Book excerpt: Negotiating dental home care Is not uncommon

June 6, 2016
After seeing this patient for several recall appointments and witnessing little improvement, I started to really question his home care.

By E.M. Hagans, RDH, MBA

Editor’s Note: The article below is an excerpt from the book, “Extraordinary Dental Care.” The book is available at Amazon.com.

Some patients will never have perfect oral hygiene. But there may be just one habit or one step that could give them an edge to improve their oral hygiene forever. For instance, I had one patient who worked for a Fortune 500 company, and he marked the beginning of my negotiating skills. He was an executive with the company. His company had a skybox at the new baseball stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. He loved to spend baseball season there, watching the Knights play, making deals for the company, and smoking Cuban cigars. He had a history of gum disease and would always come to the office at four thirty, even though he knew we closed at five. You can’t rush quality care, so I would take a deep breath and still give him the platinum care that his teeth deserved.

After seeing this patient for several recall appointments and witnessing little improvement, I started to really question his home care. He stated that he was using an electric toothbrush, but not one with a two-minute timer. He was brushing twice a day for about thirty seconds to a minute. He was also flossing once a day and using a brand-name toothpaste and mouthrinse. So what was causing his oral hygiene to be rated fair to poor? I asked him whether he could brush at work. He said yes. He had a bathroom in his office. I also asked him whether he could floss the front six teeth twice a day. He said yes to just six seconds a day to care for these anterior teeth. This was the beginning of getting his teeth back on track to outlast him.

At his next three-month recall appointment, his teeth were cleaner, and his hygiene had improved. We both were happy, and he noticed the change in his front teeth. The massive tartar was not as heavy, and the bleeding levels were lower. Because I cared first, he began to care more. Remember, when it comes to flossing, it doesn’t matter when it’s done just as long as they get it in. Some patients will never floss, but if we can start with the lower anterior teeth, we can negotiate the rest of the mouth once we have gained their trust and seen improvement in their dental health.

Patients will notice mediocre hygienist standards of care. Don’t be such a hygienist. Give your patients everything you’ve got, and assure them that your main goal is to make sure their teeth outlast them. Let them know that both your time and their time are valued in the dental chair, and tell them that every appointment counts.

Ethel Hagans, RDH, MBA, is an author, speaker, and dental coach. She is obsessed with raising the level of quality care hygienists provide, in order to woo their patients into patterns of great oral hygiene, so that even their teeth outlast them. Her book, Extraordinary Dental Care, is available at Amazon.com. The author's website is www.ethelhagans.com.

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