Your hygiene partnership

by Beverly Maguire, RDH

Another New Year! All of those hectic days, month after month, until, once again, we arrive at the beginning and look toward another opportunity. Will this year be any different — or just more of the same wrapped up in a different number?

A blank calendar holds pure potential. We have ideas, concepts, standards, and desire for change. Yet, once the schedule is delivered at the morning huddle or posted on the operatory wall, reality sets in — the race is on! So many patients to see, needs to meet, fears to calm. Production, overhead, staff issues, family, and personal growth demand our attention. How can we juggle everything at once? The events of this past fall add to these questions and muddy the answers.

Are we really providing viable health care to hygiene patients, or are we merely on the cleaning treadmill doing what we can within the time allowed? In many practices, the prophy percentage is unbelievably high. What is your percentage? Reflecting on this quandary can give practitioners direction. Philosophy, commitment, leadership, accountability, and partnership are keys to the conundrum. Dental practice in the 21st century is complex; the sheer magnitude of opportunity exceeds our ability to manage it alone. We need a solid team of clinical staff, hygiene professionals, business personnel, and advisors to compete in today's marketplace. A lack of clear, consistent communication between these multiple partners will hinder our progress. The role of team and leadership is implicit.

Hygiene and dentistry are partners. Hygienists treat disease and produce income for practices; they also sell restorative procedures important to practice profitability and success. If the hygiene partnership within your practice is less than optimal, take some time at this juncture to explore expectations and possibilities. Probing and charting lead to accurate diagnostic and treatment options for patients. Productivity, success, and patient trust lead to more growth for the practice. It's a vital and unbreakable chain. Don't underestimate hygiene as a co-producer in your practice. If the productivity-to-compensation ratio in this department is unsatisfactory, don't just rumble, grumble, and accept the situation. This type of problem has opportunity written all over it! It's a sign to take a closer look, create a solid philosophy and better systems, polish communication skills, and move to the next level. It's a wake-up call indicating that, while we've all been busy, we haven't necessarily been effective. Doing the right thing for a hygiene patient is naturally productive. It doesn't mean that our partners in productivity are "winning" at our expense; it simply means that we have not seized opportunities or updated our standards for periodontal care.

Now is the time to take a closer look. If you are less than pleased, you must plan, commit, and take action to create the level of service appropriate for your practice. The impact will be a positive one for the patient, the practice, and the professionals.

The paradigm of the hygienist winning at the doctors' expense seems legitimate; however, this viewpoint is a stale one. Transformation is no more complicated than committing to an accurate assessment of your current department status, excellent standards of care, and training the entire team. In other words, putting your department in a position to succeed. Leadership begins at the top and flows to the ultimate benefactor — the patient.

This can be the year of transition. Transformation will constructively impact virtually every area of your practice — clinical success, financial success, professional satisfaction, team pride, time management, practice growth — and promote healing of the dentist/hygienist partnership. Focus on these opportunities; there's too much at stake not to!

Beverly Maguire, RDH, is a practicing dental hygienist. She is president and founder of Perio Advocates, a hygiene consulting company based in Littleton, Colo. She can be reached at (303) 730-8529 or by email at PerioAdvocates@aol.com.

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