Alternative Providers of Dental Care (Survey Video)

Alternative providers and dentists: dental survey videoAlternative providers are playing an increasing role in dentistry, with more and more states expanding the roles of alternative or mid-level dental providers.

In our survey, half of dentist respondents said they are concerned about the level of care alternative dental providers can provide. In addition, over half believe that there should be fewer alternative providers than there already are.

On the other hand, 22% of dentists in this survey feel good about mid-level oral health providers and believe that alternative providers increase access to dental care.

Jim Du Molin and Julie Frey discuss what dentists think about dentistry, dental hygienists, and alternative providers:

“There’s no real need for more of these non-dentist providers,” said a Nevada dentist. “If patients and dental insurance valued dental care with proper payment for services, they could use the existing infrastructure of dental availability.”

“We need MORE alternative dental providers to meet the needs of our population. This is the only way we will be able to meet present and future underserved,” said a Connecticut endodontist.

“We’ll need them when there is a public health system to employ them,” said an Illinois Dentist. “Otherwise, dental insurance companies and entrepreneurial dentists will employ them and use them to crush our ability to make a living in private practices.”

Do you have any further thoughts on alternative providers of dentistry and dental care?

Dentist Faces Unexpected Challenges in Hiring Dental Hygienists

How Do You Attract Practitioners to Under-Served Areas?

Watch the Video

Luring hygienists to a practice in rural Maine has proved challenging. Though there’s been a lot of interest in the ads they’ve posted, very few candidates are actually interested in the “downeast lifestyle” that Machias, Maine, offers.

Recruiting Hygienists from Across the StateBuilding Machias Dental

So the Sparagas decided to try another hygienist recruitment strategy – and it’s proven to be surprisingly controversial. For $35, the State Bureau of Records gave them a mailing list of all licensed health care providers in the state of Maine.

Interestingly, roughly a third of the listed RDHs used their current office as their personal mailing address. As a result, the Sparagas received a few irate letters from dentists questioning the moral and ethical appropriateness of soliciting their hygienists. As one doctor wrote,

I feel compelled to write you today with a serious concern we have regarding a mailing each of our hygienists received from you (at our office address no less!) inviting them to join your team at Machias Dental.

Our reaction to this solicitation initially was to laugh at it, though as I thought more about it, my feelings went from amusement to outrage to bewilderment. This is not the way we “do things” in Maine, so where was this coming from? I know your reputation and the reputation of your practice is outstanding, so I’m confused as to why this type of mailing would make its way to our office. I can only assume this was an oversight mistake on your part. I suppose this can happen. But did hygienists at other dental offices in the state also receive this letter? I certainly hope not!

Please either respond to this email or call me to discuss this matter further. I would like to put my mind at ease that the collegial culture Maine dentists have traditionally enjoyed is not on the decline! I look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Doctor Defends His Strategy

Dr. Sparaga’s response was both diplomatic and sympathetic.

Thank you for your concerns about our recent mailing to all the hygienists in the state in our quest for a new hire. I’m sorry if you have taken this personally and it has offended you.

As we all know, it is most difficult to attract qualified personnel to live here, and we’ve resorted to a mass mailing to Maine RDH’s seeking someone looking for a change not only in jobs, but in lifestyle. With a practice in an underserved rural area, we do not have the luxury of putting an ad in the local paper, hoping to attract a provider, someone looking for a change.

The state considers the lists of practitioners, medical and dental, as public information, rather than personal. With the dental manpower shortage in the rural areas, the state bureau of records is most willing to give out the list of all their medical and dental personnel especially if it helps remedy the maldistribution of manpower toward these areas. I would suppose when considering the current access to care issue, it might be considered unethical to restrict such information. For whatever reason, it would appear that many of the RDH’s listed their dental office of employ as their contact address, instead of their personal residence. We could not tell whether these addresses were of their home or office. And of course, I assume that these healthcare professionals will judge for themselves whether our offer of new horizons is offensive to them. I would propose that the offer might mean more to them than a concern for collegiality amongst us dentists.

Thank you for understanding that a mass mailing was the only way we could reach out to Maine’s RDH’s and supply more healthcare manpower to this underserved area.

But in addition to the angry letters, they also received several excellent replies from remarkable candidates. The Sparagas are happily interviewing those RDHs now.

Jim Du Molin’s Two Cents

I am squarely on Dr. Sparaga’s side. There’s nothing wrong with a doctor who is looking to hire hygienist taking a state mailing list and sending out a letter. It is clear to me that there are no ethical issues here. The state mailing list is public information, and I’m not going to fault Dr. Sparaga for using all the resources available to him.

Registered dental hygienists are a scare resource. Given the realities of supply and demand, that means there will be competition for RDHs. If you’re a dentist and you need a hygienists, you will do whatever you can and pay whatever you need to in order to find a hygienist. It’s easier for dentists to raise their prices than function without a hygienist.

In addition, there are lots of reasons why RDHs (or anyone) might switch jobs. No matter how great a job is, sometimes people need a change of scenery. People are going to do what’s in their own self-interest. If you want loyalty, get a dog!

So to the doctor who complained, I would say, “If you’re taking care of your hygienists, then you have nothing to worry about.”

What do you think? Post your comments!

Video Editorial: The Trouble with Hiring Hygienists

Dentist Ruffles Feathers with Mailing List Strategy

Dr. Jim Sparaga is constructing a new dental facility in rural Maine. He’s going to need some dental hygienists for his expanded practice, but finding them has proven more difficult than expected. He came up with a great recruiting strategy – but a few Maine dentists were less than thrilled.

Learn more by watching the video below. Or, if you prefer the written word, you can read Jim’s editorial about the difficulty of recruiting dental hygienists.


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