I’m often surprised at the differences in approach and attitude that dentists have toward their hygiene department. What I’ve consistently found, however, is that practices that have refined their hygiene systems and maximize their hygienists have much higher case acceptance and will produce significantly more.
The reasons for this are quite simple: first, the hygienist is the person that the patient spends the most time with. And second, and perhaps even more important, is that, when a hygienist recommends a certain treatment, the patient doesn’t think it’s about the dentist making more money.
How often do we hear patients respond to a treatment plan from the dentist by saying things like, “Need a new boat, doc?” or “Planning a European vacation?” Patients don’t say those things to the hygienist. Very often she has more credibility. And instead of resenting this, dentists should be eager to capitalize on the unique role the hygienist can play in case acceptance.
What’s more, the hygiene department itself has much greater potential to produce income for the practice. In my discussion with Shannon Richkowski, who runs Hygiene Mastery, the real opportunities occur when the practice goes beyond the prophy and uses the latest technology to expand the service offerings to include cancer screenings, 3D imaging, laser treatments and more.
The fact is, there should be two hygienists for every dentist in the practice. And for every dollar produced in hygiene, there should be two to three dollars produced by the rest of the practice. And this isn’t just some random guideline. This has been proven a thousand times over by Fortune Management when they coach practices.
The key to maximizing the hygiene department is to understand that the hygienist needs more expanded skills and training than are taught in hygiene school. They need better communication skills, and they need more clinical skills. Once they have those, they transform the practice.
The simple truth is that hygiene impacts every department. Hygienists also benefit when they realize that their department is essentially a business within a business, and they need skills in that area as well, which are not taught in hygiene school either. They need to understand how to monitor their results, and most of all, they need to get good at selling.
That’s right, I said selling. Because selling is just communication with a purpose, and when that purpose is the patient’s health, it’s a professional responsibility to skillfully guide a patient into the treatment that is going to optimize their oral health, and subsequently their overall health. Anything short of that borders on neglect, in my mind.
When a hygienist is comfortable recommending treatment, and performing expanded procedures, he or she becomes a cornerstone of the practice’s success. And I mean success in the most profound way, which is not just revenue, but healthy patients who trust the practice and the team members to give them the care they need. Patients want to be healthy, but very often they don’t understand what that means when it comes to their mouth. That’s our job. And that’s what they expect from us.
Shannon and I did a video podcast on the impact a powerful hygiene department can have when they get the training from Hygiene Mastery. I highly recommend you spend a half an hour listening to it. She’ll explain how your hygiene department S.U.C.K.S. (and you’ll learn what those letters stand for!)
So focus on hygiene, and expand the team’s training. You’ll reap the benefits, in team satisfaction, case acceptance, and happy, referring patients.