Four 'esthetic experiences' from the real world

July 1, 2001
The first inclination that new patients to our office have is that they are 'someplace different.'

The first inclination that new patients to our office have is that they are 'someplace different.'

One of my favorite benefits of traveling is meeting hygienists who are practicing esthetic philosophies. This is especially true since writing, lecturing, and family obligations have limited my clinical experiencesduring the past few years. Four extraordinary hygienists — Julie Martin, RDH; Kay Bandlow, RDH; Mindy Johnson, RDH; and Michelle Hurlbutt, BS, RDH — have welcomed me into their world. They have allowed me to bounce ideas off them and ask them about the hows and whats of their clinical days.

I would like to focus the next two columns on their esthetic experiences. I e-mailed them questions, and they kindly responded. I have learned so much from these ladies, and I hope you will share in my excitement in learning about their esthetic philosophies and clinical protocols.

Julie and Kay both work with Dr. Daniel Armstrong at Esthetic Dentistry of Maine in Portland, Maine. Julie has been working there for 15 years since graduation. However, during the past seven years, her role as a hygienist has changed. She is now the treatment coordinator for Dr. Armstrong's esthetic practice and the education administrator for his lectures. Kay has been working in the practice for about five years, and her services are more clinical in nature.

Mindy graduated from dental hygiene school in 1996. She has been working with Dr. Dennis Jenkins at Designing Smiles: The Center for Dental Excellence in Sellersburg, Ind., also since graduation. Her role as a hygienist is consistently evolving — currently about 85 percent clinical and 15 percent administrative. Recently, she has ventured into supporting Dr. Jenkins with his esthetic lectures and has become a novice speaker as well.

Michelle has been working part-time for Dr. William Domb in Upland, Calif. She describes herself as a "hybrid hygienist," because she also works part-time in public health. She has played many roles as a hygienist, including one of leadership; she is quite active in the California Dental Hygienists' Association.

Hodsdon: "Please tell me a bit about your practice — clinical focus, mission statement, specialty, etc."

Mindy: "Designing Smiles evolved into an esthetic-based practice in 1998 after attending Aesthetic Advantage by Dr. Larry Rosenthal. While we still see patients of all ages, our entire dental team made the decision to turn our practice into a different type of dental atmosphere. Focusing on 'five-star service,' we want to offer patients the luxury of a comfortable, non-anxious dental appointment that offers only the highest quality dental care available. Dr. Jenkins is now an instructor with Aesthetic Advantage in West Palm Beach, Fla."

Michelle: "Our mission statement reads: 'The philosophy of our mission parallels the Golden Rule. We pledge to teach our patients about the best dental care available while offering alternatives to suit our patient's needs, goals, and aspirations. We continue to expand our professional knowledge and provide excellent, gentle care while maintaining pride in a pleasant working experience. As a team, we will enjoy each other and patients and make this a profitable and fulfilling experience for doctors and staff.'

I can tell you that working with Dr. Domb has been a wonderful experience for me and we do live our mission statement."

Julie: "Dr. Armstrong has two separate dental practices. Esthetic Dentistry of Maine is a referral-based practice for patients who are interested in esthetic care.

"The mission statement reads: 'Provide patients interested in esthetic care with state-of-the-art dental care, as well as related esthetic discipline care. To educate the general public and dental community in current proven techniques and procedures. To teach dentists and support personnel clinical and practice management skills that will better serve patient care. To always learn and be willing to grow intellectually and spiritually. To seek understanding and satisfaction in life through the ethical application of the skills and knowledge we have been blessed to receive.'

"Working with an employer such as Dr. Armstrong is a rewarding life experience. He treats his team members as his peers and respects our opinions. Our team is guided to work and life by the French term lagniappe, which means, 'to do a little extra.' We treat each other and our patients with Lagniappe in mind."

Hodsdon: "Share one or two 'pearls' or 'extras' that you offer routinely, because your clients have come to value the added service — for example, products, post-treatment phone calls, music, special greetings, clinical procedures, etc."

Mindy: "There are so many 'pearls' I have learned through CE courses that it's hard to name just a few. I think an important thing to keep in mind is that your patients deserve the highest quality of care possible.

"Some things that we do include:

  • Greeting patients by name as they enter the office
  • Seating new patients in a separate consult room with the doctor first, so that they may become acquainted in a nonclinical environment
  • Using an intraoral camera during the hygiene visit to give value to needed treatment
  • Sending a follow-up note from the hygienist to patients after appointments, etc."

Michelle: "I believe in patient-centered, evidence-based dental hygiene practice. With this approach comes many things. For one patient, it may be just taking the time to sit with him to explain the connection between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. For a new client, it might be a handwritten thank-you note. For another client, it might be a post-treatment phone call or an e-mail to follow up on a question he might have. Or it may be an intraoral camera tour of the mouth or a whitening assessment. I believe in individualizing the care that I deliver for each of our patients, including different 'pearls' for each one.

"In our office, we also pride ourselves on going that extra mile for our clients. We never simply open the door to the reception area and call out their names. We have photos of each of our patients in their electronic (and paper) charts, and we go out to them with a warm greeting and invite them back. Our morning patients are greeted with the wonderful scent of bread baking, and our afternoon patients get to sample that bread! Dr. Domb is an avid scuba diver and cinematographer, so our patients get to watch the beautiful underwater videos that he produces."

Kay: "The first inclination that new patients to our office have is that they are 'someplace different.' I (being one of two selected dental hygienists) will meet with them at a table designed for a one-on-one conversation. We discuss their dental concerns, medical questionnaire review, how they feel about being at a dental office, and how they feel about their smile. This is all done sitting across from each other with genuine care and concern for the patient's comfort.

"We also try to identify our patients' way of collecting information and how best to give them the information they need to have for the best oral health that they can have. We treat our patients individually for their dental needs."

Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, presents seminars nationally about esthetic hygiene. She also has developed Pre-D Systems, a pre-diagnostic esthetic enrollment software for oral health professionals. She can be contacted through