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Spring Cleaning

March 1, 2006
As a little girl, every year I looked forward to my mother’s leadership through spring housecleaning.
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As a little girl, every year I looked forward to my mother’s leadership through spring housecleaning. First of all, I knew I was going to be able to spend some one-on-one time with my mother. I come from a family of four children, so any time with my mother, without my siblings present, was cherished. There was also the cheerful anticipation of finding things that had been forgotten about or lost, and of weeding out old possessions to make room for new ones. Spring housecleaning was our special time to take assessment of what we had, what we felt was important to keep, what we could discard, and to see what was missing in our lives that could positively impact our current daily activities. By the end of the process we felt refreshed, renewed, and organized!

There are many comparable opportunities for you to create the spring-housecleaning effect within your hygiene department. Through a little bit of exploring, you might come across visuals and brochures that you have forgotten about but that are still beneficial for patient education. You can also assess what is valuable within your current daily practice, and what you should discard to make room for new technologies and products that offer your patients higher levels of clinical health. You may discover inconsistencies within your chart documentation that are vital to comprehensive patient recordkeeping. The most important objective of spring hygiene cleaning is your mental reorganization process regarding patient appointments. A refreshed attitude is a great motivational tool to bring passion back to your patient communication and education, which results in increased patient retention and case acceptance.

There are several different ways to accomplish spring hygiene cleaning. The chart below offers a format to help you have fun discovering what is in those hygiene drawers and cupboards!

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Chart analysis
Please follow the listed objectives of chart documentation. Pull 10 random charts per hygienist. Review the documentation. Make a list per each patient record of the 10 charts. You may find that one or two key items are missing from all records. It is important that you not be excessively critical of yourself for any missing documentation that you may uncover. Any constructive assessment begins with knowing that the process is about reviewing, refining, and keeping the end result in mind. The number one priority is to discover the areas that need refinement. The next objective is to formulate what is needed to make the refinements occur. If the hygienist is spending a good amount of time with case presentation, and through the discovery process there is not enough time for efficient documentation to support the comprehensive health of the patient, the practice may see a need for a hygiene department support person.

Feel free to add any of the documentation assessments that may be appropriate for your practice.


Assess all of the technology present in your operatory. Ask yourself these questions: Is it all in good working order? How often is the technology used? Do you need to attend a workshop on how to increase your efficient use of the technology? How would that expedite your time management? Does it make you run behind when you utilize the technology? Would using the technology add value to your patient’s experience by increasing clinical health or by increasing case acceptance?

And last but not least, provide a thorough cleaning and sterilization of every nook and cranny of the equipment.

A common pitfall in dental practices is to purchase technology and then not use the technology to its maximum capacity. Two of the most common stumbling blocks to implementation are not having the proper training and not knowing how to incorporate time management into treatment appointments. With any technology, the main issue to address is how much patient and practice value is lost by lack of usage. Efficient use of quality dental practice technology such as the CAESY system increases the value of your service with every patient procedure.

If you discover technology that is underutilized or not being used at all, discuss with your doctor the structure that must be in place to integrate the technology, or to determine that it is obsolete and needs to be moved out of the operatory.

Co-therapy tools

How many gadgets do you have for co-therapy compliance that seemed like a good idea at the time and now have lived in your hygiene drawer for more than a year? It is time to assess the co-therapy tools that you feel work the best and produce optimal patient compliance. We all have our favorites; however, over the 25 years the JP Institute has been in business, the one co-therapy tool we have found that gets the best tissue results and greatest compliance is the Philips Sonicare power brush. You can dramatically reduce the stock of co-therapy tools that you keep on hand by giving patients the opportunity to purchase a Sonicare. Patients will place more value on it because they had to invest in it, and besides, they like using power brushes. (As an aside, power brushes are the absolute best co-therapy tool and a must for any esthetic dentistry.)

Assessing and organizing your co-therapy drawer can certainly help with limited space in your operatory, as well as provide the spark to renew your co-therapy patient motivation.


Do you have old P-10 nonfunctioning Cavitron inserts in your cupboards? How many dull and over-sharpened instruments do you own? Do you have your instruments color-banded with tray set-ups? It is amazing the number of times we open hygiene drawers to mounds of ancient, unusable instruments. Assess the wear of all of your instruments, whether they are hand instruments, EMS piezo inserts, or microultrasonic inserts. Most companies will give you guideline visual cards to gauge when it is necessary to replace your piezo or microultrasonic tips. Proper instrumentation is crucial to getting good patient results and to time management of appointments. Schedule a monthly assessment of your instruments. Monthly assessment allows for minimal inventory reorders vs. submitting an instrument order every six months that makes a huge ding in your supply budget. Doctors are usually much happier making small purchases that they can budget for monthly, instead of paying out hundreds of dollars for a single expense.

Expediting your appointments to allow more time for relationship building and case presentation is key to long-term patient retention. Proper instrumentation will give you the benefit of both.

OSHA and environmental supplies

Deep down at the very back of the cupboard underneath the sink lives a plethora of opened sterilization supplies that were just the thing to use until the next best product showed up on your doorstep. Take an inventory of what you have, and then get rid of the bottles you are not currently using.

A fun and therapeutic replacement for the newfound space is to add some aromatherapy antibacterial soap and hand lotion to your daily operatory use. There are new products that offer the therapeutic value of aromatherapy oils combined with the antibacterial ingredients of a good dental hand soap and lotion. The aroma provides a pleasant change of scent for the office as well. You might even find enough room for a diffuser to enhance your dental environment with the delightful fragrances of essential oils. The scents are fabulous, and their therapeutic value for eliminating anxiety, uplifting moods, and promoting sterilization is quite impressive!

OK, now you are getting close to completing your spring hygiene cleaning project! You are in the last drawers and cupboards that house a massive amount of patient-education materials. As mentioned earlier, there may be some fun surprises way down at the bottom of the drawers. That perfect brochure on implants that you had forgotten existed is waiting to be found. Once again, it is important to discern the value to the patient and to practice success.

If you are not sending visual documentation of diagnosed procedures home with your patients, then you have another missed opportunity of perceived patient value. Handouts of published articles pertinent to the patient’s diagnosis are also wonderful adjuncts for those analytical types. A hanging magazine file works great as an organization tool to hold loose articles that can benefit patients’ understanding of the dental services that your practice provides.

It’s time for celebration! You have completed your spring hygiene cleaning project! You should feel great about all that you have accomplished! You found some great “hidden” brochures and articles you can use to further patient understanding. You have identified the missing documentation that can assist you in comprehensive follow-through with your patient care. You have assessed the technology and patient products that work for your practice, and you have scheduled workshops with the doctor and team to refine and maximize the use of the technology. You have made room for new, inspiring products that can spark the passion of your commitment to the dental profession.

Celebrate! Give yourself the acknowledgement you deserve as you enjoy your refreshed outlook and renewed commitment, all wrapped up with the bow of an organized and ultra-clean hygiene environment!