Refining your hygiene efficiency

Your hygiene team is a crucial, but often overlooked, aspect of the success and productivity of your practice. In many ways, they are the "front lines" of the office, promoting oral hygiene and helping patients prevent oral disease before it develops and spreads. As our understanding of the influence of periodontal disease on the entire body grows, their role has become more important than ever.

Dale A. Burgdorf, DDS, FAGD

Your hygiene team is a crucial, but often overlooked, aspect of the success and productivity of your practice. In many ways, they are the "front lines" of the office, promoting oral hygiene and helping patients prevent oral disease before it develops and spreads. As our understanding of the influence of periodontal disease on the entire body grows, their role has become more important than ever.

Hygienists treat patients multiple times a year and, like dentists, build strong (sometimes even stronger) relationships of trust and communication. They play an important role in supporting the treatment-planning process, especially in explaining necessary treatments and benefits. Providing informative explanations gives patients more confidence in the care they are receiving.

To increase my office's standard of care and success, I continually seek opportunities to help our team advance our hygiene efficiency. Being a Heartland Dental-supported dentist, I have access to a variety of helpful CE. One such opportunity my team and I took advantage of was the Hygiene Diamonds course. Hygiene Diamonds consults with hygienists and dentists to help them transform their hygiene departments, implement new skills, and enhance the overall patient experience.

The course we took offered training in a variety of clinical and communication areas, including incorporating new techniques and technology, developing effective patient relationships and customer service, maximizing organizational methods, and emphasizing lifetime, comprehensive care. Afterward, we applied new practices and efficiencies in patient retention, X-rays, caries risk assessment, sealants, whitening, and more.

In addition to advancing specific procedures, implementing the right day-to-day systems and mindsets can make a difference in hygiene efficiency.

Establish clear communication within your team. You cannot have efficiency if your team is not working together toward a shared goal. Make sure your team is upbeat, positive, and adaptable. Their optimism will keep them self-motivated and keep patients enthusiastic. Hold a short morning huddle each day to review daily goals and expectations, and review successes and challenges from the previous day. This will help keep everyone on the same page and clear on what that day's schedule involves.

Measure your progress. You cannot manage what you cannot measure. Once you have a hygiene goal and an action plan, set a benchmark to measure advancement. This will tell you and your team the current status of hygiene production, where things are going, what opportunities you can pursue, and what progress you have made.

Patient satisfaction can also be measured. At Heartland Dental-supported offices, patient surveys are administered and processed by an independent third party. Supported offices can see where they stand in areas such as care worth value, dental team-patient interaction, and more. This helps dentists and teams identify what day-to-day processes are working well and what processes need improvement. Even if you are not using a third-party survey, take the time to learn what your patients' expectations are.

Keep cancellations in check. Completing a patient's hygiene appointments can be difficult. The recare appointment is often the most cancelled appointment, and can very negatively impact your efficiency. But there are steps you can take to avoid, or at least account for, cancellations. Pointing out patient progress or areas for improvement creates ownership and motivation to continue with recommended intervals of recare.

Communicate with patients effectively and keep them excited about improving their oral health. Make them want to come in. If you have too many cancellations, you could implement a cancellation fee if notice isn't given within a certain time frame. You could display this notice in different locations in your office. Be sure to clearly explain why this is necessary and how cancellations negatively impact your office's daily schedule. This type of penalty, however, is only a temporary fix for a bigger problem, and doesn't materially contribute to long-term success.

It takes all facets of a practice working as effectively as possible to create ideal efficiency, and hygiene is no exception. Dentists don't have to advance the standard of care alone. Get the whole team involved and eager to discover what systems and education can be applied to the task at hand-patient care.


A graduate of the Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry, Dale A. Burgdorf, DDS, FAGD, has practiced dentistry for over 30 years. He is a practicing dentist at Crossroads Dental in Dallas, Texas, as well as a member and Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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