Is Scaling and Root Planing Just a “Deep Cleaning?”
Many people still include the big Sunday newspaper in their weekend ritual. I for one just recently re-subscribed to the newspaper. I missed the feel of the paper and some of the little known articles and juicy bits of information not always available on the internet, especially local news and events.
My eyes glanced over the “local spot” news and I was intrigued by an article about the increased cost of living. Turns out the author was complaining about a recent visit to the dentist and his more than $500 bill for a “cleaning”. He explained that he did not know the difference between a cleaning and a “deep cleaning” as the dentist called it, except for the extra $400. He felt the dentist did a thorough job, but he was charged by the “quadrant”, which he thought was a strategy to charge more while making it look like less.
Was it my job to set the man straight? I pondered that for just a moment and then said no, it is the job of the dental practice to educate patients about the value of services provided and the consequences for not having dental work completed. Will this patient, who now needs periodontal maintenance and not a preventive cleaning, return to the practice thinking it is another ploy to overcharge?
The unfortunate thing about this article is literally thousands of subscribers will read it and think they too have been “strategized” out of their hard-earned money. Many will have questions for their dentists. So let’s revisit the author’s dental visit and analyze what communication could have changed his perception.
To begin, the entire team, from the front office to all clinical staff, should know and understand the difference between a preventive prophy and scaling and root planing. What is the difference between an ordinary cleaning and deep cleaning? There is some confusion about the difference between scaling and deep cleaning or root planing. Scaling is basically the process of removing dental tartar (calculous) from the surfaces of the teeth. Root planing is the process of smoothing the root surfaces and removing any infected tooth structure. If you have gum disease or gum pocketing, the gum pockets around the teeth will have deepened, thereby allowing tartar (calculous) deposits to form under the gum line. In order to remove these hard deposits, the patient usually needs local anesthesia (injection) for comfort.
A regular cleaning or prophylaxis is a preventive service designed to remove surface deposits, plaque and stain. The scaling and root planing procedure is a non-surgical periodontal procedure because the patient now has periodontal disease. There are many health factors that can influence a patient moving from healthy prevention services to disease therapy. These indicators can be found in the health history information they have provided and also their diet and oral hygiene home care.
Using the words “deep cleaning” doesn’t carry the weight of what scaling and root planing does to improve oral health and save teeth from eventual loss of supporting bone. I suggest you drop the word “cleaning” and say what it really is so patients will value it more.
Explaining to the patient what happens during the scaling and root planing procedure will help them to understand the fee for the service. It takes longer to do to the scaling at a deeper pocket level, anesthetic is administered, different instruments are used, and irrigation medicaments may be used along with prescribing Chlorhexidine rinse. There will be post-operative instructions for diet and home care along with the education of future periodontal maintenance every 3 to 4 months.
Not everyone needs a full four quadrants of scaling and root planing. The mouth is divided into four quadrants for defining areas of diagnosis and treatment, not to strategize charging for services. The procedure codes and standards are set forth by the American Dental Association.
Taking the extra time to educate patients and listen to whether they fully understand a certain procedure, especially when quoting fees, is very important. Patient perception is critical to practice success.
Want to improve your patient and staff communication systems? Contact McKenzie Management today for professional business training courses.Forward this article to a friend
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