The benefits of perio/hygiene

Research continues to unfold with details about the relationship of systemic health and periodontal disease. As a result, we are shying away from just "cleaning teeth" in favor of diagnosing, treating, and maintaining the periodontal health of our patients. The profession has bought into the theory, but a consistent standard of patient care in the hygiene department is not yet predictable. Can a patient in any city in this country sit in any hygiene operatory with the assurance of being complete

Beverly Maguire, RDH

Research continues to unfold with details about the relationship of systemic health and periodontal disease. As a result, we are shying away from just "cleaning teeth" in favor of diagnosing, treating, and maintaining the periodontal health of our patients. The profession has bought into the theory, but a consistent standard of patient care in the hygiene department is not yet predictable. Can a patient in any city in this country sit in any hygiene operatory with the assurance of being completely probed and charted, as well as receive an accurate hygiene diagnosis and appropriate options for care?

Or will most patients receive a "cleaning" (the best job possible in an hour), be told they need to floss more, and to come back in three months instead of six? Remember, 75 to 80 percent of all adults have some degree of periodontal disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

Cleanings are not an appropriate level of care for periodontal disease. Almost every office professes to provide perio treatment. The average practice, though, still codes 90 percent of all hygiene visits as Prophy, 1110 and still produces, on average, $550 a day per hygienist.

Please understand that by taking the time to implement the needed changes in protocol and philosophy to create a standard of care that is consistent and systematic, the benefits will be profound. Let me share with you the following three benefits:

> Benefits to the patient: Patients are offered treatment appropriate to the hygiene diagnosis. Translate that to early, conservative care before the disease ravages the bone, loosens the teeth, and causes health complications. Patients now have a true choice! They won`t be asking why, after all the years of coming every six months for cleanings, their teeth are now in jeopardy.

> Benefits to the practice: Transitioning hygiene from a "prophy" format to a perio hygiene department spells profitability for a department previously plagued by the reputation of being a "loss leader." Excellent care dispensed in an organized fashion translates into production. A perio hygiene department produces an average of $1,000 a day per hygienist.

Patients accept more restorative care due to improved dental IQs and the level of trust achieved through successful periodontal intervention and treatment. An increased number of new patient referrals to the practice result from patient satisfaction with the excellence of hygiene care being dispensed.

> Benefits to the professional: Organized perio hygiene allows hygienists to make a much greater impact in hygiene health care. Hygienists are empowered to do their very best within more reasonable time frames, utilizing all of their skills. Leadership skills of the hygiene staff now become paramount to the growth and development of the department and the practice. Being able to impact patient health, professional growth, and practice profitability makes this the most exciting transition encountered in dentistry today.

The benefits above are a winning proposition. The patient is at the top of the list, followed by a more productive and efficient practice. The practice is led by satisfied professionals who truly make a difference. There`s no end in sight to the difference that can be made. The results will be measurable and attainable.

Doctors, how often do you diagnose periodontal disease and prescribe treatment?

Beverly Maguire, RDH, is a practicing periodontal therapist. 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 e-mail at perioadv@aol.com.

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