Patients Want Implants, and Your Hygienist Can Help
Dentists might think their hygienists are instrumental in quickly identifying necessary restorative and periodontal treatment, but may not realize hygienists are also in a unique position to help patients receive implants. A hygienist with sufficient time to go over possible “needs and wants” with a recall patient will turn up many desires that may have gone unfulfilled.
For example, “Joe” is a denture or partial patient who has been thinking about implants for several years, but never mentioned it because he thinks he’s had his removable replacements for too long. He may be confused by television ads or radio spots. He may think he could never afford them. He might think getting implants would be extremely painful. He may even perceive that the dentist or staff are too busy to discuss all of his questions and worries. After all, everyone seems to be moving so quickly! In other words, your patients may want something that could change their lives for the better, but have been afraid to ask.
Last week I treated a patient who had been successfully wearing a maxillary denture and mandibular partial for about fifteen years. She comes in faithfully every six months for an adult prophy on her remaining mandibular teeth. She has a stable periodontal condition and good home care. Her maxillary ridge is substantial and she reports being able to speak, eat, and smile without problems. The maxillary denture fits well without any “stick-um”. The mandibular partial is snug and nice looking when in place.
So, this patient is happy with her removable replacements…right? Wrong! After cleaning both of her removables in the ultrasonic bath, I gave them back to her and casually asked, “Do you feel that you are getting along well with your denture and partial?”
Her response was, “Not really. I wish so much that I had never lost my teeth. I hate taking my dentures in and out all the time! But I don’t think I could get implants at my age. I don’t really even know how implants work.”
I immediately stopped what I was planning to do for the remainder of her appointment (going over home care, giving her a new brush, floss, etc.) and brought out models and a handout concerning implants. This patient is actually in excellent condition to successfully have implants and an overdenture plus implant supported mandibular replacements. She is 60 years old, in good health, and has sufficient bone.
Her questions included: How do implants “work”? Does getting an implant hurt? Will I still have to take my denture in and out? How do I keep an implant clean? Can I use the same denture and partial that I am wearing now? How many implants will I need? Will I still need to have my teeth cleaned every six months? What will the cost be? How long will it take to get the implants? Can I get implants in one day?
The answers to these questions are not simple yes or no responses. They require attention to her individual situation and concerns, and a little time. After speaking with her for about ten minutes and alerting my dentist about the patient’s interest in implants, he came in and continued the conversation.
He determined that she was an excellent candidate for a maxillary overdenture and mandibular implant and tooth-supported partial. He explained how many implants might be needed, and reinforced what I had already told her about the possible time required, her recall schedule and how she would keep her implants clean at home. He supported my comments about the need to come in annually to have the fixed replacements over the implants taken off and cleaned, and all implants checked by the dentist. He allayed many of her fears about discomfort during and after the procedure.
Later we were able to schedule the patient for an ICAT radiograph and subsequent conference with the Patient Coordinator concerning fees and appointments. My patient was very happy to know she could get started right away.
Often we think of the hygiene appointment as time spent with the “cleaning lady”. While the prophy portion of the appointment is obviously very important, the conversation portion is important as well. Time crunching hygiene appointments and the perception that hygiene production is only what occurs today can be counterproductive. Without sufficient time spent exploring treatment options, this implant patient would likely have gone home again, without the information she needed. With time spent addressing her questions and a relaxed atmosphere to discuss possible plans, this patient will receive treatment that will change her life for the better, and it will be great for office production! With a possible six maxillary implants, a new maxillary overdenture, two mandibular implants and two fixed 3-unit bridges, this case will likely top $20,000.
Your patients may want treatment that you have not considered previously. Your hygienist can help them look into their options, and make the office more productive.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
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