Dos and don'ts for the hygiene department: It's not just 'cleaning'

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Patients who believe that all a hygienist does is clean their teeth are much more likely to cut back on or completely eliminate hygiene visits. Though dental professionals are totally aware of what happens during even routine hygiene visits, and of the value of everything the hygienist does, most patients are not. You can't expect patients to come in twice a year for mere "cleaning," especially if they're on tight personal budgets. Give them good reasons, and they will come.


Work with the hygienist to develop scripts to explain what's happening. Even quiet hygienists can usually be trained to give the patient a play-by-play as they go through various procedures. With new patients, scripting should do more than just identify the steps being taken -- it should briefly explain what's being done, why, and how it will help maintain the patient's oral health.


Don't assume that telling each patient once is enough. Even patients who've been coming to the practice for years may not recall or understand the value of what the hygienist is doing for them. Simply telling them "I'm measuring your gum pockets now for signs of disease" or "This is your oral cancer screening" indirectly encourages them to come back in six months.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is the chairman and CEO of practice management consulting firm Levin Group. You can connect with Levin Group on Facebook and Twitter (@Levin_Group) to learn more strategies and share ideas. Also, check out Dr. Levin's free practice management videos at

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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