Most dentists are losing $100,000’s in productivity from poorly performing hygiene programs. Are you one of them?

For those of you who don’t currently have a hygiene department, or are toying with the idea of creating one, the potential revenue is much higher than this figure.

When managed well, a hygiene department not only can be a highly profitable income centre, but can drastically improve the health and wellbeing of your patients. The hygiene department is not just there to “move cleans off the dentist…”

There are many factors that contribute to the poor performance of a hygiene department. In this article we are going to take a look at one of those reasons: downtime.

Unfilled hours, failure to attend, cancellations and patients “avoiding” regular “recalls”, are just some of the common frustrations we hear from dentists who contact us for help with their hygiene programs.

So what is it costing you to have only 4 hours downtime per week over a year in your hygiene department?

Approximately $154,768. Click here to find out how those figures were derived.

What actually causes downtime?

Unfortunately downtime in your hygiene department (and even your dental practice) isn’t caused by your patients repeatedly having car issues, being sick or having to suddenly go to work. While some of these reasons are valid, downtime that equates to, on average, 1 hour per 2 days of hygiene is considered to be a serious “leaky bucket” in your hygiene program.

The real reasons why you have downtime

1. The dental team is not singing the same message of hygiene importance.

Patient: I’d like to cancel my session 
Receptionist: Sure not a problem. Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to come in another time?
Patient: I will get back to you when……

Dentist treatment area common scenario

Dentist: “You should probably have a clean as well….” (often mentioned at the end of the restorative treatment plan…)

If hygiene is seen as an “add on”…it will be considered as an optional extra and perceived as a low priority.

2. The patient does not see the value or urgency in committing to preventative care or a periodontal care program.

Put yourself in your patient’s shoes. If you do not see the value in something would you commit to regularly paying the fee for what you consider to be an unnecessary treatment?

People need to know “why…what’s in it for me?” We often take it for granted and believe that the patient understands and accepts the need for a clean.

If the message has not been communicated in a way that the patient can grasp easily, take ownership of the process and see the dollar value inherent in the treatment, then how can we expect them to value hygiene?

Even if your hygienist spends the entire hygiene session scaling, don’t confuse this with the patient’s perception of value!

3. The hygienist did not check in to ensure that the patient understood what was going on.

Don’t take a “yep” or a nod as confirmation that the patient understands or accepts what you are saying. Building trust, rapport and well-orchestrated communication will provide an environment where the patient feels comfortable to share with you the necessary insight to their knowledge and understanding.

4. Systems and processes that create an inconsistent patient experience.

Consistency is the foundation of trust. If the way the service is delivered from the moment the patient calls the practice to the moment they leave are leaving seeds of doubt in their confidence in you and your team, then there will be inconsistencies in the patient’s commitment to attending.

Downtime is costing your practice in lost productivity and peripheral revenue that comes from the hygiene department.

So where do you start? Want a deeper insight into your hygiene department? Here are your action steps:

1. Start tracking statistics – you’ll get to see exactly how much downtime is in your hygiene department. Click here for a simple hygiene tracker to get you started.

2. Download the 8 questions that patients must be able to answer when they leave your hygiene department to know that they have been well educated and understand the value of their hygiene treatment.

Have you ever wondered whether your hygiene department is performing as well as others in a similar situation? To take part in this research, and receive the collated results, click here.

Contact Fiona on (03) 9042 4899 or via to discuss.