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09.23.05 Issue #185  
Do You Know What Your Patient Wants?

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant McKenzie Management

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What would you like to change about your smile? These are powerful words that can have a huge impact on your hygiene department. If you ask a person, “Is there anything you would like to change about your smile?” You are more than likely going to get the answer.. “No”. However, if you specifically ask a person, “ What would you like to change about your smile?”, they will actually take the time to think about their smile and what they would like to change. Yes- no questions should be eliminated. Open-ended questions make patients think.

What about the patient that does want to change their smile? Does your office have financing available through an outside source like Care Credit? If so, does your office promote it to its full potential? Do you as a hygienist know what the financing company offers so you can answer easy questions? Cosmetics used to be thought of as something for the rich. Well, not anymore. More and more people are seeking cosmetic treatment. Just look at how many people are accepting whitening. This is one of the least costly procedures, but many times in order to do whitening old crowns and fillings have to be replaced.

As a hygienist, you need to feel comfortable when it comes to talking about cosmetics with patients, and how to approach people in order to have them tell you what they want. We are not talking about what they need at this time. We are talking about what they want. You will be amazed at how people will come up with the money when they really want something, no matter what the cost.

However, we have to provide what they need in order to get to what they want. But don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity because you were too busy concentrating on what they need. For example, a patient comes in and needs to have maxillary anterior fills. The doctor treatment plans them, the financials are gone over, and the patient returns to have a professional cleaning in your chair and the patient returns to the doctor and has the treatment completed. Great! Oh, but now it is six months later and the patient is back for their recall appointment, and the patient says to you, “I am interested in whitening my teeth. How do I go about getting this done?” Oops! An opportunity missed, and now you probably have an upset patient too. Your patient wanted to whiten their teeth and the fillings are shaded to their existing natural teeth. How many cosmetic cases does your office miss because patients do not know that your doctor provides these services?

In my last article, I talked about keeping track of your numbers and I know many of you have no idea how to get over $1,000 per day in production. Well, selling whitening out of hygiene is just one ancillary product that will help boost your hourly production as a hygienist.

Let’s say you have tried mentioning cosmetics to your patients, and you still just do not feel comfortable. Ask your team members how they approach patients when it comes to cosmetic dentistry and discovering what the patient wants. Use each other as a sounding board during a staff meeting. The conversation needs to be comfortable for both the hygienist and the patient. The last thing you, as a hygienist, want to do is offend a patient with your approach to selling esthetic procedures. For example, I have had great success with Trident Dental Laboratories Extreme Make Over kit, that can help you begin the communication process with your patient whether you are comfortable talking about cosmetics or not.

The kit consists of  “Rate Your Smile” brochures and stand. It is an interactive brochure that enables patients to “rate” their own smile and share results with the clinician. This brochure should be handed to all of your patients. The clinician that is going to see the patient will collect the information. This mini questionnaire gives you the opportunity to educate your patient about the different options available to them regarding improving their smile.

There is even a patient consultation flip chart in the kit that illustrates to the patient on one side what the hygienist is discussing and on the backside helps to coach the clinician on what to ask and discuss. This is a great product in helping new staff members get on board with the correct verbiage and protocol for your office.

The kit also comes with a video, which is a perfect complement to the patient handbook. It offers a continuous presentation with an overview of treatment options. While the dental patient handbook allows patients to readily visualize dramatic before and after photographs and stimulate interest in esthetic treatments.
Your hygiene department, before and after pictures of your cosmetic work, and brochures provided to the patient are the best way to promote cosmetics within your office. 

We are here to help improve your hygienists’ communication skills. Thus, increasing the amount of cosmetic treatment plans coming out of your hygiene department.

Jean conducts 2 day Hygiene Performance Enrichment Programs  for The Center for Dental Career Development and McKenzie Management in La Jolla/San Diego, CA. Contact her at  or call 1-877-777-6151 for more information on her Advanced Hygiene Training Programs.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental group? Email us at or call 1-877-777-6151

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