Decreasing Hygiene Downtime


Continuing with our “I just want to be a dentist” series, downtime in the schedule is a burning issue for almost every practice. Addressing the issue of hygiene downtime is a high priority for everyone involved.

An acceptable measurable percentage for non-productive time in hygiene is 5-8%. If the hygiene program is appropriately designed, the Hygiene Coordinator, or the person responsible for booking the hygiene schedule, will no longer need to operate from a place of urgency.

Instead, they will have several places to go to in order to fill the empty time slot. Through the establishment of a hygiene program, you can keep the hygienist’s time filled with a minimum amount of stress to all those involved.

The first step, which is absolutely necessary, is to have an accurate patient count so that you can calculate the number of hygiene hours that your practice actually needs. Once this has been determined, you can compare the number of patients to the number of available hygiene hours. Decreasing hygiene downtime may be as simple as decreasing the number of hygiene hours and booking the remainder more effectively.

One of the major areas that require work is the perception of what is done at the hygiene appointment itself. To many patients, their hygiene appointment is viewed as a service much like getting their hair done or their car tuned. In order for that perception to change, hygienists must take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them while the patient is in their treatment room.

The first thing we need to do to change the perception is to establish a relationship with our patient; get to know them by becoming an effective listener. People love to talk about themselves and since the appointment is about the patient, let them. By becoming a good listener, you can find out what a patient’s priorities are. Is money the most important thing to them or their looks? Does their work take them away for long periods at a time or do they work from home? Are they involved in sports activities? Do they snore?

By finding out lifestyle information, you may learn that a patient who works from home doesn’t mind being called in at the last minute to fill a spot. If the patient likes to have everything planned down to the last second, chances are this kind of appointment won’t do. If their looks are important they may be more inclined to take the necessary steps to improve or keep their level of oral health.

The second thing we must do is to educate our patients. Stay tuned next week for valuable tips for effectively educating our patients to value their oral health.