacks Increase

Multiple threats are challenging dentists worldwide, including cybersecurity at this time. Cyberattacks have risen by 37% in one month, cited by Phil Muncaster at the Infosecurity Group.

Hospitals have been experiencing international ransomware attacks from hackers taking advantage of the current situation. When hospitals are unable to access their data and applications, the treatment process is delayed, thus putting patients directly at risk. Hospitals and other healthcare providers, including dentists, are particularly a high-risk group for ransomware, phishing, and cyberattacks. This week, we are doubling down on data security to make sure that your practice data is protected in this difficult time.

Educate Your Employees

Our last few blog posts mentioned using some extra free time as a chance to educate yourself and your employees on some important aspects of your practice, such as maintaining security. Ensure that anyone who accesses the company emails or social media outlets are very cautious when receiving any messages from unknown senders, particularly with enclosed links. Oftentimes it is best not to open emails and messages from unknown senders if they were not expected or seem irrelevant. If employees do open the email, reinforce that they need to be very sure any links can be trusted prior to clicking them. If you or your employees have suspicions about an email, it is likely in your best interest to delete the email and/or block the sender for your safety.

Have The Right Systems in Place

Take all measures to protect your practice’s data, and ensure your patients’ security. Best practices include having strong passwords and changing them regularly, such as every few months. 

Being aware of the security measures that you should take if your data is threatened. For instance, mitigate the threat that ransomware poses to your practice by doing regular backups on your practice’s local server, or consider a cloud-based server that automatically backs up your practice’s data. This way, if your confidential practice data is infected, you can restore the information from your most recent unaffected backup. 

Having a plan is key for bouncing back from a cyberattack quickly. Just like your practice has emergency evacuation routes for office fires, being prepared for a cyberattack puts you one step ahead of the potential hacker in the event it takes place. Unfortunately, during these unprecedented times, organizations are even more at risk because there are multiple safety concerns. 

The switch to remote work has created an opportunity for cybercrime, but that can be combated with proper security measures and education to make sure any staff who is regularly checking emails or managing communications stay aware and alert.

We hope you are staying safe and healthy at home, and are using the resources available for yourself and your community at this time.

ABELDent’s Exciting New Features: Video Tutorials

Last week’s blog post addressed the downtime caused by the COVID-19 crisis and the ways that dentists can keep themselves preoccupied, even though all routine services are postponed. In the blog post, we encourage dental professionals to utilize online classes now that they have some more time to benefit from additional learning.  

In line with this theme, we are publishing a miniseries for ABELDent users to learn about the new features that our software has, as well as prepare for future upgrades. In these videos, we will show you the features in action, as well as provide some examples for your benefit. 

Many of the new features will make your day-to-day life easier in your practice. Having a strong understanding of these new features will help you in making the most of your dental software, and in turn, providing the best quality of care for your patients.  

The first video of our miniseries covers the clinical sidebar. The clinical sidebar’s purpose is to minimize clicking and scrolling while your patient is in your operatory. You can easily access the important information that you need before starting any treatment by simply glancing at your patient’s chart. 

The Clinical Sidebar 

The clinical sidebar is not restricted to the patient’s chart. You can also see it for each individual patient when checking daily appointments. This allows you and your staff to adequately prepare for any cases that require more attention than others, or just to have a headstart on the day to increase confidence.  

Another option the sidebar provides is quick and simple health updates. You can pre-program your common health conditions and medications into ABELDent and then quickly select what you need when updating your patient’s health history. You can even have your patient do an updated health form, completely paperless, signature included. 

The clinical sidebar offers various possibilities for your practice and streamlines the process of updating and checking patient health information.  

Prepare for a Prosperous Practice, Even When You Can’t Work From Home

In light of recent events, with Ontario ordering the shutdown of nonessential workplaces, ABELDent employees are now working from home. Telecommuting is highly encouraged and measures to prevent the spread of the virus are being enforced for at least 14 days. 

A substantial number of Canadians are unable to work due to the COVID-19 crisis, including dental professionals. Dentists are still instructed to treat dental emergencies, as outlined under number 58 on the list of essential workplaces. Routine services, however, make up a significant portion of the income for a dental office. We recognize the stress that social distancing has on both yourself and your practice, but there are ways to stay motivated. 

While being unable to work can be unmotivating, we are encouraging our clients (and others) to use this time to stay on top of their game by accessing educational resources. For this reason, ABELDent is offering free educational videos and walkthroughs for anyone who needs training on administrative, financial, and clinical aspects of their dental software program.  

Additional educational resources that can be accessed during this time include online courses that earn you CE points, or even generic online classes that can offer you insights on your hiring process, employee relations, and overall business structure. As mentioned in previous posts, you can use this time to analyze your practice using SWOT Analysis or PMBO to measure if you have been meeting your practice objectives. All of these suggestions point you towards a future that is prepared to prosper.  

Even if you can’t do your job at home, you can still work from home by learning and assigning training to your staff. Ongoing education has tremendous value in any field, especially at a time like this, when there is more time to allocate towards the betterment of your practice. 

Practice Precautions and Additional Resources for Dentists: COVID-19

RCDSO posted a message to all Ontario Dentists on March 15, 2020, regarding the risk COVID-19 poses to dental professionals. ODA recently announced their support of their recommendations. The College outlines seven different guidelines that they are putting into place to counteract the virus’s spread.

The College urges dentists to temporarily cease all non-emergency dental treatments to minimize the risk that the virus poses to dentists and patients. The College will revisit this recommendation in April 2020, but for now, it is strongly suggested that only emergency treatments should continue.

The primary focus of this blog addresses the college’s recommendations and provides additional resources for navigating the current climate while maintaining your practice. 

What can I do in the meantime?

While the office may be slow for the time being, the downtime provides an opportunity for continuing education and advanced training. Refreshing yourself and your staff on your systems and tools, software applications, and best practices for your office is beneficial during this time so that when business begins to resume regularly, you can get back up to speed quickly and even get ahead of the game. 

This may also be a great time for you to do a practice self-assessment that will give you a better understanding of how you are currently performing and what adjustments you may need to make to meet your practice objectives.

On a related note, it may also be time to ask yourself if you are taking full advantage of all the features your practice management software has to offer. Lorne Lavine, dentist and practice management consultant states that “Many practices are only using a small portion of the capabilities of their software… and this is not allowing them to operate at anything near a desired level of efficiency.”  If you feel this scenario applies to you, it may be a good time to consider more training during a time when you are not operating at full capacity. 

7 Recommendations from RCDSO and ODA

1. The RCDSO strongly recommends that all non-essential and elective dental services should be suspended immediately. Emergency treatment should continue.

As previously mentioned, the College will reassess the necessity of this precaution in the first week of April. RCDSO acknowledges that this recommendation will impact staff members, which is why they also suggest that dental professionals consult with the Ministry of Labour. 

“2. The College will continue to enforce the Standard on Infection Prevention and Control, in cooperation with public health.

This point is expected, and also crucial in this time. Taking some downtime for refreshing your staff on proper protocol for sanitization and safety measures is beneficial. The prevalence of upholding and emphasizing IPAC standards can serve as a practical learning experience for your staff.  

“3. All in-person meetings at the College have been suspended until further notice.

“4. All speaking engagements and presentations by College staff are cancelled until further notice.” 

Many organizations are postponing physical meetings in favour of virtual meetings for the time being to minimize the risk of spreading the virus to more Canadians. 

5. All business travel for staff has been cancelled.

The Prime Minister urges Canadians to come home if they are currently travelling abroad and has also announced the closure of most airports except for four major ones across the country. 

“6. Renewals of existing facility permits and Certificates of Authorization are suspended.” 

RCDSO will not renew facility permits during this time, but instead are extending current permits and extending renewal deadlines. 

“7. The Quality Assurance program is suspended effective March 16, 2020.

In their last point, the College encourages members to continue to earn CE points but urges attendees to do so online or via virtual means to prevent as much physical contact with the public as possible. 

Going along with the theme of attending virtual conferences, ODA has extended their cancellation deadline for all attendees to March 23, 2020, giving dentists and prospective attendees more time to assess the situation before this year’s ASM. 

EDIT: March 18, 2:45 p.m. || ODA has announced that they are cancelling this year’s Annual Spring Meeting due to growing concerns surrounding the virus.

To summarize the points, the College asks dentists to pause regular appointments but keep emergency appointments to attend to their patient’s needs.  

Additional Resources for Dental and Healthcare Providers – by Province/Territory