“You need to see the hygienist” says the dentist.
The patient thinks: “Another £50, another visit, more time off work. For a bit of chat about my holidays, get asked how it’s been since last time, followed by a bit of prodding and then it hurts as they start scraping, and they start calling out numbers I don’t understand. I promise to floss and my teeth feel lovely and clean for a week, then pretty much the same for the next 6 months. I start flossing and my gums bleed. Why can’t the dentist just do it as part of the check-up next time?”
Many dentists I meet know that this is what’s going on in their practices. In fact, this week, a dentist told me that he was re-introducing the “Exam, Scale and Polish” to his fee scale, in an attempt to make sure his patients got their teeth cleaned…
So, has he got the answer? Happy patients: yes (for all the reasons above); but patients without perio’ disease? Probably not, just patients with clean teeth for a while.
If you have some nagging doubts about how effective your hygiene service is, then maybe, just maybe your patients are right not to come to their hygiene appointments. So, if you want to shake it up, here are some tactics many of our clients are using to get their patient’s periodontal disease treated:
- Audit a sample of regular patients across your practice to assess their periodontal condition and the current effectiveness of periodontal treatment. Be objective!
- Call a meeting of all your clinicians to discuss improving the provision and effectiveness of periodontal treatment.
- Tell them that (with their help) you’d like to repackage and then relaunch your periodontal treatments to your existing patients and your new patients.
- Create a set of up-to-date periodontal treatment protocols that your clinical team are confident are the best rationale to treat periodontal disease.
- Divide your patient base into: (1) those who have perio disease, (2) those who used to and now have it under control, and (3) those who don’t have the condition.
- Divide your Hygienist team into those responsible for treating active disease and those responsible for maintaining a healed periodontal patient. These two groups of patients need very different Hygienist skill sets.
- Set two fee scales, charge more for active treatment than for maintenance treatment and make maintenance treatment quick, painless effective and inexpensive.
- Role play the conversations that you and your clinical team will have with your patients about why this new service will help them. Prescribe and charge for a course of periodontal treatment, not for individual appointments.
- Give your Hygienists plenty of time to treat active disease, review their effectiveness and update the protocols. Also, make the maintenance appointments pacey.
- Stop prescribing “Hygiene Appointments” and stop using the term “Hygienist”. Use the terms: “Periodontal Therapy” and “Periodontal Therapists”.
If you do this, several things may happen! Your patients may have less periodontal disease, your Periodontal Therapists will be busy, your practice will become more profitable. If you’re interested in making this happen in your practice and you’d like some help in implementing a twenty first century approach to periodontal treatment, call me for a chat.
07770 430 576