Your Hygiene Department: An Income Center

The hygiene department is more important than ever before. Through professional training and development, your team will be able to approach change with renewed energy and enthusiasm so that your hygiene department reaches its full potential.

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The hygiene department is more important than ever before. Through professional training and development, your team will be able to approach change with renewed energy and enthusiasm so that your hygiene department reaches its full potential.

Offering "the best" preventive care options to clients through regular hygiene appointments and periodontal therapy is contingent on your hygiene department's ability to communicate consistent information. This article is designed to assist you in refocusing and re-energizing one of the major areas of your practice — the hygiene department — to reach its full potential.

Experience reveals that clients who have been involved in co-diagnosis and subsequent treatment planning are more inclined to value their treatment. These patients are usually the ones who accept a higher standard of comprehensive dental opportunities and the choices available to them, such as implants, veneers, bonding, etc.

The role of the dental hygienist is changing. Today's hygienists focus on educating clients that they do more than "just clean teeth." A vital part of their relationship building with clients is through education and the use of technology such as the intraoral camera. Hygiene departments have the potential to be significant income centers and to generate income back into the doctor's chair. More esthetic dentistry could be reviewed with clients in the hygiene room, but this opportunity is often neglected due to time restrictions and sometimes a lack of interest on the hygienist's part. A key factor in case acceptance is understanding the personal motivators behind your clients' decision-making process. Are we listening to what they are trying to tell us?

I've included a questionnaire with this article that hopefully will give you a lot to think about regarding your hygiene department.

Dentists expect their hygiene team to educate patients not only about periodontal concerns, preventive measures, and self-care, uncover esthetic needs, and review treatment plan options, but also to use the intraoral camera or digital camera to enhance case acceptance. Hygienists must complete all detailed documentation, do charting, periodontal probing, X-rays, scale/prophy, etc., and often schedule their own recare appointments at chairside after entering treatment ... and the list goes on.

How do hygienists fit everything into the hygiene appointment time, especially when the dentist's treatment plan needs to be reviewed? If treatment has already been recommended, patients now have questions such as:

  • Is it covered by insurance?
  • How long will it take?
  • What choices do I have?

This is where teamwork comes in. The hygienist needs to be able to count on the support of the business assistant, who has the time and expertise to answer all of the patient's questions (especially those related to dental benefits). We do not need excuses at this point; our first priority is our patient. Sometimes we hear comments such as: "I do not have time." "It's not my job." "Why should I help the hygienist? She gets paid more than me."

We must realize that the hygiene team is trained to talk clinically. Hygienists often do not have the experience or the time to discuss finances, fees, payment options, or benefits. They have to stay on schedule and often do not have the communication time required.

The morning meeting is the best time to discuss as a team which patients have treatment that may need to be explained. Be prepared as a team, and review charts ahead of time to make morning meetings as productive as possible. Look for any outstanding treatment in the areas of periodontal and restorative treatment, new patients, emergency patients, patients who require a complete periodontal probing, and the number of recare examinations required in the hygiene schedule. This 10-minute prep can go a long way to reduce the stress of a busy schedule. It also enables the business team to support the clinical team more effectively.

The reality is that most patients have questions that need to be answered before they leave the office. First and foremost, patients need to leave the office well-informed and satisfied before they will accept the proposed treatment. Case acceptance is primarily based on two factors: ownership of the disease or problem, and our ability to effectively communicate this to our patients.

The use of co-discovery through digital imaging enables patients to take ownership of their oral health. Confusion in our patients' minds often stems from the fact that they receive mixed messages from team members unintentionally. This is where digital imaging and the ability for all team members to have access to patient images greatly enhances case acceptance, and also provides consistency in presentation between the clinical and business areas of the practice. Case acceptance is most definitely a team effort!

The hygiene department is more important than ever before. Meet with your team to discuss the questionnaire. Through professional training and development, your team will be able to systematically approach change with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

Click here to download A Questionnaire About Your Hygiene Department.

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Anita Jupp
Ms. Jupp, a practice-management coach and speaker, has opened the Advanced Dental Education Institute in Canada, with training workshops for the entire team. She is currently an instructor of the Team II Program at the Las Vegas Institute. Contact her at anita@anitajupp.com, or call (888) 239-9908 or (905) 336-3662.

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