I work in an office where I am responsible for monitoring hygiene numbers every month. There is one thing I have noticed continually when I do them – we do not have “no-shows” in our hygiene schedule very often. It will often be three or four months before we have one. We have four full time hygienists in our practice based on a four day work week, and two of us work a half day on Friday. What does this say about our hygiene department? It says that we have created value in the hygiene appointment.
In our practice we do not do “just a cleaning” or even “cleanings”. We do much more than that. We provide our patients with a hygiene appointment that not only matters to the health of their mouth, but also to their overall health. In addition to caring about their teeth, we help patients understand that the mouth is connected to the body by the neck and is the very beginning process of our digestive system. We rarely use the term “cleaning” in our vocabulary. Team members refer to patient appointments as hygiene appointment, periodontal maintenance appointment, or root planing. If we use any other verbiage such as cleaning or deep cleaning, it is only to teach patients the proper terminology used in our office.
Without proper education, patients may think, “I clean my teeth twice a day at home. Why do I need to pay a dental office to do something I already do?” When it comes to deep cleaning, I clean to the base of the pocket every time I am in a patient’s mouth. It has been supported by many research studies that supra gingival removal of calculus alone by a clinician is not beneficial to the patient. So, I have to explain the difference between a periodontal maintenance appointment, cleaning, and root planing. I know the difference, but the patient may become confused by this. They need to be educated by us as dental professionals.
Explaining to the patient what you are doing also helps to create value in the hygiene appointment. It is best to do this while you are doing it – not at the beginning of the appointment, end of the appointment, or even worse by the front office person as the patient is leaving. When you are probing, tell them you are probing. They may know what the numbers mean, but if you are not calling the numbers out to an assistant, the patient may not realize what you are doing. Depending on the patient and how long they have been with the practice, you may want to tell them before you begin to probe. “I am going to probe your teeth now to help us determine how healthy your gums are. You want to have less than four millimeter pocketing.”
Even though you probe each tooth at every hygiene appointment, you may not have the ability to do it out loud every single time the patient is in your chair. If this is the case and there is no assistant available, modify what is said but still tell the patient what you are doing and what the findings are, even if the findings are healthy.
The same rules apply when performing an oral cancer exam. Tell the patient you are doing the exam when you are doing it. Tell the patient of any findings you may see, even if you point out Fordyce granules that the patient may never have noticed. This helps them realize there are many things going on in and outside their mouth. Even though it is considered normal, they may not have noticed it. Now the patient is educated by the hygienist that we even look for cancer when they are in our chairs.
These examples are only a couple of the procedures we perform during a hygiene appointment. Remember, we are not “just cleaning” their teeth!
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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