Survey your patients for higher hygiene numbers

2017 12 01 18 31 4930 Butler Jen 2017b 400

Sometimes it's difficult to know what patients need comprehensively or what they want cosmetically. So instead of guessing, ask.

Jen Butler, MEd.Jen Butler, MEd.

How? I recommend to many of my clients that they use a hygiene patient survey to aid patient communication and spur discussion.

The goal of this survey is to prompt conversations between the patient and the clinical team to broaden the comprehensive care provided. The survey promotes discussion with the patient about what the questions mean and about their oral health. This survey may also help promote the use of additional hygiene products and services that increase hygiene numbers while keeping patient care as your main focus.

Survey says

Below are some questions you might include on a hygiene patient survey. Remember that these questions are phrased for the patient.

1. Are you a smoker?
2. Do you chew or use smokeless tobacco?

Depending on the answer to the above questions, there could be a need for oral cancer screening. The answers may also suggest an opportunity for varnish treatment.

3. Are you a female over the age of 16?

Consider a comprehensive oral cancer screening for your patient.

“This survey may also help promote the use of additional hygiene products and services.”

4. Have you had a cavity in the last year?

The answer gives you the opportunity to talk with patients about their overall oral healthcare and about hygiene treatments you can offer, such as varnish.

5. Do your gums bleed at all when brushing or flossing?

If the answer is yes, talk with the patient more. This may be an indication for laser treatment or the purchase of an electric toothbrush or interdental flosser.

6. Do you feel the need to eat mints or chew gum often?
7. Do you have a dry mouth?

A positive response might indicate a need for periodontal treatment and the use of relevant oral care products.

8. Do you get cold sores?

If the patient answers yes, it might mean the patient could benefit from laser treatment. The office can bill that out as a code or charge the patient if it's not a covered benefit

9. Do you have sensitive teeth?

This could be an indication for treatment with a varnish or specific oral care products.

10. Are you happy with your smile?

This is more than just a cosmetic dentistry question, but it could be an opportunity to discuss teeth whitening, clear-aligner, and other cosmetic dentistry treatments.

Additional questions

You also might consider questions about athletic activity, snoring, and teeth grinding.

11. Do you grind your teeth?
12. Do people comment that you grind your teeth?

Their answers to these questions might indicate that the patient should use a nightguard.

13. Do you participate in sports?

This gives you a chance to talk with your patient about using a mouthguard while playing sports.

14. Do you want to keep your teeth all your life?

Let's hope the answer is yes.


I recommend to my clients that they copy and format the questions into a document small enough for four surveys per sheet. Then, when patients check in, have them answer each question and return the survey to the designated coordinator.

The coordinator then puts the survey responses into the patient's chart for the clinical staff to review when the patient goes back into the operatory.


Now your patients are already thinking about their oral health. The survey answers can be used as a conversation tool. The conversation can begin in many different ways:

  • Based on your response to the question about cold sores, I'm going to ...
  • Tell me more about your dry mouth/teeth grinding/bleeding gums.

The ultimate goal of using a survey is to gain commitment from patients and use their own words to support diagnosed care.

Jen Butler, MEd, is the CEO and founder of JB Partners. For business coaching and consulting, leadership, and stress management services, contact her at [email protected].

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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