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No Sleepwalking….. Learn to Practice with Intention!

No Sleepwalking….. Learn to Practice with Intention!

One of the things I have learned in creating a thriving practice in a soft economy is that the era of ‘sleepwalking is OVER! Let me explain. What I mean by sleepwalking is when you show up to work in the morning, punch the time clock, sleepwalk through the day and then punch the time clock on the way out. The dentist can be as guilty of this as the team members. Those days are over. Gone, dead, buried, and not coming back! One of the keys to a thriving dental office is to learn how to practice with intention.

Here is a great way that you can have some intention regarding your hygiene exams. One of the challenges in any dental practice is motivating your existing patients to accept pending treatment, especially if the teeth are asymptomatic. In most dental offices the process of reviewing an existing patients’ dental history is pathetic. Pardon my directness here, but let’s not sugar coat this. Here’s what I often see.

The hygienist will start the appointment by asking the patient if anything has changed in their dental history since we saw them last. The patient says, “no”, and the hygienist starts cleaning the teeth. This is a classic example of sleepwalking!

Here’s a better way. The hygienist can start the appointment by a process I like to call; ‘Compliment or Correct’. Here’s how that might sound:

Hygienist:  “Mary, I see here that we last saw you six months ago. You are right on schedule and I want to compliment you on your commitment to your health! By seeing you on a regular basis we keep you as healthy as possible and we reduce your future dental expenses.” (Compliment) 


Hygienist:  “Mary, I see that we last saw you about two years ago. I am really glad you are back, we missed you! Before you leave today I want to get you scheduled more regularly because we know that if we see you on a regular basis we keep you as healthy as possible and reduce your future dental expenses. But I am really happy you are here today!” (Correct)

Then instead of just zipping through a dental history update the hygienist asks these five questions:

Hygienist: “Mary, since we saw you last have you had any sensitivity in your mouth when you drink something hot like coffee or tea? Think back for me, any sensitivity?”

Then we ask the other four questions:

“Any sensitivity to cold liquid?

Any sensitivity when you bite down?

Now, I know you never eat any candy! But if you did eat anything sweet have you had any sensitivity?

Do you find yourself needing to use a toothpick to remove food in any area of your mouth after a meal?”

The five questions are hot, cold, pressure, sweets, and toothpick. Don’t just zip through these questions, but slow down and really engage the patient. We have found that a significant percentage of people will respond in the affirmative when asked these questions. These were the same people who answered, “No” when asked if anything has changed in their dental history. If the patient indicates any sensitivity, the hygienist can say, “Mary, it may be nothing at all, but I will make sure Dr. takes a look at that today.”

Learn to practice with intention. It is an important key to having a thriving practice. Keep Smiling!