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An interview with DEBRA SEIDEL BITTKE, RDH, BS

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* Please describe your career till date:

After high school I worked as a dental assistant and then graduated from University of Southern California in Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree in Dental Hygiene.

After graduation at USC I started working in clinical hygiene as well as teaching the dental hygiene students (senior students) clinical skills at USC and prepared them topass their state boards.

In 2000 started my business Dental Practice Solutions and also began teaching the dental students (senior dental students) "Practice Management" Course.

The school later went to PBL (Problem based learning) and no longer included this practice management course in the curriculum.

After we moved to Oregon a few years, in 2007, I was asked to help write the accreditation for a new hygiene school in Portland Oregon.

I am currently full-time with my business Dental Practice Solutions.Currently our focus is on the hygiene department and most recently launched Dental Hygiene Solutions which includes a (hybrid) online 6 month hygiene empowerment curriculum.This course encourages leadership in the hygiene team where they are empowered to lead the practice to provide premium services and helpenroll patients into treatment plans. I facilitate the course via SKYPE while the team views bi-monthly video modules with transcripts and implementation guides to put what they learn into action.

 *Please describe your transition from a hygienist to a consultant:

      I have worked really hard to transition from a clinician and academia into consulting. It has been a lot of learning and especially learning about marketing my business.

      Being a consultant and business ownermore work than being a clinical dental hygienist. It is very rewarding to see the hygienists enjoy their careers more because they don’t have to work as hard when proper systems are in place. I get a big KICK---- A lot of energy --seeing my clients grow their business.Their dental practice grows quickly when we begin to work on their hygiene department which is very exciting.

   *How should a dentist increase awareness regarding oral hygiene in his practice?

All dental professionals need to talk oral health and its relationship to total health. This needs to always be on the website, in brochures patients can take home, it should be on posters, etc. throughout the office. Oral health and how important it is to living a longer and healthier life needs to be a regular discussion –a conversation with our patients.

  *Please describe how to set up an effective recall system:

      First of all each new patient needs to hear the importance of their oral health and regular preventive care. We need to use words such as "Preventive Care" "Hygiene Appointment", etc., vs. "Cleaning" Or “Deep Cleaning”.

     At the end of each hygiene appointment a particular conversation takes place which tells the patient when they need to return and why they need to return. It’s the hygienist’s role to explain the value and benefits for returning.

    Understanding this concept is how you will keep a large majority of your patients returning. It is never a question to the patient asking "When do you want to return???" I hear this all the time and in this situation patients will tell you, "Let me think about it and I'll call you back."

    Give your patients reason, an urgency to return routinely and never allow patients to leave with at least telling them "Mrs. Patient, I am going to call you on _______ day to be sure we get that appointment scheduled."

    This is about 98% of your patients that need to leave with a next appointment. Strive for 98%.

    Each month run a report of patients who do need a hygiene appointment. From the 1st time a patient comes to your office you should know how they want to be contacted and if they want a text message then 1st send patients a text message to re-connect with them to get them back for their necessary hygiene preventive  care appointment, exam with doctor and if necessary complete unscheduled treatment with doctor.

 *Do you feel that patient education by a dentist could lead to patient resistance & suspicion?

Anything is possible but how doctor speaks to their patient makes all the difference. Patients don't care how much you know but they care how much you appear and show that you care about them! This is what makes all the difference.

 *What are qualities of a good dental receptionist?

 Some qualities of a good dental receptionist are someone who speaks clearly and is upbeat, and very pleasant on the phone when they answer. This person needs to say the name of the office and their name then ask, "How may I help you?" OR "How can I make you smile today?" That always gets a big smile on the other end of the phone!

  After the receptionist answers saying this they need to listen and be able to answer the patient’s questions. The receptionist is the 1st voice (first point of contact, most times) when a new patient calls the office so they need to sound professional, friendly and like they really care about the person on the phone. They should be able to tell each patient how great the doctor is!

 *What are the qualities of a good dental hygienist?         

  Qualities of a good dental hygienist are: friendly, patient-centred, a person who shows they care about people and who is able to communicate with patients so they are a "Partner" with the patient. They are like an advocate and they are working with the patient to discover and show the patient what is going on in their mouth-good and bad.

 *Do you feel women dentists are better communicators?

      Some are but I have worked with some who are not.

      We are all unique in our own way.

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An interview with DEBRA SEIDEL BITTKE, RDH, BS
  1. Please describe what kind of dental practice management software required for an effective hygiene department

I love Dentrix but Open Dental can work in various countries globally, so dentists outside the US should look at Open Dental in fact they are located here in Oregon!


  1. How should the front office be trained so that they are able to disseminate information regarding oral hygiene effectively to patients?

      There are courses that teach communication and I teach DISC personality types which helps to effectively communicate with the 4 various personality types. (Not to promote myself but the DISC Profile helps understand various types of people and how they will accept communication messages, how you can get them to accept your care, etc.)


  1. Your favourite dentist:

      My favourite is typically the one dentist I am currently working with and in fact I went "Undercover" to a corporate dental office here in Oregon and the dentist I had was fantastic! He did not know I was a dental professional but provided the very highest level of care!


      I actually love my clients who are dentists. I think they are wonderful people and the dentists I worked for while a clinical hygienist are also the most amazing clinicians!


  1. Interesting anecdotes from your career has a hygienist:

      Not many hygienists can say they actually started a hygiene school from the ground up! I got to pick out all the equipment, hire the faculty, the office admin team and develop curriculum besides writing the accreditation papers for ADA approval.


  1. How do you manage patients with implants?

      Some of my clients (dentists) are placing ceramic implants so they require special instruments for the hygienists to use. I suggest special ultrasonics and thatpatients return to see the hygienist every 3 months when there are implants present. Good home care is a must and no tobacco use!


  1. Please describe the current medico legal scene in USA as pertaining to dentistry & dental hygienists:

      We have to be licensed by each region in the US or at least the state where a hygienist works. We must be CPR certified every 2 yrs. Some states require that you take blood pressure.


  1. How many dental hygienists have been sued by patients?

      None that I know of It’s the dentist they will sue: The dentist is the owner and the one with the money.​


  1. What precautions should a dentist & a dental hygienist take to prevent himself from being sued? 

Follow the standard of care and your legal and ethical responsibilities for your state, country, province, etc. Carry Malpractice Insurance "Just in case."​


  1. You prefer hand scaling or scaling by an ultrasonic scalar:

      Personally, I don't get a lot of calculus so I prefer hand scaling but I think most patients can benefit from a combination of both and especially perio patients benefit from both!


  1. Do you feel that an illuminated ultrasonic scalar has any advantages?

      If the clinician does wear a light on their head now, the illuminated ultrasonic is amazing!


  1. You favourite client in your consulting business:

      The ones I am currently working with. Seriously?! I really enjoy working with the dentists who have been in practice less than 5 yrs. They are so eager to learn. Dentists with an attitude of "I don't need help!" are not able to grow. Leaders, people who will grow,are the ones who are open to always learning.


      Dentistry changes quickly and an open mind to constant and never ending learning is what it takes to be successful throughout your career and as a business owner it is imperative.


  1. From which regions do you have clients from?

      I have the ability to work with dentists throughout the world: India, Brazil, Cyprus, Philippines, Australia and the US Virgin Islands.And of course the US.


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An interview with DEBRA SEIDEL BITTKE, RDH, BS
  1. Role of a clinic website in setting up a recall system:

      Allow patients to request an appointment via your website.


  1. Where have you lectured till now?

      All over the USA-- about all 50 states even Hawaii as of August 2015! All over Canada except Toronto


  1. Do you are rotary stones to sharpen scalers? 

​      Not usually​


  1. After how many patients you sharpen your scalers?

​Most hygienist will work with freshly sharpened instruments.​


  1. Do you feel that patients who have undergone dental bleaching are less prone to plaque accumulation? 

​      No​


  1. How do you motivate patients for dental bleaching? 

​The way that works best to motivate patients to bleach their teeth is to ask them at the beginning of their hygiene appointment, "If there is one thing we can change about your smile, what would that be?" Most patients will answer "I want whiter teeth." Now, you have patient who "may" need old composites replaced return for new composites and they may accept a treatment plan for veneers. This one question will open the door to more high-end treatment.


  1. What should be the constituents of a welcome kit for a patient?

​In today's world there is not a need to mail a welcome kit but when a new patient registers online they should be provided with your office mission statement, a letter from doctor - or the dentist they will be seeing.


Patients should receive information about the appointment they scheduled, a confirmation of the date and time of appointment, include a list of your office services, a map to get to your office, medical history, and cancellation policy, HIPAA form (any other office policies should and can be signed electronically once they arrive at your office). When possible have a way to electronically send all signed documents to your office electronically.​


  1. Do you feel that a welcome kit should be sent by post to the patient or should be given to the patient in the clinic? 

​Prefer the office electronically send new patients documents to the patient. Its best if the patient can be sent a link to the office website and they complete necessary information before they arrive to the office. This is automatically sent to your office and it can merge with the patients chart.


  1. Do you recommend discount coupons to grow the practice?

​Yes, Discount coupons can work. If you do decide to use coupons I suggest you offer Free Whitening to all New Patients. We have a system that is turn-key for dental practices to do this! The bleach syringes can be customized with your office information. Why promote another company’s name when your patients can take home a bleach syringe with your office name and information? Check it out how you can easily implement this system to get more new patients:

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An interview with DEBRA SEIDEL BITTKE, RDH, BS



  1. Your strengths: Creating programs and curriculum for the hygiene department. Prevention for patients and how to get patients to say “YES” to your care.


  1. Your weaknesses: Marketing my business and selling myself.


  1. An ideal Sunday: Sundays are church and rest


  1. Your favourite sports: Currently I do a lot of exercise which includes lifting weights. I love tennis.


  1. Yours favourite dish: Sushi


  1. An ideal working day: My ideal work day is having breakfast and coffee with my husband in the mornings. He oversees the financial aspects of Dental Practice Solutions and works with some of the dentists on their financials. We have a morning team meeting to discuss what we need to accomplish for the day and upcoming tasks, events. We suggest our clients have a morning team meeting so we do the same for our business.

      I have about two or more phone meetings each day with dentists.


  1. Your hobbies: Fitness, reading various books, travels, quilting,


  1. Your favourite TV shows: Many of the reality shows. I can just get lost in these. No thinking is required.


  1. Interesting experiences and anecdotes from your practice:

      Lived in Spain at age 18 for a summer. My mother died of endocarditis. Last time she had hygiene appointment with me I found an abscess on lower left molar. She had the tooth extracted, a bridge placed and two months later died of endocarditis. This has made me passionate about spreading the word that Oral Health Contributes to our Overall Health!


  1. The book you are currently reading:  I am reading many books. Once is called “Crucial Conversations.” Another one is The Big Leap.


  1. Your favourite procedure: Scaling and Root Planning. I am a hygienist so go figure!!  J


  1. A few time management tips: Begin with the end in mind.


 For example meet with your team each morning. This is NOT to discuss patients and flip thru charts but to discover what you don’t know.


Each team member has already audited their charts before the morning to discover things like:

Does the patient have outstanding treatment that needs to be scheduled?

Does the patient have a family member that needs to see the hygienist?

Even down to “Does the patient have a birthday this week?”

Even the personal things count!


  1. Your message to young dentist and students?

      “Status-quo” is not a word. Nix that word and replace it with “Mastery.”


I think it is sad that dentists spend a lot of money and time in dental school and then building a practice (their business); then many of these dentists, I see them basically run their practice into the ground 20, 30, or 40 years later.Now their dental business is not worth any money. Some just give their business away or sell for very little money when this could be a big part of your income for retirement.


Think of this as an investment and you can consistently build your dental practice to be sustainable and something you will sell and add to part of the money for your retirement.Be open to having a mentor—a dental expert to keep you constantly, always moving forward to be your very best you can be.


  1. Your husband’s contribution in your career:

      My husband is my biggest supporter. He is the one who told me I could build an empire. He saw me making big bucks for my dental hygiene society as the president and told me I had the ability to make money for myself by sharing my knowledge. I used to make a lot of money annually for the dental hygienists in my community and never would have thought that I could do this and make money for my own business IF I had a business. The rest is history.


  1. How much time and money do you spend on CE:I spend maybe $5,000 annually as I travel to a lot of dental meetings. I spent thousands of hours educating myself and maybe 50 hours annually attending continuing education.


  1. Are you looking backward or forward?

      Always looking forward


  1. Your favourite vacation spot: Somewhere warm with a beach. Most recently was Hawaii but give me sun, warm temperatures, a beach, and I am happy!


  1. You are passionate about: Prevention of oral disease, eating healthy and exercise.


  1. Your favourite book: The Bible


  1. Your favourite music: Soft rock and Top 40


  1. Philosophy of life: I want to make life easy and enjoyable for others.


  1. Your comments on

      It feels easy to search and manoeuvre around. What you are doing is amazing! You are creating a space for colleagues to learn from the best experts.


I want to compliment Dr. Veerendra Darakh for all of his efforts and hard work. This site is the very best place and resource for Asian dentists to gather information to help support their dental career.


www.dentistrytoday.infois a great support for women and student dentists. I also see this as a place to learn about dental products, technology and education so it allows a strong force for dental corporations to be seen globally.


If a company is looking to increase their revenue by promoting their products, this is a great place for them to be.

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