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3 Surefire Steps to Creating a Productive and Profitable Hygiene Department

3 Surefire Steps to Creating a Productive and Profitable Hygiene Department
Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH

As we come to the end of another year, dental practices are running on their treadmill trying to figure out how to end on a high note. Below are three ingredients to creating productivity and profitability in your hygiene department by end of year without working any more than you already are.


Your Hygiene Department is a Profit Center

Most dental offices today are still treating a majority of their hygiene patients with a prophylaxis. This means hygienists work harder and faster to get their patients’ teeth clean versus creating optimal total health.


In 2012, the American Academy of Periodontology reported that 64.7 million American adults, 30 years and older, have periodontal disease.

sixty four million americans have perio (1)


Why are we still under-treating this prevalent disease?

  • Hygienists and dentists continue to treat according to what a patients insurance will pay
  • Many hygienists and dentists continue to treat the bloody Prophy (See AAP Parameters of Care:
  • Many hygienists today are focused on “cleaning teeth.”  (Hygienists are doing their very best. We “know what we know” but times have changed in dentistry over the last 15-20 yrs.)
  • Dentistry is constantly changing and it’s difficult to stay abreast of all the new information.


The Hygiene Department Paradigm Shift

For many years, dental hygienists sole focus has been cleaning teeth. With our most current science and research regarding the oral and systemic link today, dentistry and thus hygiene should be focused on patients’ total health.

Hygiene appointments in the twenty-first century must be about treating the whole body, going beyond a prophy.

3 Steps to Create this Paradigm Shift

Step 1- Elegant and Effective Communication

They say words can paint a 1,000 pictures. What can hygienists say to create a change in how patients perceive their hygiene appointment?

How can we create value for our patients during their hygiene appointment?


Here are a few suggestions:

Show your patients how much you care about their total health by seating them in your dental chair and explaining that you want to be sure they do not have any “inflammation, infection, tooth loss or loss of life.”

Many patients have no idea that optimal oral health will lead to a longer and healthier life. When we make this statement about living a longer and healthier life, patients will either “get” the total health message or they will question why this new conversation, either way we have their attention.

The overarching message in dentistry today is about creating a Healthy Body.

Break it down into words your individual patients understand. For example:

  • Use words such as “active disease, gum disease, bleeding gums, inflammation, infection, preventive care, gum therapy, etc.”
  • Use Proxemics: Your posture is about 55% of the conversation so sit your patient knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye when discussing what you “see” in their mouth. (use the word “see”)
  • Say words like “routine hygiene care, routine care, preventive care, periodontal maintenance, etc.
  • Nix the word “cleaning.”


Step 2- Include Abnormality Assessments During Hygiene Appointments

  • Blood pressure screening annually
  • “Oral abnormality screening” using fluoroscopy (aka: oral cancer screening)
  • Periodontal exam (Comprehensive Perio Exam Annually)
  • Visual exam (Use the intra-oral camera and take intra-oral pictures)
  • Smile Assessment (will enroll patients into high-end treatment plans: tooth bleaching, veneers, Invisalign®, implants, etc.)

Step 3- Create a Partnership With Your Patient

  • Use the Smile Assessment to understand what your patients want versus telling them only what they need.
  • Before you lay your patient back in the chair to begin the periodontal exam explain that you will be using a ruler to measure for inflammation, infection and will call out some numbers.
    • Explain that if they hear numbers such as 1-3 this is healthy, a 4 is a sign of inflammation and 5 or higher is a sign of infection.
    • Tell your patient not to worry if you find something abnormal because you will create a plan for health.


Create a Winning Situation for Everyone

The most efficient way to increase productivity and profitability in your dental practice is by increasing optimal care in your hygiene department. By enrolling patients into periodontal therapy and following the parameters of care according to the American Academy of Periodontology, you will create optimal oral and total health for your patients.

When you create high-level patient care, your productivity and production will increase. Using elegant and effective communication skills will show your patients how much you care.

Patients who understand your concern are more likely to schedule and pay for treatment. When patients feel well cared for they are more likely to return to your office for routine care. Happy patients are the people who will refer their friends and family to your office.

Creating optimal oral health is a win-win-win! This means a win for the patient, a win for the hygienists who have less work because they no longer rush to clean teeth and the dental practice wins financially.

Do you know what your percentage of adult patients are enrolled in optimal care? Grab this free video training series that will walk you through the 3 steps to create productivity and higher profitability in your hygiene department without working more than you already are.


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