I am leaving my employer of 5 years to take a new position. I have been using my own instruments that I purchased. The dentist I currently work for had them re-tipped. Are the instruments still mine or do they now belong to my employer?
Kudos to you for purchasing your own instruments! As a continuing education provider and in-office consultant on periodontal instrumentation, I am appalled by the reluctance of dentists to purchase quality instruments for their hygiene teams in order to efficiently achieve the endpoint of instrumentation.The instruments that participants show up with for my courses over the years are what I refer to as, “scalettes” because they have been improperly sharpened and used way beyond their limits! In my opinion, you purchased those instruments so they belong to you. However, since they have been re-tipped, the evidence suggests that re-tipping may be unsafe for two reasons. First, when re-tipping the instrument, the balance of the instrument may be changed so the pressure applied on the lower third of the curet blade during instrumentation may be wastefully distributed somewhere else within the shank or lower shank unless the blade is perfectly positioned per the original manufacturer. Second, some studies have reflected concern for complete sterilization if there is a microscopic “break” in the instrument. So, I would say good riddance to the instruments and hope the next dental hygienist to be employed in that office is as smart, comprehensive, and dedicated as you in his or her efforts to efficiently and thoroughly complete debridement procedures, and recognize inequality in the available instruments.
I, too, buy my own instruments because I don’t want to go through the process of having to work with lesser quality instruments due to the dentist’s financial constraints. When I worked with my husband’s practice, this was not an issue but now that I am working part-ttme in a local periodontist’s office, this has been my best solution. That being said, under these circumstances, I would consider the instruments to still be my own but would inquire to the current employer whom he/she is about to leave as to the cost of the re-tipping. I would then work out with that employer as to how long the instruments have been used while re-tipped and see if the two of us could come up with a value for re-payment if the dentist felt that was necessary. I believe that most would not want reimbursement as the dental hygienist used her instruments in that practice until they needed to be re-tipped and there is value lost there as well for her and a given value to the practice that the dentist did not initially incur. The most important consideration is the open communication with the dentist about this issue so that it seems fair for everyone. I would start the conversation by saying “I have a dilemma and I need your input and your help. I brought my own instruments into this practice and utilized them until they needed to be re-tipped. I would like to take my instruments with me but I want to be certain that this is okay with you since you paid for the re-tipping. I have used the re-tipped instruments for X amount of time and I would like to know if you want to have me compensate you for part of the re-tipping?” The dental hygienist is offering to be fair by opening up this dialogue and showing that he/she is concerned about being a team player despite the fact that he/she is leaving. I believe that most dentists would value that supportive behavior and tell the dental hygienist that he or she is welcome to take the instruments with him or her.