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Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS is known as a top dental consultant by Dentistry Today.

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Dental Practice Solutions - Debbie Bittke

A Plan to Change Patients’ Lives ‘One Smile at a Time!’

By: Debbie

April 18, 2013

Before and After Front teeth

“Dentistry is about changing lives!” I had no idea when I chose to become a dental hygienist that I would be able to help patients live a longer and healthier life! Besides providing optimal health we also create beautiful smiles!

How does a dental office plan to create beautiful smiles, optimal patient health, be profitable and with little to now stress? The answer lies in how you begin your day. You may rush into the office at the last minute but if you take time to breathe, meet as a team for 10-15 minutes and prepare for a dream day at the office, everything else can be like the icing on the cake!

Start your day at the office or the day before by reviewing the patient charts. Then discuss as a team, the days patients, challenges, difficult personalities, pre-medication, special needs, exams, x-rays, exams needed, emergency time available, etc. The morning team meeting is where you can create your plan for success and it is where the profitability is maximized for the practice. Make sure you have an effective plan not just recite who is coming into the office. Talk about bottlenecks, who has outstanding treatment and where ER appointments can be fit in, etc. This is not a good time to flip through charts but to come prepared with valuable information to share with each other.

Have your financial coordinator or the office manager report to your office production and collections. Are you on track and what will you do when there is a decrease production? Allow the team to experience bliss when there is an increase in production! What is your plan to celebrate success?


If you want success treating patients with aesthetic and periodontal disease communication is key. Annually have your patient complete a smile evaluation during the hygiene appointment.

Ask you patient to complete a small intake form about their smile when they check in for their appointment. When the patient is seated in the chair have the hygienist give the patient a mirror, show the patient a shade guide and have the patient pick what shade they believe they are according to the guide. You will soon find out you open doors to aesthetic treatment that patients never would have dreamed about completing.

Use the intraoral camera to document not only restorative concerns but bleeding, heavy calculus and plaque.

Ask yourself these questions: “Did I ask my patient the right kind of questions? “Did I ask questions that only allowed my patient to answer yes or no?” “Did I ask my patient to express their ideas and concerns?” Did you really understand emotions inside of your patient?” If you answered “No” to any of these questions, there is a good chance your patient will not be satisfied with the outcome, regardless of how clinically sound any treatment is presented. It is possible that your patient may not be in the right frame of mind to hear your answers to their questions.

Sit down at a team meeting and know what questions you need to be asking patients.

Treatment Planning

Treatment planning for aesthetic dentistry and all preventive treatment concerns should be a group effort. This includes doctor, the entire team, the lab and even referral dentists. Your patient expectations need to be met for the entire process of communication, case acceptance and future patient relationships to continue. It is very important that patients understand their end result and personal benefits for completing treatment recommendations.

Sit down as a team and discover what your patients really want. Have you taken a patients survey to understand what they really want from you as their dental healthcare provider? How do you measure the success of your communication and listening skills? What percentages of treatment plans are outstanding? How do you know that patient understand the benefits and why they really need the treatment completed?

When was the last time you assessed your outstanding treatment plans? What is your plan to get those treatment plans completed this year? When was the last time you discussed outstanding treatment and alternative options with those patients?

Get to “YES!”

Of course you want your patients to respond with “YES!” You just need to know what questions to ask them. Listen closely to their answers and what their body language as they are speaking. They are giving you their honesty with many non-verbal clues.

Creating the Plan

Each morning, come prepared to discuss options to hear more patients say “YES!” each day. Monitor your successes and keep track of the outstanding treatment plans. If you find many patients leave the office saying “I need to think about it” or “Let me talk to my husband” let me suggest it is time to look at your verbal skills and make some changes in your communication skills.

We are in the business of changing people’s lives. We really can change each patient’s life just one smile at a time. Imagine the great feeling and rewards you will experience if you can change a smile that your patient has never imagined possible!

Communication, planning, and execution can go a long way when you provide optimal health and excellent aesthetic dentistry. Now we’re talking success!