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How to increase your SRP to adult prophy rate and calm patient fears

May 10, 2017
Scaling and root planing (SRP) can be a difficult topic to broach with patients, particularly with time constraints. But doing so strategicially can increase your adult prophy to SRP rate, and improve your practice.

Scaling and root planing (SRP) is a procedure that often raises questions in the minds of patients.

Is this going to hurt? Why do I need this? Why didn’t flossing that one time 30 minutes before I came into the dental practice today prevent this? These are just some of the questions you may hear and that your patients might be thinking.

But are these questions keeping patients from accepting the treatment? Are these questions and the insurance scenarios that go along with them keeping dental hygienists from being fully confident in the SRP discussion with their patients?

We wanted to look at the percentage of SRP to adult prophies in the normal practice. To do this, we took data from Sikka Software over the last seven years. The data we are using for this comparison has been collected by Sikka Software from more than 12,500 dental practices from around the United States.

Here are the percentages that we found . . .

Percentage of patients who receive total SRP during adult prophy appointment201017.02%201117.63%201217.88%201317.67%201418.54%201518.71%201617.33%

So how did Sikka come up with these numbers? In order to arrive at these figures, SRP included procedure codes D4341, D4342, D4341.2, D4341.3, D4341.4, D4342.2, D4342.3 and D4342.4. Then the total SRP was divided by the number of adult prophies and multiplied by 100.

So what issues are hygienists facing when it comes to SRP and their patients? Diana Macri, RDH, BSDH, MSEd, AADH, assistant professor at Hostos Community College in New York City, and practicing hygienist for more than 20 years, said it’s about time constraints.

“For me, it’s about scheduling and the limited time I have to talk to my patients about the value of SRP and ease any fears they have about it,” she said. “There are restrictions on time during a hygiene appointment. Assessments, including periodontal risk, come before the prophy and can often take up an entire appointment. There is a lot happening with the patient during a very short amount of time that he or she is in the chair. By the time it’s done, the hygienist is exhausted and tired and doesn’t have time to talk to patient about what he or she needs. The patient is also ready to be done with the appointment and move on to other things.”

So how can you talk to a patient about SRP if you can make the schedule work for you? Macri wrote an article for RDH magazine about motivational interviewing link that you can read by clicking here.

Times are also changing when it comes to SRP and who needs it. In 2015, the American Dental Association released its new guidelines on periodontal disease treatment, advising dental practitioners to perform SRP on patients with chronic periodontitis.

So what’s the bottom line? Make sure you save enough time (and mental capacity) in the appointment to talk about the benefits of SRP for those patients who need it. It’s not easy and it may take a talk with your scheduling coordinator about why some extra minutes could make all of the difference.

Author’s note: Want to learn more about what Sikka Software can do for your practice? Practice Mobilizer is the free app that lets you send HIPAA-compliant video messages, track patient arrival times, provides zip-code-specific fee data and more. Click here.

Editor's note: This article first appeared in RDH eVillage. Click here to subscribe.

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An advocate of today’s dental assistant, Kevin Henry speaks to dental audiences across the nation on topics that empower dental assistants, helping them recognize the leadership role they hold in the practice. He is the cofounder of, a community designed to enlighten, empower, and educate dental assistants.