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8.01.08 Issue #334 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Angie Stone RDH, BS
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The Hygienist’s Role In The New Patient Visit

New patients come through the door with great expectations, looking for a new dental home—a place where they feel welcome, well cared for and comfortable. Are your new patients feeling this way after a professional cleaning visit with your hygienist?

Your business office team has done a great job with the phone call from the new patientbecause he/she scheduled and showed up for the initial appointment with the doctor.

Now the patient is coming in for the second appointment to meet the hygienist. Upon arrival, the patient will be greeted with a friendly welcome from the Scheduling Coordinator. The business team understands the value of every new patient and the potential of more referrals if the patient is satisfied with treatment.

Although the interaction with the business team is important, the interaction between the hygienist and patient is critical for patient retention. The hygienist is the person the patient is going to be spending the most amount of time with in the treatment room. The hygienist needs to make a connection with the patient that will make him/her want to return at the recall interval. This visit, in your office, needs to be exceptional compared to any other professional cleaning appointments they have ever had. What should the hygienist do to establish this rapport?

First and foremost, the hygienist needs to be focused on the patient during that appointment time. Patients should never feel as if the hygienist is concentrating on anything other than their appointment. Patients need to be listened to as they discuss their dental concerns with the hygienist. Patients should also be addressed by name, as in, “Hi John! It is so nice to meet you.” Giving undivided attention and using names will let patients know they are valued.

Hygienists have formal education and are licensed to ensure adequate basic

clinical skills. Patients typically are not able to see big differences in the performances of clinicians; however, they can—and do—realize when a person is going above and beyond to deliver excellent service. It is the above and beyond that will set your hygienist and your hygiene department apart from the others in your area. Some suggestions for accomplishing this goal are:

  • Dim any bright overhead lights while patients are reclined. This prevents them from staring into the lights for the duration of the appointment.

  • Use accent lamps on corner tables to aid in lighting the room. The use of indirect lighting in combination with the absence of bright lights makes the operatory atmosphere more relaxing for the patient and the operator.

  • Place a small pillow under the neck of the patient and a roll pillow under the knees. This placement supports the neck and bending the knees allows the lower back to adapt to the chair so it does not remain arched for the entire appointment.

  • Purchase a back massager for added patient comfort, like the inexpensive kinds that are used on the seat of a car. Patients usually appreciate the lower back mode the most. Do not get one with rollers; they typically are too much for the patient to tolerate during the cleaning. Place the massager on the dental chair. The controller can be attached to the side of the chair with Velcro and turned on and off by the clinician, or just handed to patients so they can decide what feels best.

  • Provide a blanket to those patients who are chilled in the cool treatment room. This allows them to relax rather than shiver.

  • Apply lip balm to patients’ lips at the conclusion of the appointment. A patient’s lips get very dry from the pulling, rinsing and wiping during the appointment. A thin coat of lip balm replaces moisture and makes the lips feel hydrated again.

  • Escort the patient to the front office. Say a sincere goodbye and, “Thank you for coming in today. It was a pleasure to meet you. I look forward to seeing you again in June.”

The implementation of extraordinary services and techniques will distinguish your hygiene experience from others and will certainly have your new and existing patients telling their friends and family about their wonderful hygiene visit!

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department?

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