The dental hygienist is often on the front line of the dental office—the one who gets to truly know and understand the patients on more than a surface level (you can’t really help bonding with patients as they try to hurriedly answer questions in between being asked to keep their mouths open wide). That being said, doesn’t it just make sense that every dental office would want to make hygiene appointments count for as much as possible?
So, maybe go grab a cup of coffee and a light snack (or a heavy snack—I’m not one to judge your snacking habits), and read these four tips for getting the most out of hygiene appointments.
Schedule the next appointment before your patient is out the door
Getting patients on a regular visit schedule can greatly increase productivity by creating a regular stream of income from that patient and reducing time wasted on attempts to schedule the next appointment. Hygienists can do this by taking the few extra seconds to mention to patients they can schedule their next appointment at the end of their current one. And if they’re resistant to scheduling that far in advance, simply telling them they can cancel if they need to can go a long way in alleviating anxiety about making such a far-out commitment.
Keep track of the time
Time is of the essence during a hygiene appointment and knowing how long each procedure takes during the appointment can go a long way in making sure you don’t waste time. Try timing yourself working for a couple weeks to get an idea of how long each task takes (scaling, prophy, radiography, etc.) and then check to make sure you’re being consistent. If there are some places you believe you can cut out a few minutes without negatively affecting the appointment by all means do so. Otherwise, simply use the knowledge of how long each task takes on average to build and maintain a schedule that works for you. You know how you work best and can optimize your time accordingly.
Realize hygiene is NOT just cleaning—and charge accordingly
Too often hygiene appointments are boiled down to routine cleaning. Yet, that fails to take into account the many patients who require further periodontal care. According to an article from Dental Economics, 25 to 40 percent of hygiene revenue should be from periodontal procedures, but in most practices it’s only 10 percent. This means that the practice is losing out on potential revenue from further hygiene care because the hygiene appointment mostly emphasizes scaling and prophylaxis. By making an effort to treat patients’ periodontal issues you will get more out of hygiene appointments and have healthier patients.
Educate your patients
Perhaps the most neglected tactic for maximizing hygiene productivity is through the continued education of patients. Depending on where you practice, hygienists can prescribe patients some further treatment, and as patients’ closest contact in the dental office they are in the best position to educate patients on what other dental treatments they may need for optimal oral health. By offering trusted advice, hygienists can help patients become open to further care and free up some of the doctor’s time so he can see more patients, which is mutually beneficial for both practice and patient.
Hygienomics: The art and science of dental hygiene and practice management