Hygentist and Patient

One of the most effective ways to grow your dental practice is to enhance the role of the hygienist.

Growing Your Practice: The Role of the Hygienist

  • 2/14/2013

Growing Your Practice: The Role of the Hygienist

by Robert Glantz

One of the most effective ways to grow your dental practice is to enhance the role of the hygienist. Over the years, I’ve observed that my most successful dental clients have embraced the concept that the hygienist is a true partner in the care of the patient, abandoning the idea that the sole purpose of the hygiene appointment is to provide a twice-yearly prophylaxis.

Ponder this — the hygienist spends more time with the patient during the dental visit than anyone else. This 40 – 60-minute window presents a tremendous opportunity for patient education and case presentation. A few minutes set aside during the appointment can dramatically increase doctor production through the acceptance of recommended care.

One step in this process involves enhancing the relationship between the patient and the hygienist. At each appointment, members of the hygiene team should introduce themselves to their patients. Appointments should be scheduled so that patients are paired with the same hygienists over time. This will help patients recognize that their dental hygiene visits are more than teeth cleanings.

Another step is the evolution of your hygiene team concerning care coordination. Encourage team members to review patient charts before each visit, so that they can talk to the patients about incomplete treatment plans. Patients may be more comfortable discussing financial constraints with the hygienist than with the doctor.

A hygienist who truly believes that their practice provides appropriate, quality care is in a unique position to increase treatment acceptance. During the hygienist appointment, hygienists can remind patients about treatment recommendations whose delay could be costly in the future. The simplest example is a tooth with a large filling that should be crowned. Delay could lead to a fractured tooth, requiring a more costly treatment.

Of course, this all hinges on patients keeping their hygiene appointments. To make sure the patient actually comes through the door, try these steps:

  1. Have your front desk team schedule the recall appointment before the patient leaves. Encourage team members to remind patients that an appointment made early will enable them to get the time they want.
  2. Confirm appointments 48 hours in advance. Be aware of the patient’s preferred mode of contact — cell phone, email, work phone, or home number. Consider having the hygienist make the call to strengthen the personal relationship.
  3. Track down unscheduled patients. Don’t wait until they are overdue. Again, a personal call from the hygienist could help.

One final thought. Don’t treat your hygiene appointments as loss leaders. While practices update the fees for restorative services periodically, I have seen many cases where recall fees are ignored. Think about the number of hygiene visits performed each week. A small increase in the fee for each one would quickly add up.

Robert Glantz, Health Care Engagement Director
robert.glantz@cliftonlarsonallen.com or 267-419-1134