by Beverly Maguire, RDH
Over the past eight months, we have explored the eight steps necessary to make the transition to a diagnosis-driven approach. Breakthroughs in knowledge and research relating to periodontal disease have also modified our approach.
"Soft-tissue management" concepts began the shift 15 years ago with the theory of managing the disease process early and nonsurgically. We are well beyond simply managing "soft tissue;" successful periodontal disease management requires attending to each of the eight areas we have discussed in this series, from data collection and diagnosis to behavior modification. Omitting any step of the process could weaken clinical efforts to suppress disease activity. Clinical intervention is but a small piece of the puzzle.
Two dental diseases threaten oral health: caries and periodontal disease. It's obvious that to adequately care for patients, both diseases must be treated and managed. It's up to the dentist and the dental hygienist to combat these diseases. The dentist treats caries and its related conditions, while the hygienist treats and manages periodontal diseases.
Every dental practice has two primary producers: the dentist and the hygienist. To run a successful practice, both departments must be profitable.
Dentists and hygienists are partners in productivity; we need one another to manage the scope of patient needs. How many dentists have the time, training, or inclination to manage and treat periodontal disease on a daily basis? Should those needs go unmet, who will assume responsibility for the predominate care that patients require?
Periodontists are certainly an option; however, most practitioners are focused solely on surgery. They remain a key partner in the management of periodontal disease; however, few are experts in nonsurgical therapy designed to treat, monitor, and maintain early periodontal disease.
Last time I checked, "dirty teeth" was not a classified disease! A hygienist's role is not to "clean teeth," but to be a partner in the common goal of managing patient needs,and, in that process, create revenue for the business. Cleaning teeth, and treating and managing disease, are worlds apart. The profits generated by each approach are also worlds apart.
Your partner in treating patient disease is the hygienist. Your partner in practice productivity is the hygienist. Educating patients regarding dental disease and needed restorative treatment is another key role of your partner in productivity. Preparing patients to accept both restorative and aesthetic dentistry is key to a successful and productive practice.
It is time to re-evaluate our respective roles and partnership in the business of dentistry. The entire team is essential for success. It's simply impossible to run a practice without strength in all departments, including the business area and clinical support areas.
Don't underestimate the power of this hygiene transition. It's clearly one of the most overlooked and undervalued areas of your practice. Many practitioners believe it's under control simply because they employ a hygienist. Who knows for sure?
Look at the statistics. Know what to evaluate and what makes a healthy department. What's the percentage of prophy to perio codes in your practice?
I offer a complimentary hygiene department assessment for dental practices. Each week, I compile numbers from around the country; most are over 90 percent prophy!
Find out where you stand. Perception or reality? Income or profitability? Cleaning or treatment? Partner or employee? Take another look, or assume the risk of lost productivity — and profit.
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 email at PerioAdvocates@aol.com