Really, It's Not "Just A Cleaning"
When working with offices all around the country, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times a day I talk about building value in the minds of patients when it comes to a hygiene appointment. There are many ways to do this, and here are a few.
When you are working on a patient, tell him/her what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what your findings indicate. One of the very first things we do once a patient is seated is review their health history. This is a time where you may have the opportunity to educate your patient about the correlation of periodontal disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and preterm births - particularly if the patient in your chair has any of the above-mentioned systemic problems and or periodontal disease.
If they don't have periodontal disease, it is still a perfect time to explain how having periodontal disease may put them at a higher risk of having cardiovascular disease, because of the inflammation link, and how it is great that they have been keeping their mouth healthy. If they do have periodontal disease or cardiovascular disease, then it is even more important that the patient be educated about the increased risk they have.
Not only is it recommended to educate your patients on the correlation of periodontal disease, but it is also important for the entire staff to know as much as possible and be comfortable talking about the links. When a patient calls to cancel an appointment, if the person taking the call notices in the patient's medical alerts that they have periodontal disease or a systemic problem, they can mention how concerned the doctor or hygienist is going to be because of their higher risk and having to postpone their hygiene appointment or periodontal treatment.
Once the patient is laid back in the chair and the hygienist is ready to perform an oral cancer exam, it is recommended that the clinician inform the patient of what is being done and explain that they will be checking for any unusual lumps, bumps, and growths. Once the hygienist is done, even if all the findings are within normal limits, tell the patient what was observed in their mouth. For instance, linea alba, fordyce granules, or even tori. You know as well as I do that people may have these all of their lives and never notice them, until one day they end up in your practice for a limited exam asking what is wrong with them.
Once the soft tissue is checked, the hygienist may check for any suspicious areas, large fillings that are breaking down, or missing teeth that need to be replaced. Again it is recommended that the patient be made aware of what the clinician is looking for. Otherwise, they do not have a clue that anybody even checked. As far as they know you are “just doing a cleaning.” Even if nothing is found, the hygienist may want to inform the patient of what they see. This may be as easy as saying, “Tom, I looked at your teeth to see if there was anything suspicious going on, and I observed that you have a lot of large fillings. They appear to be alright at this time, but the larger the filling is the more likely it may crack, and sometimes if a filling cracks, the bacteria will get underneath and cause a cavity underneath the existing filling. So, I will be checking these at your future appointments.”
This tells the patient that they are at risk for a problem, and that it is important to have their teeth looked at regularly. This note about monitoring the large fillings should be put as the last entry under a category of “next visit.” That way, if the patient calls to cancel their appointment, the person answering the phone has the knowledge that the hygienist is monitoring something and they may mention to the patient, “Tom, I’m sorry you have to cancel your appointment today. I see here that Sandy is monitoring some large fillings that she is concerned about possibly cracking. We will want to get you in as soon as possible, because if they did crack we do not want you getting a cavity underneath that filling.”
These are just a few things that may help to increase value in the patients' mind when it comes to their hygiene appointments. The reason for doing this is to help reduce cancellations and no-shows, because it is not just a cleaning
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program.
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