The NINJA-Empowerment in Digital Dentistry
A paradigm shift for dental assistants
Angela Severance, CDD, RDA
Oftentimes, we read about the profitability that a well-run dental hygiene program can bring to a practice but rarely do we read about the profitability that a dental assistant program can bring—until now. With the adoption of digital imaging and in-office milling units, CAD/CAM dentistry has caused a paradigm shift within the dental assistant role. The digital era has opened up new opportunities and created a new wave of dental assistants—or digital divas—that I like to call NINJAs.
What is a NINJA?
NINJA is an acronym for “No, I’m Not Just any Assistant” and we, with chairside CAD/CAM and digital imaging, can now improve production like never before. At the end of the day when hygiene production numbers are handed out, we will want to see the NINJA production numbers too. How many restorations were scanned, designed, and milled today? How much overhead was saved in dental lab fabrication costs this month? How much increased production was achieved in additional restorative appointments rather than zero production crown seat appointments? Better yet, how much revenue was generated seeing additional restorative patients while the NINJA did the entire CAD/CAM process instead of the doctor?
How do you operate NINJA dentistry style in your practice? The key to low-stress technology integration comes with initial training and then continued advanced education—these two elements are imperative to success. Having the right team members educated and expectations communicated will allow this technology to thrive in your practice. The assistant driving the technology should show intrinsic motivation and passion to continue to learn and improve. Then over time, the doctor and assistant establish a mutual confidence factor that allows them to deliver top-notch quality care together.
Scheduling and Productivity
Now let’s visualize a morning schedule when working with a NINJA. The first patient arrives at 8 am for a same-visit restoration. After the anesthesia is placed, the NINJA scans in the opposing dentition and captures the digital articulation scans. The patient is now numb and the doctor returns to prep the tooth and assist with tissue management, as required. At 8:30 am, the second patient arrives and gets seated with topical placed. The NINJA stays with the first patient to complete the prep and bite scans. Next, the assistant designs the restoration and sends it to the milling unit to be manufactured, all while the doctor has placed anesthesia for the second patient and completed hygiene exams. At 8:45 am, the second patient is numb and ready to begin the restorative procedure. At 9 am, the final restoration is ready for try-in, instead of the patient leaving with a temporary crown. Tag team assistants can keep the second patient’s restorative care going while the NINJA quickly makes any necessary adjustments to the restoration for the first patient, keeping the workflow moving. A restoration can be hand-polished and seated at that time, or it can be characterized, glazed, and put into an oven for 10-20 minutes before being seated in the patient’s mouth. Either way, in 90 minutes or less, a permanent restoration was seated, a second restorative procedure was started, and a zero production seat appointment was avoided. The goals of patient convenience, added production, and professional fulfillment have all been met.
The NINJA Shift
Advancements in technology and materials have allowed us to offer our patients convenience with no compromise to fit, form, or function. Every dental practice is run differently, but NINJA dentistry is an empowerment movement to “CADapult” the dental assistant into the future of digital dentistry. Mandatory team education establishes a new level of confidence that allows the doctor to delegate procedures, creating a paradigm shift in the role of the dental assistant, which continues to be very exciting.
About the Author
Angela Severance, CDD, RDA, promotes digital dentistry for the entire team through lectures and hands-on courses.