Learning Dental Hygiene Scheduling: Introduction
Learning dental hygiene scheduling from someone who has mastered the science is available to you right here! It is a science you know! Let me share with you Wikipedia’s definition of science. “Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe”.
I’ve made my mistakes along the way! Believe me!! But my biggest mistakes really weren’t my fault at all. Just not knowing what I was doing was the main problem. Education and experience changed everything.
The Purpose Of The Dental Hygiene Schedule
- to build relationships with patients.
- improves both oral & overall health for patients.
- fuels the dental restorative schedule.
My first painful lesson working at the dental front office was not understanding that every single hygiene appointment needed to be filled. I didn’t understand the why. My first year working in a dental office, I was not all that worried about it. If I filled a hygiene appointment, I was excited. If I didn’t, I didn’t.
Without Training We Make Big Mistakes!
But seated across from one of our doctors at my first annual review, I heard some painful words. “I don’t think you understand the impact of open appointment time”. And truth be told, I had no idea! I had no training, no manual, no support. My first day on the job I was given a computer, a chair, and a telephone. I guess I was expected to somehow pick up from the universe just how to pull it all together!
Years of training, courses, and experience have changed everything for me. It is my hope, that you can take my education and experience, and put it all to work for you in your dental office. Take what I have to offer you here in learning dental hygiene scheduling & adapt it to suit your situation.
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What Your Hygiene Schedule Should Look Like
Do you have the right number of hygienists for your dental practice? That is the very first question to ask yourself? If your dental practice doesn’t have enough hygiene time for your patient base, you have a problem! The reverse is also true. If you don’t have enough hygiene hours for your patient base, you also have a problem. Those problems can’t be fixed with training.
Let’s assume you have the perfect number of hygiene hours to care for your existing patients. What should your hygiene schedule look like?
Hopefully, you are using a hygiene schedule template that works for your unique patients and practice. Maybe this is a time to update your template or create one of your own. You definitely need some understanding of your patient base and scheduling needs to create a template that works for your office.
Keep in mind, that every dental practice is truly unique and should design their own templates. Additional information on creating hygiene schedule templates are available in my Hygiene Master Class – an on-line course for support with your hygiene schedule. All of this you’ll find with your membership. Or you can certainly purchase this block scheduling guide as a stand alone item to help you with your hygiene schedule template too!
When learning hygiene scheduling, however, we just want to focus on adding correct appointments to the already set hygiene template. Within the template, are different hygiene appointment types that require different appointment times. Let’s take a look!
Learning Dental Hygiene Scheduling: Hygiene Appointment Types
Moving forward, let’s assume that we are working with a perfect hygiene schedule template for your office. In looking at that schedule, you can see that there are different blocks of times for procedures. The time is based on the type of dental hygiene appointment.
It’s very important that you understand the definitions of the hygiene procedures you are scheduling. Because dental offices manage hygiene differently and provide different services, I’m going to give you some basic definitions. You’ll need to research other procedure codes you might see in your hygiene schedule.
Each type of dental cleaning also has a corresponding insurance code. I have also included the insurance codes for the procedures.
Dental Cleanings – Routine
D1110-Adult Prophylaxis or Routine Adult Dental Cleaning
This cleaning is defined as “removal of plaque, calculus and stains from the tooth structures” The amount of time needed for this type of cleaning is usually from 30 – 45 minutes, depending on the patient. This type of cleaning is done for patients who have healthy gums and includes some light scaling and polishing. Most patients will schedule every 6 months for routine prophys.
When It’s Been Awhile…
D4355 – Full Mouth Debridement
This is a cleaning usually done for patients who have not had their teeth cleaned for a long time. This procedure is necessary to remove as much of the build-up as possible to further evaluate the teeth and gums. The full mouth debridement is scheduled for 45 minutes – 60 minutes. Again, it depends on each individual patient’s needs. A second appointment is scheduled soon after to “fine scale” to remove any remaining buildup and evaluate what is needed next. It could be an even more extensive hygiene visit will be required. The second appointment is going to be anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes based on the patient’s remaining buildup after their first visit.
D4341 – Active Periodontal Therapy or Periodontal Scaling & Root Planing – Also Known as “Deep Cleanings” (billed by quadrant & includes 4+ involved teeth per quadrant)
D4342 – Active Periodontal Therapy or Periodontal Scaling & Root Planing – Also Known as “Deep Cleanings” (billed by quadrant & includes 1 – 3 involved teeth per quadrant)
Active perio treatment varies in appointment length, based on the diagnosis, and how much the patient can tolerate in each visit. Sometimes, insurances will cover 4 full quadrants of active perio treatment in one appointment. Other insurance policies will cover 2 full quadrants at a time only.
Each active perio appointment is at least one hour and can be as long as 2 hours or more if all 4 quadrants are treated at one time.
The patient receiving active perio treatment will be showing more significant signs of periodontal disease. Their symptoms could be bleeding gums, bone loss that is visible on x-rays, and pocketing surrounding the tooth that is more than 5mm in depth, as well as calculus below the gum line.
A local anesthetic is used to numb the mouth.
D4910 Periodontal Maintenance
Once a patient has been diagnosed with periodontal disease and received active perio treatment, their following hygiene visits are billed out as D4910, or perio maintenance (PM).
The perio maintenance visits are more frequent than routine prophys. Clincical evaluations will determine if each individual patient should schedule in 3 or 4 months. These visits can include removal of plaque below the gum line, and could even include scaling and root planing of specific sites.
The perio maintenance appointments are generally 45 to 60 minutes.
Patients often think they can return to a routine prophylaxis once they have had active periodontal maintenance. They will often need your help to stay on track and understanding the need for regular perio maintenance visits.
A huge piece of learning dental hygiene scheduling, is learning these appointment types, their production values, and the time needed to schedule the different types.
Another big piece of learning dental hygiene scheduling, is learning to maintain the hygiene schedule. Appointment confirmations are key!
Learning Dental Hygiene Scheduling: Appointment Confirmations
Most patients schedule their hygiene visits months before we ever see them in the dental office. Some patients even schedule years in advance. Because of this advance scheduling, it is necessary to remind and remind and remind them again. Confirm. And then confirm. Check and confirm again.
My recommendation is to reach out 2 weeks before their hygiene appointments to remind patients who scheduled months ago. It’s really not necessary to reach out to someone who just scheduled a week ago! Look at the scheduled appointments and know who you are calling.
Then confirm all hygiene appointments 2 days before their scheduled appointments one more time! That’s a whole lot of confirming! It can be a very time consuming task. But it’s so necessary.
Automated confirmations are the best! A system that can be customized is even better. Adjust the confirmations to suit your patients’ needs and requests. Keep your patients happy and your hygiene schedule booked! Text! Email! Call! Whatever works!!
Learning Dental Hygiene Scheduling: Quick Call List
The greatest challenge in learning dental hygiene scheduling, is learning to maintain that schedule. Keeping this schedule fully booked requires constant attention. It also requires creating a very strong quick call list.
How do we create an effective quick call list? I’m going to give you a couple of great ways to get this list going!
Anyone who calls to reschedule their hygiene appointment with less than 2 days’ notice, goes on the quick call list! Life happens. I get it!! Cars break down. Cats get sick. Bosses call mandatory last minute meetings. The list of things that happens is endless. Whatever the reason your patient has in needing to reschedule with less than 2 days’, they go on a call list.
Try Not To Put A Short Notice Reschedule In Your Next Available Time
Schedule your patients who call to reschedule without proper notice — just a little bit out. Even if you have an appointment open tomorrow! It’s a great idea to let your patient know you will call them with your very next schedule change. And be sure to update their appointment preferences and contact information. We can always call them to offer that open appointment for tomorrow if we don’t have another patient waiting for it.
Be sure to collect the best contact information to reach your patient short notice. You will want to know the best place to reach them at the last minute, and also what dates and times of days might work best for them. And what is their preferred method of contact. Does the patient like text messages, a phone call, or an email?
Consistently working your unscheduled hygiene list will also allow you to plug patients into your daily hygiene schedules. I call that piece of the hygiene schedule management “hygiene reactivation”.
Learning Dental Hygiene Scheduling: Reactivation
Unscheduled hygiene patients can be easily dropped from your practice without notice. To avoid missing this, we can systematically reach out to unscheduled hygiene patients.
Even though we work to schedule all of our patients at each visit or phone call, sometimes they need to postpone scheduling. Patients will postpone their hygiene visits due to their crazy schedules, medical procedures, insurance issues, and number of reasons.
Systematically reaching out to unscheduled patients keeps our patients and our practice on target. I have developed a perfect way to do this with my Weekly Management Systems.
Patient Reactivation Systems Keep Patients In Your Practice
Every week of each month, the dental front office reaches out to a specific group of unscheduled hygiene patients. Reports are run from your computer software to show you which patients are unscheduled. A simple phone call, message, or text to your patients gets them on the schedule and maybe on your short notice call list too.
This is huge! Huger than you think! Unscheduled hygiene patients can quietly slip away. Time passes and we lose contact. They might even decide to schedule an appointment with another dental practice that they’ve heard great things about. Stay in touch and let your patients know they are important to you!
I’ve given you a lot of information here. Honestly, it’s just the “tip of the iceberg”… so to speak. I’ve also given you several options in getting the level of support you might be comfortable with in learning dental hygiene scheduling.
Please know that I am here for you. For real! Please let me know if you have any questions or even a specific challenge or problem you can’t quite figure out in your own position or dental practice.
I am just an email away!