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Discrimination Based on Age in Dentistry

Discrimination Based on Age in Dentistry

Published By HealthcareLink

Confronting age prejudice in dentistry is sometimes a question of being comfortable with the younger generations and all of the newest methods and technologies.

A number of recent legal cases in the United States addressing age discrimination in dentistry have thrown light on how senior employees may be handled in the contemporary dental workplace.

The proprietor of a Pennsylvania dental office dismissed eight of nine dental hygienists over the age of 40, replacing them with 13 new hygienists, all under the age of 40.

A 72-year-old dentist in Minnesota was given a good performance evaluation one day, only to be dismissed a few days later because the owner said she was "too old to learn new things" and was replaced with a dentist 30 years younger.

In a New Haven instance, a 73-year-old dental hygienist was tormented over her age by the boss until she was fired.

The cases were brought to court on the basis of age discrimination, and the majority of the verdicts were in favour of the fired employees.

However, it seems that ageism has not surfaced as a serious concern among Australia's over 20,000 dental certified practitioners. "I believe there's significantly less ageism in dentistry than there is in many other professions," says ADA NSW advisory services manager Dr. Sarah Raphael, "and there is a respect for the elderly people of dentistry."

However, like with any profession, there is a danger that older practitioners may grow out of touch and be reluctant to change. Comments like, 'We've always done things this way and aren't changing now,' are dead giveaways that a change of mindset is in need since such an approach will not cut it with the younger generations.

That is something Bethan Flood, Prime Practice's human resources general manager, acknowledges she has dealt with in 'age conflict' situations.

Flood said that he had seen examples when a new, younger dentist takes over practice and tries to implement new methods, and there is pushback from certain older support personnel who are unwilling to alter the way they've worked for years.

He added that no matter how solid your fundamental talents are, this is a sure way to make oneself seem outdated. To stay current, one must be open to new ways of doing things, new processes, and, most importantly, new technologies. Having frequent dialogues about professional updates, learning from coworkers, and committing to coaching will help professionals remain ahead.

In this day and age of rapidly expanding technology, one common criticism from younger employees is that senior individuals lack the same degree of technical abilities and intelligence as younger generations.

Of course, this is true since younger dentists have grown up with technology that older practitioners have had to learn and adjust to. One option to overcome this age difference is for senior dentists to commit to new technology training as part of their continued professional development commitments on their Dental Board registration.

Dr. Raphael adds that there's a whole range of innovations to stay up with. Perhaps one should look into 3D printing restorative alternatives, and another technology that has taken off is imaging.

It's also critical to remain on top of regulatory norms and regulations, particularly when it comes to infection control. Committing to certification will go a long way toward ensuring that everything is up to date. 

Mentoring is one of the most effective methods to combat any element of ageism in a profession since the mentor may learn as much as the mentee in a regular interchange of tactics and thoughts. Ameena Basile of Dental Management Expertise thinks that every dental office that has the ability to accommodate one should have a structured mentorship program in place.

She explained that mentoring is one of the most effective methods to encourage diverse age demographics within a team to work together, rather than against one other.

Mentoring may then evolve into a trading program in which the older dentist guides the younger dentists through techniques that were likely never covered in dentistry school, as well as sharing what they have learned through experience. In exchange, the younger dentist can contribute fresh ideas and thoughts.

As a consequence of such a procedure, both dentists learn something new and may become better dentists as a result.

According to Bethan Flood, this exchange of ideas should ideally extend to the breadth of resources accessible online.

She added that what she's seen is younger dentists know so much about online resources, and it’s often an area older dentists are not as aware of, but all of it has the potential to make their job much easier. It’s a matter of putting aside the mindset of being a more knowledgeable older person and adopting a learning approach to the many available online resources.

A senior dentist who invests in new learnings to stay relevant for the remainder of their career is just as crucial in attracting the next generation of patients.

Dr. Raphael said that there's a generational shift in what people desire from their healthcare. So, when the children and even grandchildren of existing patients start coming through, the dentist needs to think about responding to them in a way that suits those groups and what they are looking for.

Consider how much Google researching patients are doing these days on treatments. The more a dentist knows about those latest trends will help them stay relevant and allow them to guide their patients towards good treatment choices.


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