28 Reasons For Patients to Return
Stopping cancellations and failed appointments on the hygiene side of the schedule is an ongoing challenge for many dental practices. Having more than 30 minutes of cancellations per hygienist per day is not acceptable to be productive. Many factors influence this problem, but one that does not get the attention it deserves is the message that patients leave with at the end of the appointment. In practices that pre-schedule all dental hygiene appointments, the assumption is that all of these patients will keep their appointments. It does not happen this way, but the practices keep on doing it even when they get the same result. It does not matter so much how the patient is confirmed because even that does not stop failures and last minute cancellations. If you must pre-appointment everyone, you have to give a better reason than “See you in 6 months.”
The full adult dentition is 32 teeth. Most healthy adults have 28 teeth because the third molars have been removed. Other than the professional teeth cleaning and exam, there are 28 reasons to return to your dentist on a recommended basis - yet most patients think of the dental hygiene visit as a “teeth cleaning.”
The reason to return that is given on most reminder cards or emails is “because you are due.” Yes, you said that they are due - but perhaps it is not clear as to why. Most everyone can “clean” their teeth and if they were told they were “doing a great job” with their home care, why should they return in six months? Realistically it wouldn’t hurt to go to eight or nine months, right? The patients who are pre-appointed also get a message that says “If you need to cancel or reschedule please call us.” Isn’t this understood, do you really need to invite them to cancel?
The message to return starts in the chair in the clinical examination portion of the dental hygiene visit. Pre-existing restorations that are showing signs of breaking down, unresolved pocket depths that could get worse, areas of gingival irritation or recession are all reasons to return for further monitoring and possible repair or treatment.
If the patient suffers from bruxism and doesn’t want to purchase a night-guard, he/she is at risk for further joint damage, broken teeth and restorations. Information regarding keeping the recommended schedule to monitor this condition would be valuable for the patient to understand. If a patient is on medications that cause dry mouth, more frequent visits to monitor the effects on the teeth and mouth would be advisable. Old crowns with open margins; large, old and receding amalgam restorations; old, large, chipped, washed out and stained composite restorations all are worthy of mention as to why the patient needs to keep the regularly scheduled hygiene appointment.
Sometimes during the hygiene visit the dentist comes in to do the examination, and the dental hygienist has usually noted some areas of concern. This is a critical time to bring value and reason to return for future hygiene visits. Eliminate the words “we will watch that” and instead say “I am noting that there is a breakdown in this tooth or teeth (show patient with mirror) and I want to see you in six months to monitor this condition.” Other scripting may say: “Jane, you have improved your home care and it is evidenced in the healthy tissue I see. It is important that we keep you on the six month schedule to ensure that you stay in good shape, and I also want to monitor the lower left molar where there is gum recession and the upper left molar where there is wear on the cusp” (show in mirror).
Notes of the dentist’s findings during the examination are important for the front office team to see, especially if they have to call this patient in the future to get them to schedule their recall/recare appointment. Inform the entire team to educate the patient that the appointment is more than just a “check-up and cleaning.”
Add value to the message and the patient will be less likely to cancel the appointment. Need help with creating a practice that exceeds your expectations? Call us today to schedule a professional training course customized to your practice business needs.
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