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

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Best Reasons to Pre-Schedule Dental Hygiene Appointments

By: Debbie Seidel-Bittke, RDH, BS

November 5, 2013

There is one system often overlooked in your dental practice and this is your dental hygiene preventive care system (also referred to as “continuing care” system). This system is most successful when the office doesn’t need to call patients to come in for a missed or overdue dental hygiene appointment.

If dental patients are the “heart” of your practice, then dental hygiene preventive care appointments are the “lifeline.” At least 80% of the dental diagnoses in your practice should be coming from dental hygiene continuing care appointments. When patients leave the hygiene appointment without pre-scheduling their future dental hygiene appointment, this dramatically decreases your practice profitability by at least 50%.

Many years ago it was the standard to have a patient complete a postcard at the end of their hygiene appointment and the office would mail these to the patient. The patient would then call the office to schedule their dental hygiene appointment.

This system has not proven to be successful and for many reasons. Read below for reasons WHY you need to Pre-Schedule Dental Hygiene Appointments

Top Reasons to Pre-Schedule Dental Hygiene Appointments

  1. Adult patients should/need to take responsibility for their appointments scheduled.
  2. With millions of people using android and iphones, they are able to easily mark their calendars and set reminders for appointments scheduled
  3. Adults can be responsible for their own appointments. No need for the office to “remind” them
  4. When you have a large and successful dental practice, if patients only call to schedule an appointment at the time they are due, when they do call, it is highly likely that the specific time a patient need to be seen, most likely won’t be available. Patients can’t be left to think they can schedule an appointment last minute or even two weeks before they want to see their hygienist. Create urgency!
  5. Patients may request a certain hygienist who works on specific days of the week.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    a. Patients who pre-schedule will know they can see their favorite hygienist and should want to secure that date months in advance                                                                                                                                                                                                    b. People work well knowing they can count on a specific day and time for their dental appointments
  6. Pre-Scheduling patient dental hygiene appointments allows for a predictable schedule in your dental office.
  7. People today, prefer to not have to make unnecessary calls.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   a. Plan to use a service such as Solution Reach which allows you to email text or have someone else contact your patients (And contact them during hours that you may not have available for calling on the phone.)
  8. The front office auxiliaries can spend less time answering phones and scheduling appointments

The question that does prevent a patient from pre-scheduling their dental hygiene appointment, months in advance, is when a patient says “I don’t know what I will be doing in six (or even three) months from now.”

A simple answer to this statement can be “Now you know what you are doing in six (or whatever the date of the next appointment is) months!”

Smile when you say this. Usually patients will smile back and most ‘get it’.  Now let the patient know they will be spending that day and time with you. It really does work to use this method. Have fun with it!

Who is the best team member to schedule hygiene appointments?

The answer to this question is of course, the dental hygienist who is seeing this patient.

If your hygienist’s feel they do not have time to schedule a patients next hygiene appointment, then they need to understand the why and the value this adds to the patients dental hygiene appointment.

The hygienist, who just treated the patient, knows that patients balance point. When I speak of balance point, I am referring to the interval of time a patient can go between a prophylaxis or periodontal maintenance and remain healthy. If a patient comes in for a periodontal maintenance appointment at a four month interval but now they need to transition (maybe only temporarily) into three months, the hygienist knows exactly how to explain this change in their maintenance intervals. If you are not certain of this protocol you may want to contact our office and at the very least read about this at the website for the AmericanAcademy of Periodontology: www.perio.org

Today world of dentistry integrates computers in the treatment room and makes scheduling a patient’s next dental hygiene appointment an easy task to implement.

If you would like to know how to time this process please refer to our blog article “Using Down to a Science Doctor Hygiene Exams. There is a photo at the top of this blog which outlines where the scheduling needs to take place during the hygiene appointment.

If your hygienist is still waiting for the doctor to arrive and complete patient exams, this is a great time to schedule the patients’ next appointment. btw: Dental Practice Solutions does not advocate waiting for doctor exams until the end of the hygiene appointment.

  • Do you have open holes in your hygiene schedule?
  • Do you have patients missing dental hygiene appointments this year?

Don’t delay in calling and/or sending a letter to let patients know the importance oral health plays in their overall health.

Dental Practice Solutions has a Continuing Care System and ebook that explains how to easily bring in overdue patients. Many offices report that after they send the first of our overdue patient letters, approximately fifty patients will call within thirty days of receiving their letter to schedule their hygiene appointment.

This is a great time of the year to send out those letters to overdue patients. Many people will lose their benefits on December 31st and some will no longer have dental benefits when they change their insurance benefits due to the new healthcare reform. Don’t delay bringing in those overdue hygiene patients.

  • Do you pre-schedule at east 98% of all hygiene patient appointments?
  • Who is scheduling these appointments in your office?

If you like this information please share with your colleagues. We also invite you to use the comment section to answer the above questions about your office situation.