How has your PBRN experience benefitted you professionally?
Two things come to mind, and they’re actually interrelated. One, I’ve enhanced the quality of care that I provide to my patients. Two, I’ve become more efficient at honing in on potential problem areas.
What do you mean by more efficient?
I’m really big on time management. We time everything in my office. When I enter the room, how long I stay, when I come out. So an unwieldy study protocol, like an elephant, would have gotten in the way very quickly in my office. But the study protocols were so easy to implement that we actually have incorporated one of the patient exams into the practice. It is quick, thorough, and brings a greater sense of order to the diagnostic process.
What about the improved quality of care?
Let me give you an example. I participated in a PBRN study that showed elderly patients who take three or more medications daily tend to have decreased salivary flow. For me, it was such a monumental finding. I’ve always been cognizant of dry mouth and root caries in my older patents. The reason is I find root caries in the elderly to be one of the most difficult problems to treat in dentistry. Now that I am aware of the results, I have instituted a protocol from the study and more actively try to prevent these caries situations before they become a problem.
If I see a patient taking three medications or more, I ask them, “Do you find that your mouth feels constantly dry?” Some people answer yes and that they’re puzzled by it. When we offer them an explanation, they understand immediately. On the one hand, they are taking life-saving drugs. The medications are an everyday necessity. But we need to take care of their mouths, too, and try to prevent rampant root caries that will reduce their quality of life. I find myself consulting more than ever with the physicians who treat my elderly patients. I want them to be aware of their patient’s oral health. Before joining the PBRN, I would have never picked up the phone.
What would you tell a younger dentist about joining a PBRN?
It’s a good way to establish or refine your office protocols. The experience will help you provide your patients with care that is more comprehensive in an evidence-based manner. I don’t use the term “evidence-based” lightly. These days, it seems like everyone wants to bandy it about, and the term can lose some of its meaning. But when you do the work yourself and realize the value to your patients of a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to care, it’s truly empowering.
Yathi Lingam, D.D.S.