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Think Inside the Box: Why Accessible Instruction Materials Matter

 By: The New Dentist
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Dr. Brian Baliwas, DDS, knows that there’s a time and a place to play by your own rules—and dentistry isn’t it. During a presentation at Seattle Study Club’s 2021 Symposium, Baliwas highlighted the need for dentists to follow product instructions in their practice and train others to do the same. Here’s what he had to say:

To Baliwas, one of the critical elements of success in dentistry is following the instructions for use, or IFUs, that come with new products in order to create the best patient experience possible.

“IFUs contain critical information regarding the proper storage, handling, preparation, and use of specific products,” says Baliwas.  However, “While a lot of science and thought goes into creating this document, no one actually wants to read through this stuff.”

Baliwas says that, according to his research, the average dental office uses 467 different products, all of which come with their unique IFUs—many of which go ignored, a decision that can lead to serious consequences.

“Disregarded instructions or a missed step can lead to a loss of efficiency, a compromise in the longevity of a restoration, patient complications, or can even have safety and hazard-related consequences,” Baliwas explains.

In fact, when Baliwas reached out to a handful of dental companies to find out just how important IFUs were—and how many help calls could be avoided if they were simply read through—the figure he received was nothing short of shocking: up to 90 percent.

While Baliwas underscores the importance of understanding the proper method by which to use dental materials and tools, he notes that it’s understandable that some practitioners may want to skip steps to access only the information they need.

However, Baliwas says that doing so can lead to critical errors that have major repercussions for patients.

“Is this how we should treat our dentistry? Should we learn how to do things through quick trial and error? Should we wait for catastrophe before we start scrutinizing our procedures and reviewing instructions?” he asks. “We can’t afford to make repeated mistakes in our practices and we certainly can’t afford to make catastrophic ones.”

Despite a practitioner’s education or experience, Baliwas notes that the people who created the IFUs simply know better how to safely use their products than the average dentist.

“Unless you have the same testing equipment as the chemists that created them or the same clinical experience as the people that test and review them, I think it’s safe to say that the average clinician is probably better off following the directions.”

So, how should dentists ensure that everyone in their practice is reading—and following—the IFUs that come with the products they use?

“By creating our own instructions referencing both IFUs as well as the knowledge we’ve obtained from CE courses, mentors, and our own clinical experience, we not only solidify our understanding of techniques and materials, but we also construct a framework to standardize treatment, train our teams, and also cross-reference information with other dental colleagues.”

His recommendation for other dentists? Create your own set of instructions that incorporate IFU information for the products you use most, use them to train everyone in your practice, and show them to mentors and teachers to incorporate their input, as well.

As Baliwas explains, “Having a playbook to analyze helps us strengthen our core philosophies, pinpoints weaknesses in our protocols, and forces us to grow, improve, and maximize our successes.”

Dr. Brian Baliwas maintains a private practice in downtown San Francisco, California, near Union Square. His practice philosophy is centered on conservative, highly aesthetic, comprehensive dentistry that utilizes modern technology and techniques. Dr. Baliwas received his D.D.S. degree from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco in 2014, where he graduated with high honors and was elected to join both Omicron Kappa Upsilon and Tau Kappa Omega dental honor societies.

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