Written by Joseph Havill, DMD Thursday, 31 October 2002 19:00
During over 35 years of practicing dentistry and consulting with dentists and dental practices, it has been my studied observation that one of the keys to complete treatment plans and a successful reconstructive and/or aesthetic dental practice is an outstanding hygiene department, with emphasis on nonsurgical periodontal therapy (soft tissue management) and a continuing care program. This conclusion may seem a bit incongruous, but it is based on simple human psychology—you must value something highly before you will take action to preserve it or enhance it.
HYGIENE: THE STABLE BASE OF THE PRACTICE
The hygiene department, coupled with a nonsurgical periodontal therapy/STM program and continuing care program, will have a tremendous impact on increased treatment acceptance of comprehensive dentistry and aesthetic dentistry. With a properly orchestrated protocol, those patients who did not accept and follow through with treatment in the past can now be motivated to do so by the hygienist at the recall appointment. This ability to motivate patients is the greatest value the hygienist contributes to the office. Hence, the communication skills of the hygienist are of paramount importance.
NONSURGICAL PERIODONTAL THERAPY/STM PROGRAM
A STM program is essential in every practice. If you have not established a nonsurgical periodontal therapy/STM program in your practice, you should take the steps necessary to implement one as soon as possible. Effectively instituted, the STM program can significantly boost your hygiene income. An important point to remember: Be consistent with patients and hygienists in the parameters you have established to place a patient in the STM program. Stick to your guidelines and don’t vary them.
Areas of concern such as pockets, open margins, missing teeth, etc, need to be re-checked periodically. This also constitutes an excellent reason, in addition to the prophy, for the patient to return for recall. Do not say to patients, “you’re in great shape,” if they have 6-mm pockets or open margins. This does not constitute great shape. If they hear “great shape” then they’ll start to believe it and stop coming back, or worse, go to another office when they find out that they are in anything but great shape (a possible legal problem). Always inform the patient of the condition of their mouth, even when they don’t seem to want to know it.
Hygiene is a stand-alone, productive part of the practice. It is not primarily a convenience to the doctor so he or she can do other more “productive” things (although that is an important benefit), and it is not a “loss leader” as some would categorize it. It should be a productive, money-making part of your practice. Hygiene production and treatment presented at the hygiene appointment is an extremely important and valuable adjunct to the practice, with the goal of offering complete care to its patients on an ongoing basis.
Dr. Havill is owner and president of Dental SolutionsNOW (DSN), a company dedicated to providing dentists with timely information to increase practice growth, organization, and income through its widely acclaimed Complete Practice Operating System. Dr. Havill is a dental practice management consultant in Louisville, Ky, and has been involved in all areas of dentistry, including general practice, consulting, and practice systems development for over 35 years. Dr. Havill coauthored the Complete Practice Operating System, an in-office practice management system (formerly Dentistry 2000), that—together with the DSN manuals and office forms—has been successfully implemented in dental practices for over 15 years in 48 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia. Dr. Havill can be contacted at (502) 394-0150 or (888) 809-2138. For additional information about Dental SolutionsNOW, visit DentalSolutionsNOW.com.
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