Help your patients value and keep preventive appointments

Preventive hygiene appointments are a critical component of patients’ oral and overall health. Still, many patients don’t fully understand the benefits and value of these appointments. As such, they are more inclined to delay or cancel, which leaves them vulnerable to decay and disease. It also leaves your practice with open time on the schedule.

Communicating the benefits of the preventive hygiene appointment can:

• strengthen patient relationships;

• encourage patient referrals;

• create a healthy physical foundation for clinical treatment to prevent disease and decay; and

• help identify issues early so care can be scheduled and patients can get healthy.

Here are four ways you can help patients value, schedule, and keep their preventive appointments.

First, make sure everyone on the team understands the role that preventive appointments have in your patients’ and practice’s health. Second, choose words that reflect the value of the care provided. It’s never “just a cleaning.” It’s always a preventive appointment or oral wellness exam. Here’s an example of how this might sound when discussing care with a patient:

“Mr. Jones, we are so pleased you have chosen our practice for your dental care and are ready for your first preventive appointment. Preventive appointments are an important part of your oral and overall health. The appointment takes about an hour and I’ve reserved time with Rachel, our hygienist. Rachel is going to do an oral cancer screening and make sure there isn’t any infection in your gums or the bone that surrounds your teeth. She will be evaluating your oral wellness and will alert the doctor should she find any areas of concern that need to be treated before they become larger issues. She will also remove any biofilm, or built-up bacteria, that is on your teeth and under your gums. I’m glad you know how important this appointment is and how oral health issues can impact your overall health.”

Third, have the hygienist personally schedule the preventive appointment. Let the patient know that once the appointment is scheduled, it is verified and confirmed. Again, here’s an example of how this conversation may sound:

“Mrs. Jones, you are all done with today’s preventive hygiene appointment. Based on your oral health, we would like to schedule your next preventive appointment in nine months. Because patients today have a better understanding of the importance of preventive hygiene, my schedule fills up weeks in advance, so scheduling now will ensure you get a convenient appointment time. Please be aware that when I reserve time for you on my schedule, I consider the appointment verified. Are Tuesdays best for you?”

Lastly, be descriptive in the care that will be provided during the preventive exam and the benefits of that care, including screening for oral cancer and the removal of biofilm. Here is an example:

“Mrs. Jones, it’s good to see you again. Let’s talk about what we’re going to do today. First is an oral cancer screening. The Oral Cancer Foundation recently found that every hour of every day one person dies from oral cancer, so we take this screening very seriously. I will also evaluate your oral wellness. Should I find any areas of concern, I will bring the doctor in to take a look. Does that sound like a good start?”

Use these techniques and you will begin to see a change in your patients’ attitudes toward care—and in your scheduling.

RACHEL WALL, BS, RDH, is the founder of Inspired Hygiene. She serves the dental community as a hygiene consultant and speaker. Rachel coaches dental teams to build highly productive hygiene departments by implementing systems for high-quality periodontal care, enrolling restorative care through hygiene, and managing hygiene logistics.

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