From the patients' standpoint, hygienists are often perceived as the frontline professionals of dentistry. Typically, patients see them more often and are more likely to develop relationships with them than with doctors. This connection, in itself, has great value for your practice, but the potential for financial benefits is also substantial.
Don't take a do-it-yourself approach to hygiene
Several years ago, when the impact of the Great Recession on dental practices was at its worst, a number of dentists laid off their hygienists or, if they were just starting out, postponed hiring them in the first place. In other words, these doctors were performing hygiene services for their patients personally. This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but such an arrangement severely limits a practice's potential production. Far better to rely on hygienists for the specialized clinical care and education services they've been trained to provide. The value of your time as a dentist, providing care that only a doctor can provide, will be much greater than if you're handling hygiene visits (or administrative tasks, which should also be delegated).
READ MORE | Increasing dental hygiene production
Aim for a 3:1 ratio of doctor production to hygiene production
In our experience with countless GPs, Levin Group has determined that, in an efficient and growing practice, the dentist accounts for 75% of production and the hygienist (or hygiene department) accounts for the remaining 25%. Check your numbers. If less than a fourth of your production comes from hygiene, that represents growth potential.
Set up your hygienist as the home-care expert . . . including products
Traditionally, hygienists are in a position to see the results of home care and advise patients how to do a better job. There is extensive clinical evidence that certain dental home-care products (e.g., power brushes and water flossers) result in better oral hygiene. In keeping with the hygienist's role as educator, making product recommendations (and offering them at attractive prices) can accomplish two important objectives-enhancing the practice's value as a source of oral health care, and bringing in more revenue for the practice.
Enable the hygienist to reinforce your treatment recommendations
By keeping the hygienist informed about what you have or are about to recommend to patients, you'll make it possible for the hygienist to further explain the benefits of that treatment. In many cases, the hygienist will even be able to answer patients' specific questions.
One other advantage of keeping the patient informed is that, in cases when treatment has not yet been accepted, the hygienist can bring up the subject in a conversational way during subsequent hygiene visits. Although the results of this involvement may be difficult to measure (i.e., Did the hygienist's comments finally persuade the indecisive patient to accept treatment?), there is no doubt it will contribute to the overall success of your practice.
In a healthy, growing practice, the hygiene department is responsible for a substantial portion of total revenues and indirectly influences even more. These financial benefits, combined with the relationship-building aspect of the hygienist's job, should convince all dentists to develop strategies to get the most out of their hygiene departments.
PAST LEVIN COLUMNS: In case you missed it
Seminar Savings: Save $50 on doctor tuition for Dr. Levin's seminar, "Ignite Your Production, Double Your Profit," in Dallas on June 10 or Minneapolis on July 22. Visit levingroup.com/gp/seminars to register or for more information. Use code MAYDE during sign-up.
Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the founder and CEO of Levin Group Inc., a leading dental consulting firm. A nationally recongized speaker, Dr. Levin presents practice management seminars throughout the country.