Th 152392

A Patient-Care Center: IN-dispensable

June 1, 2004
Hygiene is prevention-driven. We do preventive sealants, preventive pre-operative mouthrinses, and educate on preventing periodontal breakdown.
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Hygiene is prevention-driven. We do preventive sealants, preventive pre-operative mouthrinses, and educate on preventing periodontal breakdown. Following the same preventive manner, your hygienist would welcome the opportunity to "prevent" the patient from buying misguided home-care products. Hygienists deal directly at recare appointments with the outcome of inappropriate retail choices. When an inappropriate toothbrush design is purchased, tissue troubles may well arise. Consequently, tooth sensitivity could result from overzealous use of the destructive brush (laden with abrasive). Annoying tissue sloughing can occur with harsh pastes that patients mistakenly purchase without understanding their individual needs. And consider the noncompliance issues of patients failing to fill prescriptions once they leave your office. Unfilled scripts may alter oral conditions and place patients at risk for backsliding in their self-care when they neglect to follow home-care recommendations as directed.

A patient-care center is a designated area where professionally suggested products are made available for patients to purchase (or perhaps sample). The products offered may vary. In our office, we handle a variety of dependable products to suit the diverse needs of our patients. Perhaps your office focuses on a specific line of products or wishes to handle several trusted brands. The choice is yours; the benefit is the patient's. The display can be as uncomplicated as claiming office counter space or designating a hygiene nook. Or you may opt to construct a more elaborate wall display. Our patient-care center, a wall-slat display, is centrally located for easy access by the dental team and is handy for patients to peruse before and after their dental visits.

The dilemma for our patients is the bombardment of enticing advertising, and the considerable confusion they experience once they venture into the mega-store product aisle. Chances are, glitzy smile commercials raving about a particular product have been running regularly during your patients' must-see reality TV show, and they want to know if the product is right for them.

Going a bit farther, your office may even consider carrying the brand (or a sample) that patients are longing to try. Dental consumers mull over the question: Will this or that product work for me? Respond to your patients' needs by implementing a professional patient-care center into your practice. Addressing patients' concerns and recommending your choice of products instills trust and provides reassurance that they are selecting what actually works and is recommended by their dental office.

Build it and they will buy

Inexpensive materials can be combined to create a dramatic patient center. Our center is constructed of bead board with inner slat grooves; it measures four by four. This panel was purchased at a chain hardware store and affixed to an existing wall. The plastic Lucite shelving and chrome hangers from a local office supply store offer a uniform way to present cellophane-wrapped goods or prepunched card-backed products. When location plays a factor in finding construction materials, try searching on the Internet. Sites such as or are online options that handle a number of these shelf-type styles.

A patient-care center is a convenience for patients who need to purchase home-use products on a regular basis. Special snap-design interdental brushes, unique orthodontic goods, oral irrigators, or specific sensitivity pastes can be mainstays in your display. Power brush heads, Biotene mouthrinse and xerostomia items, denture care kits, Crest Whitestrips®, and unique dental wares can be easily purchased from your office. Routinely used home-care products recommended by your hygienist will be purchased in-office and need to be refilled periodically. Furthermore, over-the-counter products can be reasonably purchased and dispensed as well. Without a doubt, revenues from your center will give a boost to production goals. After all, patients must purchase home-care products, so why not offer this value service in your office?

Particular brands of specialty products can be easily displayed, trial samples can be available for patients to pick up, or newly launched products to the dental marketplace can be showcased in your patient center. Larger-size tubes of toothpaste, full-size xerostomia or malodor rinses, and antiseptic and fluoride mouthrinses all become easily available to your patients. Once products are recommended by the dental professional, supplies such as whitening pastes, gels, strips, and paint-ons can be among the professionally dispensed products in your patient-care center.

Service is enhanced when products are available the day of the dental visit. When patients require professional home fluoride therapy, they benefit from your professional, chairside instruction about the needed product. When you have just discussed the benefits of xylitol with your patient, selling professional products available containing that ingredient reinforces your preventive message. Go a step further and offer samples of xylitol gum to savor.

Dispensing products from the office simply helps the patient. As a hygienist, I find that when I demonstrate a specific dental device chairside for interdental use — such as a Go Between® by Sunstar Butler — patients benefit from the hands-on education that accompanies the product.

Moreover, demonstrating the cleaner's effectiveness chairside allows patients to see the slender antimicrobial bristles at work in the mouth. Patients can experience the clean embrasure spaces and firming tissues as they become stimulated by the use of the product. Patients will undoubtedly comment, "I haven't seen anything quite like it," and then ask, "Where can I get these?" The hygienist can explain that the preventive tool is conveniently available in the patient-care center.

A well-located patient-care center allows the entire office team access to the products. Choose to carry the most trusted brands for your practice — the ones with results that work. Patients bombard your hygienist routinely with inquiries about home-care products. Save your patients a confusing trip down a long aisle of over-the-counter choices. More accurately, give patients your brand of choice — straight from the shelf.

Karen Kaiser, RDH
As a practicing clinical hygienist, Ms. Kaiser recommends professionally dispensed products daily. She graduated from St. Louis, Mo., Forest Park hygiene program in 1994 and practices in Illinois at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry. Ms. Kaiser authors articles, sits on dental hygiene panels, presents, and can be reached at At Your Fingertips: [email protected].