Creating a Successful Hygiene Department

As a dentist, your primary focus is to provide outstanding oral health care to your patients. You know that good oral hygiene is vital to a dental health care regimen and is key to helping your patients maintain a healthy mouth. For this reason, your dental hygienists play a very important role in the success of your dental office.

Hygienists are often the first person your patients come in contact with when they sit down in the dental chair. They see patients multiple times a year just as dentists do, and they educate patients on good oral hygiene habits to ensure that they keep up with their six-month cleanings and exams. Hygienists work hard to continuously promote the need for routine dental care, and encourage patients to make those regular dental visits a priority. This is crucial for not only the productivity of your office, but for the overall well-being of your patients.

To ensure the best for both your office and your patients, invest in your hygiene team. There are several steps you can take to accomplish this:

Establish Systems for Seamless Organization. Take the time to integrate systems into your everyday work flow that create alignment in your office, help boost team morale and establish hygiene efficiency. Ensure that all team members are on the same page by effectively communicating with them your goals for the office. Morning huddles are key for implementing daily strategy. They set the tone and help tremendously in making sure everyone understands the schedule and goals for that day.

Ensure Effective Communication With Patients. In addition to the communication between team members, it is important to establish a clear line of communication with patients. Make sure everyone is on the same page in regard to your goals for patient hygiene appointments and treatment plans. It can be extremely easy for a patient to cancel an appointment for recare, especially if the office team is not working together to emphasize the importance of routine care. Establish expectations for the way each patient is guided through his or her treatment plan, and make sure all treatment is thoroughly explained. This helps patients to feel comfortable at each appointment, thus confident to schedule their next routine cleaning.

Proactively Seek Ways to Improve. There is always room for improvement. Once you’ve set your goals for hygiene in your office, set benchmarks so that you can continuously advance. A great way to measure your progress is through patient satisfaction surveys. Heartland Dental supported offices utilize Press Ganey to administer patient surveys and gather feedback. The results can help you understand the areas you are thriving in, as well as the areas that could use improvement. Another way to grow is through continuing education. Find courses for your team to attend that are specific to dental hygiene, communication, and more. Heartland Dental offers a wide variety of continuing education courses for supported doctors and their teams. For example, Wendy Briggs’ Hygiene Diamonds course is perfect for helping supported offices transform their hygiene teams. It covers a variety of areas that help teams develop new skills and techniques for improved clinical and communication methods. Heartland Dental is also working with Wendy to trial a new course called Periodontal Diamonds.

Each of these steps can help your office build a strong hygiene department. By involving all team members in the goal-making process, you can establish an efficient and effective way to deliver quality care to your patients without compromising your team’s morale.

Samson Liu, DDS, MAGD

Samson Liu, DDS, MAGD, Vice President of Clinical Affairs at Heartland Dental and full-time practicing dentist at in Wildwood, Missouri.

Since graduating dental school and the start of his career at Heartland Dental, Dr. Liu's practice has grown to a 12-chair office.