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The absence of recommended toothbrushes and dental supplies in the marketplace can lead to frustration for patients.
Most hygienists recommend a small-headed (size 30 to 35) soft toothbrush to lessen the assault on the cemento-enamel junction. A regularly used toothbrush should be replaced at regular three-month intervals, but, being difficult to find, are often used much longer. However, patients are seeing other, more easily obtainable and rarely recommended items in the marketplace, including size 40-60 toothbrushes, hard bristles and battery-operated toothbrushes – all of which can strip tissue off the cortical plate with a few uses.
In my previous article, I made some recommendations for ways hygienists could enhance patient shopping success when looking for recommended items. Here are some techniques to take this a few steps further and ultimately put those select and valuable hygiene items into your practice’s stock room.
Given the difficulty patients experience locating size 30 or 35 soft toothbrushes, hygienists can proactively visit the nearby grocer or drugstore and request special orders. If numerous requests for a particular dental item are made, the store will start to carry them regularly. Tell your patients which stores carry the items you recommend. My aunt loved the EZ Thru floss holder but could not find them anywhere until she visited a store on the advice of her dental office. At that store, she was able to order an entire box of them, ensuring she wouldn’t run out of her favorite dental tool.
Another difficulty for patients is locating and operating recommended automatic toothbrushes. Hygienists are aware of the technology and science of high-quality automatic toothbrushes, but finding the most cost-effective or specific recommended model is challenging for patients. I once worked in an office as a temporary fill-in hygienist that stocked the lowest-priced travel edition of the Oral B Braun automatic toothbrush. When a recommendation was made for the need for better oral hygiene and the patient was willing to pay the nominal fee for the Braun, we were able to unwrap the brush and give on-the-spot instruction for optimal use. Hands-on instruction at the time of recommendation was vastly more effective than sending the patient to a store to balk at the steep prices and get confused by a large selection of brushes. Large warehouse stores often carry these low-end forms of the best automatic toothbrushes on the market. This dentist bought them by the crate. This really set the bar in patient customer service for me. It also alleviated two problems for patients: Locating the brushes and using them correctly.
A common practice in many offices is the inclusion of a premium automatic toothbrush in a package plan for patients who have been diagnosed with disease and need full-mouth periodontal therapy. Consider stocking lower-cost automatic toothbrushes and recommend them to patients that desire or need better oral hygiene. This recommendation may seem like an expensive undertaking, especially if you have difficulties with hygiene products expiring on the shelves, or the inability to locate products. Traditionally, a non-hygiene member of the team has managed hygiene supply ordering, but responsibility and management of this aspect of the practice may create a new role for a hygienist in your practice. Goals for this new hygiene responsibility would be to remain at or under budget for hygiene supplies and ensure that prescription products are being recommended and sold in a timely manner.
For missing-in-action products, be proactive and make that trip to a local store to order some size 35 soft toothbrushes, stock automatic toothbrushes for the utmost in customer service and consider growing your practice by giving a hygienist some management duties. Your patients and the dentist’s accountant will thank you!