Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
The role of the hygienist and hygiene department in building a successful cosmetic dental practice is critical. The task of achieving a targeted percentage of elective and cosmetic services falls largely to the hygienist, who is the primary patient educator of the practice. The following case study on the hygiene department focuses on increasing the amount of aesthetic cases dentists perform in their practices.
A new client had a general practice that was open four days a week. Located in a large midwestern town, this client wanted to expand the amount of cosmetic dentistry he performed, but his patients were unreceptive. After attending several long-term aesthetic continuing-education programs, this dentist was disappointed in his progress.
Our analysis revealed the doctor had increased his clinical expertise but had not made any further changes in his practice's operations. Although he regularly mentioned different cosmetic options to patients, nothing else about the practice had been changed to increase aesthetic case acceptance. Eighty-seven percent of his patients were receiving single-tooth treatment, and neither the hygienist nor the front-desk staff discussed cosmetic options with patients. Furthermore, the design and appearance of the practice was acceptable but hardly pleasing.
• We immediately focused on the dental hygienist as a communicator and champion of aesthetic dentistry. In addition to revising basic systems such as scheduling and finance, the hygienist was trained in the use of extensive scripting so she could discuss cosmetic dentistry with every patient. The doctor took time to help her understand the wide scope of aesthetic treatment options. She was then trained to educate and motivate patients about these services.
The hygienist was an extremely pleasant and outgoing individual. The dentist bleached her teeth and placed four veneers on her anterior teeth, giving her a smile that matched her enthusiasm. After this treatment, she became extremely excited about cosmetic options and participated fully in patient education, motivation, and communication. She adopted a positive orientation toward aesthetic dentistry and became a major proponent of aesthetic care.
• The front-desk staff also was trained to discuss aesthetic services as a way to re-enforce case presentations.
• We created a template for the schedule, leaving blocks of time available for aesthetic cases. This was important because the staff had previously told patients there was a three-week wait to begin treatment. We believe that patients who are ready for aesthetic treatment want to begin as soon as possible. Waiting three to four weeks gives patients too much time to reconsider and drop out of the aesthetic treatment process. Only by leaving time in the schedule and careful monitoring can a practice focus on aesthetic services.
Furthermore, understanding the schedule allowed the hygienist to recommend certain times the patients could begin their treatment. She enjoyed her new role, and her efforts allowed the doctor to confirm that the aesthetic recommendations were in the patients' best interest and answer any final questions. The doctor was surprised to find that, at times, he entered the hygiene room, only to have a patient make comments such as, "I'd like to have six of those porcelain veneers just like Sally's."
In the 12 months following the initiation of this program, the practice increased gross cosmetic revenue by $168,000. The dentist was excited that he was using the new skills he had acquired through his continuing education and that his patients were highly interested in aesthetic dentistry. His final comment: "I can't believe the difference. Now that the whole office is focused on aesthetics, patients are asking me rather than me asking them."
Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, Inc., the leading dental management consulting firm specializing in implementing documented business systems into dental practices. Levin Group is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through proven dental practice management and marketing consulting programs that help practices reach higher levels of success and profitability. Levin Group can be contacted at (888) 973-0000 or at www.levingroup.com.