By Jen Larocca, RDH
Dentists have continued to struggle with how the shortage of hygienists impacts their practice. A recent poll by the American Dental Association (ADA) reveals that in the 20 largest U.S. cities, only half of hygienist positions are reported as filled. Given the laws of supply and demand, your hygiene team is positioned to command higher pay. The question is – if you’re paying more for your hygienist, where is that money coming from, and how can you earn it back.
Your Hygienists Can Help Increase Case Acceptance
Dentists can make up the difference by enlisting the support of their hygiene team to improve their case acceptance rate. For most practices this would qualify as low hanging fruit among options for increasing revenue. According to a study by Jarvis Analytics, only about 34% of presented restorative treatment is accepted nationwide. That translates into dentists only completing about $34,000 of treatment for every $100,000 in proposed treatment. Only 10% of practices reach the 60% acceptance rate, which is the target for a healthy practice.
Better Patient Education
Hygienists are ideally positioned to take on the challenge of increasing patient case acceptance
because they spend more time with patients than anyone else in the office. Hygienists have time to develop a rapport with patients which allows them to be more effective communicators. With some guidance from dentists, hygienists can play a bigger role in educating patients more extensively about proposed treatments. The hygienist can function as a trusted voice, laying the groundwork for additional discussions about treatment or the patient’s interest in cosmetic services with the dentist.
Getting in Sync on Treatment
For this strategy to work, hygienists need to be in sync with the dentist and understand their approach to treatment. Dentistry is not black and white – one dentist’s filling is another dentist’s crown. It’s important for the hygienist and doctor to be on the same page, including how the dentist talks about different treatments, so the patient gets a consistent message. By knowing what to look for and what treatments the dentist is likely to propose, the hygienist can begin educating the patient about the need for treatment before the dentist even sees them.
A Strategy Built on Clear Communication
Getting on the same page with your hygienist doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start by scheduling a weekly lunch meeting to review x-rays and photos together. Point out what you see and talk through the treatments you’d recommend. Be clear about your philosophy – how you decide when treatment is warranted, why you choose one treatment versus another, the advantages to treating a condition early, as well as the ramifications for postponing certain treatments. Encourage your hygienist to ask questions and be open about how you navigate gray areas.
Once your hygienist feels comfortable discussing treatment options with patients, schedule a daily meeting in the morning before your appointments begin. Use the time to review the schedule for the day and create a quick list of unscheduled treatment or any treatments that might come up with each patient.
Like so many things, success is dependent on effective communications with your team, which translates into better communication with your patients. The more tightly aligned your hygiene team is with your approach to patient care, the more confident and motivated they’ll be to help. In addition to helping your practice, success will ultimately benefit your patients by encouraging them to get recommended treatments.
Investing in your hygiene team is one of the best ways to increase revenue. If you have questions, contact Jen at Polished & Profitable Advisors. We help practice owners create a culture where hygienists feel supported and are motivated to contribute to growing your business.