A shift in hygiene

June 1, 2011
In order to flourish in the New Economy, the whole team must make changes. Patients are more sophisticated now; they're wiser and more sensitive to sales pressure.

Bill Blatchford, DDS

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: production, hygiene, periodontal treatment protocol, Dr. Bill Blatchford.

In order to flourish in the New Economy, the whole team must make changes. Patients are more sophisticated now; they’re wiser and more sensitive to sales pressure. We need to show ourselves in a different light and teach our patients to think in a different way. Which team member has the most time to initiate conversations with patients? The hygienist.

Today, your hygienist can become an even bigger team player by engaging in patient-centered conversations. Let your patients share their values and dreams. If you shift your focus from education and remove the sales pressure, your patients’ values will begin to drive the conversation, and they can become involved in the solution. Think “big picture” rather than fixing the worst tooth. Let patients become your partners in their long-term treatment plan, which will result in much greater success in filling the practice schedule and increasing production.

The real shift is working with patients on what is important to them. What do your patients want? What are their long-term goals for dental health? Is it dentures, letting their oral health slide, or waiting and hoping? Will your patients become partners in keeping their teeth for a lifetime because of what they have shared with you?

These new conversations will direct and energize your practice. You can discover what problems your patients perceive regarding their smile or dental health. They may tell you they have never liked their smile. They may have been teased about crooked teeth or felt their teeth were small and yellow.

In a one-hour hygiene appointment with the right questions, a listening ear, and a positive attitude, you can discover secrets your patients may never have shared with anyone else. These are the emotional issues that can involve patients in positive treatment outcomes.

To make these conversations work well, schedule a specific time for sales training. It takes practice, practice, and practice! You cannot just wing it, because you will quickly revert to the use of pressure and education to sell dentistry.

Why would your team be willing to learn these valuable conversations? A clear, simple, and equal bonus is a huge motivating factor. All team members need to earn a guaranteed wage per hour. When hygienists are paid on commission based on their production, they miss the main focus of filling the doctor’s schedule with treatment. Instead, how about having your hygienist(s) earn a monthly bonus that equals your usual pay?

To have your team support your vision and skills takes structured team training. Your team must have confidence that you, as the leader, will support their discoveries. If you want to perform more comprehensive treatment, each team member must also embrace that philosophy and learn the appropriate skills. We call it TNT — Team iN Training time. Daily at first and then weekly, select models and X-rays one case at a time to share your diagnosis with your team. Start with one missing tooth in different areas.

Gradually work toward quadrants and arches. Explain the reasoning behind your diagnosis in each case, and tell your staff why you feel this would be the best solution. Your team needs to know that you will support their conversations with patients. You will now have an excited team who loves to participate in this new way. This is especially true for the hygienist with the one-hour opportunity.

Hygiene certifications are expanding. Make sure you know your state statutes, and encourage your hygienist to become certified in every allowable treatment.

Hygienists must have a daily production goal. To reach that goal, hygiene demand must match capacity. Called hygiene titration, look at your last 90 days of hygiene production. Count the number of filled and unfilled appointments. What is your current demand? If you have more capacity than demand, it’s time to work with your team on a solution.

It is estimated that 70% of the population has some degree of periodontal disease. The national average for perio codes is 5% of total treatment in hygiene. What is the percentage in your practice? Is there a firm periodontal treatment protocol that doctor and team support? What is your diagnosis when there is bleeding in a 2 mm pocket?

Your hygiene team member(s) must own the numbers so the hygiene department can be profitable. The partnership between doctor and hygiene can be a beautiful one, with you as the leader and the hygienist as an accountable team player. Together, you can shift to profitability.

Dr. Bill Blatchford is America’s premier dental business coach. A solid net return is a cornerstone of his coaching success. Blatchford In A Box is a recent product and Blatchford’s Bu$iness of Hygiene arrived on May 1. He has published two best-selling books and can be reached at (888) 977-4600, www.blatchford.com, or www.blatchfordinabox.com.

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