Phase Two: Staff commitment

April 1, 2001
Last month, we began a series on the "steps to hygiene transformation." We started by discussing the creation of a philosophy for diagnosis-driven hygiene care.

Beverly Maguire, RDH

Last month, we began a series on the "steps to hygiene transformation." We started by discussing the creation of a philosophy for diagnosis-driven hygiene care. Diag nosis-driven hygiene is based upon consistent probing and charting, which enables us to diagnose a patient's periodontal status and offer appropriate treatment options. Diagnosis is always the first step, before any scaling begins! The only way to a hygiene diagnosis is through probing, charting, and proper evaluation of the data and clinical signs.

This month's focus involves establishing staff commitment to this philosophy. The commitment involves change and activation of the teamwork necessary to achieve success.

In most cases, however, we don't give much thought to the protocols of the hygiene department. Merely employing a hygienist who sees patients daily does not ensure a good hygiene protocol. Not until we step outside the box can we really evaluate the effectiveness of our current approach.

One effective way to create a personal interest in the hygiene standard of care is by clinically evaluating each staff member periodontally. It's predictable that 75 percent of our own dental team members have varying degrees of periodontal disease. Once the information hits home personally, it gets our undivided attention! As team members individually experience the process of probing, charting, and receiving their periodontal status reports, a new interest and commitment to this philosophy is born. Staff members then should be offered the appropriate care corresponding to their diagnosed need vs. just a "cleaning" when a cancellation in the schedule occurs. This can be a powerful process!

Change is never a cakewalk in any area of life. Once the transition begins, it is beneficial to have the personal experience of our own periodontal evaluation fresh in our memory. This transition of the hygiene department will impact each staff member directly. Assistants will be needed to help chart. The doctors will be involved in the diagnosis of the case. Scheduling multiple hygiene visits for therapy, as well as using periodontal codes and fees, will impact front-office personnel. The hygienists themselves carry the greatest responsibility in assessing the patient, informing the patient and doctor, and presenting treatment options to patients.

Leadership in the transition phase and beyond can come from capable hygienists who possess the skills for this level of care. All that is needed is a systematic approach and strong team members who are clear about their role in the process - who are ready and willing to participate for the benefit of all.

Especially important is the understanding of the critical role charting plays in a successful hygiene department. Without it, patients will not be diagnosed properly, and we are simply guessing about the health status of the periodontium. Assistants must realize that they are assisting the patient, not necessarily the hygienist. Assistants truly play a critical role! A healthy periodontal foundation is the basis for all excellent restorative and cosmetic dentistry.

Hygienists alone cannot facilitate this transition. I see doctors wanting change, hygienists wanting change, and both parties waiting for the other to make it happen. Meanwhile, patients are not being properly evaluated or informed of their periodontal status and options for care. Hygiene care (and productivity) remain static. Only with staff understanding and commitment - led by doctor commitment - will success be achieved.

It's all about providing excellence. That's a basic philosophical decision for your practice. It's a win/win for all involved - the patient, the practice, and the professionals.

And what's more ... we're all patients!

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 [email protected].

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