Dental Hygiene – A Driver for Practice Growth

Want to add new patients to your practice? The key could be hidden in reactivating old patients with a more robust hygiene program.

Could a more robust dental hygiene program be the key to adding new patients?

One of the things I continually hear from dentists over the last several years is the reduction in new patients. Additionally, the cost of new patient acquisition has increased tremendously as websites, SEO and online reviews rule the day. These same dentists also tell me that they need to cut back on their dental hygiene days; “I can’t afford to have a hygienist sitting around!”

I believe that dentists are missing a hidden goldmine of patients that already have a relationship with your practice. Patients of record that have either missed a hygiene visit or periodontal maintenance appointment are a key source for dental practices of additional daily production. Data from multiple sources also indicates that recall rates for mature practices are only 55-65%.

In my experience, developing a well thought out reactivation program and ADDING more dental hygiene time will drive practice growth with diligence and perseverance to the process. In addition, the cost of this reactivation process is considerably less expensive than acquiring new patients.

Your dental hygiene program should contain ALL the following elements.

  • Be sure your dental hygienists have excellent verbal skills. After all, dentists want the best education and home care for his or her patients.
  • Establish a definitive protocol for hygiene in your practice. The protocol should define all aspects of care delivery including: periodontal probing, use of irrigation, local antimicrobials and especially soft tissue lasers. Your hygienist should be proficient in the effective use of these modalities of treatment.
  • All patients should be re-appointed for their next recall interval when dismissed from current hygiene visits.
  • Utilize your dental hygienists, when cancellations do occur, to proactively re-connect with their patients who may be overdue for their recall visit. Most practice management systems have specific reporting to identify patients that have missed a recall or periodontal maintenance visit. Don’t rely only on your front office to fill your hygiene schedule.

As a dental educator, I suggest to my dental hygiene students that a dentist, as their future employer, is looking for three things primarily:

  • Do a thorough job when scaling
  • Do no harm and cause no pain!
  • Find the dentist potential needed care

To emphasize the importance of identifying potential needed care, I explain to my clients that the dental hygienist spends more time with your patient routinely. If the RDH communicates the benefits of dental treatment, it’s practically accepted by the time the dentist enters the operatory to examine the patient!

To kick start your hygiene program, you may wish to discuss the situation with your hygienist(s) to engage them. Once you begin to see the growth, you can always add incentives to expand your program.

Dental practice growth is a team effort. It requires the dedicated of effort of all. Look at your dental hygienists as the turbo booster for practice growth.

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