12.29.06 - Issue # 251 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Is Hygiene Promoting the Doctor’s Treatment Plans?

Your patient is in the hygienist’s chair with uncompleted treatment diagnosed a year ago.  The patient is scheduled for their regular recall appointment.  What will your hygienist do?

Unfortunately, many hygienists are not comfortable with talking to the patient about the treatment that has been diagnosed and why they need to have it done. What can a hygienist and doctor do to make this a more comfortable situation for the hygienist in order to have the patient accept the treatment? Work together.  Share wording that has worked in the past and create new wording for the future.

It is pertinent that the hygiene department be comfortable with discussing what treatment has been diagnosed and why the patient needs to have it done. Therefore, existing conditions should be noted in the chart in addition to what treatment is needed.  In order to make the information easy to find by the operator, it is helpful if this information is placed in the same location. Routing slips, generated from the computer, supply the hygienist with the patient’s treatment and can be reviewed at the beginning of the day meeting so the hygienist is mentally prepared for seeing the patient.

When promoting treatment plans to the patient, the hygienist or any team member should use wording that is very easy for the patient to understand. For instance, if a root canal needs to be explained, a great analogy is: “Remember when we were kids and we would put a tiny hole in an egg and remove the inside of the egg. Well, this is very similar to a root canal except you are hollowing out a tooth. Remember how easy it was to break that egg once it was hollow? Well, this is the same with a tooth. That is why a crown is needed after root canal therapy has been done.” This is just one way to explain what is done during a root canal and why a crown is needed.

The doctor and hygiene team should also discuss the treatment the doctor recommends based on existing condition, size of filling, and restorative materials that the doctor prefers to use.

Anime(one word- Anytime) a hygienist can pre-evaluate a patient’s mouth before the doctor walks in, it will help with patient acceptance and help reduce the amount of time the doctor spends in the operatory doing the periodic exam. Once the hygienist has checked the mouth, inform the patient of the findings. “Mr. Jones, you have a couple of large, old fillings that appear to be breaking down in the upper right. When the doctor comes in we will have this area checked to see if you need to have crowns diagnosed.” It is best if notes are made in the chart prior to the doctor entering the room and a conversation happens with the patient present. The hygienist may say, “Dr. Smith, I noticed that Mr. Jones has a couple of large fillings that are breaking down in the upper right. Would you please check this area to see if he needs to have crowns diagnosed?

 If the patient has a large filling that is getting old and may need to be replaced, just mentioning this to the patient  before the doctor enters the treatment room will help with the diagnoses process. Then when the doctor walks into the room, the hygienist may want to go over his/her observations with the doctor. “Doctor Smith, in the upper right there is a large filling that needs to be looked at. It looks like it may be breaking down and in need of a crown”. The doctor will then determine if it needs to be fixed sooner than later or if it is all right for now and will be checked at the patient’s next professional hygiene appointment.

Let’s review this conversation:

  • The hygiene appointment has become more than “just a cleaning.”
  • If the tooth does need a crown, the hygienist is a second opinion that something may need to be done with that tooth.
  •  If the tooth does not need treatment immediately, the doctor has built trust with the patient that nothing will be done until it needs to be done..
  • If the tooth does need treatment in the future, the patient  will aleady be aware that it was a possibility and what the treatment would be.
  • The next hygiene appointment is more important because there is something that is actually being monitored in addition to “just a cleaning.”

The hygiene department is a key player in promoting the doctor’s existing and future treatment plans.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental society or study club Click Here.

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