The 3 Roles Of Hygiene

Fact: The good that you can do for your patients and for your production simply by delivering better hygiene could be worth a small fortune to them (and you).

Let me explain…

As a doctor, you know that health is more valuable than money. Nothing can increase your ability to enjoy life more than protecting your health.

As a dentist, you know that it’s hard to enjoy life when you’re suffering from gum disease or embarrassed by your smile. This is why you do what you do. And, it’s why hygienists do what they do.

The way to protect more teeth (and the health of more patients) starts with the hygiene visit.

How Better Hygiene Can Naturally Increase Production

Hygiene is changing rapidly. Hygienists used to be defined as the ones who kept teeth clean so they could be restored.

But now, we have the opportunity to bring so much more to the table.

Keep in mind: increasing production for its own sake is never the primary goal. Production is the result of doing the right thing for the patient. When we deliver world-class service, production naturally increases to everyone’s benefit.

With that in mind, there are 3 roles that a hygienist must fill for a growth-minded practice: Preventive Therapist, Periodontal Therapist, and Patient Treatment Advocate.

1. Preventive Therapist: Here, the hygienist is the source of information for the full menu of preventative services regardless of age and insurance. Hygienists are providing a high level of patient care, one that patients want and need.

2. Periodontal Therapist: More than saving teeth, this is about saving lives. Patients are at greater risk of other medical disorders if we don’t address periodontal health, starting in the hygiene chair.

3. Patient Treatment Advocate: This role is responsible for moving restorative dentistry onto the doctor’s side. When we maximize this role, we see case acceptance skyrocket.

Today, we’re going to examine the first role in detail: Preventative Therapist.

Our job here should be to advocate for the dental health of our patients. In doing so, we also provide the dental practice with maximum potential for revenue.

High production naturally follows a high level of service, but as a business owner, it’s important to remember that what gets measured and managed will improve.

So, here are 3 key metrics to track:

Metric #1: Adult Fluoride Acceptance Rate

Most practices have a fluoride acceptance rate under 10%. You should have a minimum of 80%. Most of the practices we work with see 90%-95% acceptance of adult fluoride treatments.

Metric #2: Sealant Acceptance Rate

Regardless of age or insurance, if the tooth would benefit from a sealant, it should be presented to the patient. How often are we placing sealants? A goal for many of our members is a very doable 4 sealants per day.

Metric #3: Bonded De-Sensitizing Acceptance Rate

If more than 85% of all adults complain of sensitive teeth, hygienists should be providing a bonded agent that both seals and protects the vulnerable Class V area where the recession has occurred.

What’s the best way to maximize acceptance of these procedures?

We should engage with each patient and walk them through their personal situation.

Many are frustrated at the level of decay they experience, or at the frequency of cavities they have, even though they are working hard to brush and floss. The more we can involve them in the conversation and help them truly understand the risks and benefits, the higher the acceptance rate we’ll have when presenting solutions.

It all starts with how we set up the visit.

At every opportunity, we want to engage our patients in high-level conversations.

Let’s take probing, for example. It’s a vital part of our exam, but have you maximized the potential of the process?

I start all of my tissue health assessments, or periodontal probing, with a conversation designed to help the patient know what I am looking for.

It goes something like this, “I’m going to check your tissues for infection. This helps us detect any problems or disease in your gums. You will hear me saying a series of numbers for each tooth, and Chelsea is going to record the findings for us. A 1-3 means that the tissue is healthy, a 4 means there is infection. A 5 indicates that the infection has already spread to the bone.”

Why would I do this? Because now the patient is hearing my exam, and when they hear 4 and 5’s they immediately ask, “What do we need to do to take care of that?”

Then, when I explain that we need periodontal therapy they have the proof to back that up, and they’re already in the mindset to do something different. They’re looking to us for a solution, whereas before (without this knowledge) they felt that we were just trying to “sell” them something they didn’t need.

These conversations are crucial. Using a system and a script can help make this process more consistent and drive acceptance for every service that we provide in hygiene.

(To unlock more production in your practice and learn the remaining two roles of hygiene, download your Free copy of The 3 Roles of Hygiene)

How to Get a $35,000 Increase Per Hygienist

What if you could add 4 sealants a day, per hygienist, on average?

That adds up to a $35,000 annual increase for each hygienist.

Also, chances are there will be days where you do a lot more than four sealants.

How is that possible?

With same-day sealants.

Sealants are the #1 canceled or failed appointment, so whenever possible, place sealants the same day they’re diagnosed.

We live in an express-lane, fast-paced world. People are busy. It’s hard for parents to bring their children in. So, part of getting them to say ‘yes’ to move forward is saying, “Hey we know how busy you are. We will do everything we can to get these taken care of while you’re here today.”

Our goal is same-day preventive procedures.

The day sealants are diagnosed, in a perfect world, is the day they’re sealed.

Now you might think, “That sounds nice. But we only schedule 30 minutes for our kids. We just can’t possibly work that in.”

In my experience, we can often make the simple things needlessly complex.

So here’s our way around complexity: Plan ahead. Have sealant setups in each operatory ready to go. Just 10 Ziploc baggies is all it takes. Put anything you’ll need to use for sealants that isn’t in your normal setup in those baggies.

Then, the moment you see the potential for sealants all you have to do to get setup is open the drawer and pull out the baggie. You’ll also want easy access to a curing light.

Now you’re ready to go.

You see, half the time wasted in dentistry is running around trying to find what is needed to get a procedure done. If you set it up in advance and have it in each hygiene operatory, you’ll save minutes each time.

And here’s a surprising tool that can make this even simpler: Radios.

Radios are a small easy investment that make a huge difference with same-day sealants. You put a little earbud in your ear, clip a microphone to your jacket, and slide the radio pack in your lab jacket pocket.

Why get up and leave to go find everything you need? If you don’t have a curing light in your operatory, for example, all you have to do is grab your lapel and say, “Hey can someone bring a curing light to Hygiene 3?”

(For more ways to unlock the production that’s hidden in your hygiene department, download the Free Report, The 3 Roles of Hygiene)

More Planning: Early Discussion

Begin a discussion about sealants with the parent at the start of the appointment. Too often we wait until the end after we’ve had the exam and know what needs to be done.

If we do that, there’s no time to do the sealant.

If you have a radio, as soon as you notice the opportunity for sealants, it’s as simple as, “Hey can you have Mom step back to hygiene?”

Someone then brings Mom back so you can say, “Hey, we’ve got great news. We’ve got eight teeth that can be protected with a sealant. I know how busy you are and how hard it is for you to get little Suzy here. So, we will bend over backward to see if we can get these taken care of for you while you’re here today.”

Then, what usually happens is Mom will ask, “How much does it cost, and does my insurance cover it?”

At that moment, it’s a simple matter. With the radio, let the front office know you need a quick estimate. If you have computers in the operatory, it’s fairly simple to click on the teeth that need sealants to create a treatment plan. Then, you go over that with Mom.

While all that goes on, do the prophy. Usually, my last comment to Mom is, “They will go over the estimate with you up front and she will let me know what you decide.”

While they may indeed decide to wait, there’s great value in creating this opportunity for them to have it done today if they so choose.

Better Hygiene, Better Production

One of the main reasons I love sealants is because they’re a quick and easy way to protect patients’ teeth.

It provides a higher level of service and a boost to productivity.

And, of course, hygiene isn’t on the doctor’s schedule, so it’s hands-off for the dentist.

It’s better hygiene for the patients, more production for the practice, and less work for the dentist.

That a win-win-win.

Learn more about the other 2 roles of the hygienist in our free report The 3 Roles of Hygiene:

#2: The Role of Periodontal Therapist

Hint: It’s not uncommon to see a practice still treating periodontal infection with the same strategies and technology they used 5 or even 10 years ago. This is truly alarming! But, fully understanding hygiene’s second role as Periodontal Therapist can fix that.

#3: The Role of Patient Treatment Advocate

Did you know that 65% of all production completed in the Restorative Department in a dental practice is referred from hygiene?

How many times have patients turned to the hygienist or another team member to ask, “Do I really need to have this done?” or “How long can I wait before I get this taken care of?”

The reality is, patients do want the team’s recommendations when it comes to choices about treatment.

Learn the answers and unlock the production hidden in your hygiene department, when you download the Free Report, The 3 Roles of Hygiene.