Have You Underestimated Your Dental Hygienist’s Ability to Increase Production?
The Hygiene Team’s Role in Growing Revenue
To patients, a dental hygienist is someone who does cleanings and evaluates the mouth for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems. But to an experienced dentist, a hygienist is a valuable resource for increasing practice revenue. In fact, a successful dental hygiene team is typically responsible for about one-third of total practice production.
Note the term “successful” in that statistic. To be successful, hygienists need the right tools and support to maximize their productivity and to introduce patients to appropriate treatments. Here are a few things you need to think about as you work to increase the dental hygiene production in your office.
How Does Dental Hygiene Production Increase Revenue?
Good dental hygiene production increases practice revenue in two ways. First, hygienists handle cleanings and other routine preventive care, leaving you with more time to perform root canals, extractions, and restorations that bill at much higher rates. Second, dental hygienists have many opportunities to suggest potential treatments. On average, a patient spends about 30 minutes receiving preventive services, giving the hygienist plenty of time to conduct an assessment and recommend treatments to address issues such as bad breath, missing teeth, and cosmetic concerns.
These are just a few of the treatments a hygienist can recommend based on the results of a patient’s evaluation and cleaning:
- Veneers: An observant hygienist will easily notice cracks, chips, discoloration, and other problems that could be addressed with porcelain or composite veneers.
- Night guards: Hygienists should look for signs of bruxism and ask patients if they have any symptoms of sleep apnea or temporomandibular joint disorders. This presents an opportunity to suggest the use of a custom night guard.
- Dentures or implants: If the patient has missing teeth or if they have extractions scheduled, the hygienist should discuss the possible replacement of those missing teeth with dentures or implants.
- Whitening: While performing an evaluation and cleaning, a hygienist has the opportunity to observe tooth discoloration and explain the importance of having professional whitening services instead of using home kits.
Your hygienists should also be in the habit of following up on treatment plans that haven’t been accepted or completed. For example, if a patient has gum disease that would benefit from scaling and root planing, the hygienist should remind them of the long-term effects of untreated periodontitis.
Shifting the Focus From Dental Hygiene Production to Overall Practice Production
Without support and guidance from the practice owner, hygienists may focus so much on doing cleanings and taking X-rays that they don’t think about how their role fits into the overall success of the practice. That’s why it’s so important to give hygienists the tools and support they need to open the door for increased practice production. If you’re not, you could be hampering the success of your dental practice.
One of the best ways to increase production is to make sure each hygienist is well versed in all treatments you offer at your practice. A hygienist should be able to suggest appropriate treatment, clearly explain what it entails, and discuss its pros and cons. Hygienists must also have enough knowledge to answer patient questions without having to stop and ask you for more information.
Implementing Systems to Increase Production
It’s also important to have processes in place to make it easier for hygienists to increase overall practice production. Without a systematic approach to suggesting treatments and following up on incomplete treatment plans, it’s difficult for a busy hygienist to remember everything they’re supposed to do. Here’s an example of a checklist you might have your hygienists follow to increase production without taking on more patients:
- Greet the patient and discuss their current needs.
- Evaluate the teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth, noting any issues that might benefit from additional treatments.
- Suggest appropriate treatments based on the patient’s needs. For example, the hygienist could discuss the benefits of fluoride treatment or let the patient know about the new orthodontic services your practice is offering.
- Check the patient’s record to determine if there are any incomplete treatment plans or suggested treatments that haven’t been accepted. For example, if a hygienist discussed scaling and root planing at the patient’s last visit, they can remind the patient of the benefits of having the treatment.
Over time, a good hygienist develops positive relationships with their patients, building trust and making each patient more receptive to their suggestions. In many cases, this makes it possible to increase practice revenue without adding any new patients to your roster.
Adding Orthodontic Services to Your Practice
To increase practice production, many general and pediatric dentists are learning how to practice orthodontics. With the right skills, you can provide this additional service instead of referring your patients to another practice. If this appeals to you, send your team to an orthodontic assistants and hygienists training course to learn about bracketing, wire placement, mirror photography, and other relevant topics. Dental hygienists excel at communicating with patients and building rapport, so why not have them introduce your patients to orthodontics and other potential services?