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Whitening enrollment made easy

March 1, 2004
Get in the habit of offering a 'color assessment' to patients.

by Vicki McManus, RDH

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Shifting your focus from needs-based dentistry to wants-based dentistry is a process. Hygienists can face several challenges when speaking with patients of record about "new" and "innovative" treatment options. The primary two obstacles to increased enrollment of esthetic care are:

• Time within the appointment
• Comfortable way to introduce the topic

Standardizing and organizing examination protocols creates a structure for the recare visit, incorporating a variety of diagnostic and case presentation opportunities. In this article, we will focus on ways to incorporate cosmetic questions into your daily routine.

You may be thinking that you'll need a lot of new high-tech equipment to sell cosmetics. While this may be helpful, it is not necessary as an initial step. The two essential pieces of equipment are a hand mirror and a shade guide.

After completion of medical/dental histories, an intraoral camera tour, and radiographs, get in the habit of doing a "color assessment" for each patient. With the patient looking into a mirror, simply say to them, "We now know that teeth can change color over time. What I'd like to do now is to assess the current color of your teeth. I'll need your help with this part."

This immediately gets the patient involved in their care and gives you an opportunity to comfortably bring up noninvasive cosmetic procedures.

Hygiene operatories should be equipped with a shade guide. Set it up from lightest to darkest, and make sure that your shade guide also includes newer "bleaching" colors. Holding the shade guide so that your patient can see the colors and having them help you select the appropriate shade gives them an idea of what their teeth could look like.

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If they have an interest in whitening, they will naturally bring up the topic with you, and you'll have permission to ask other questions. These might include:

• "Other than the color shifts, is there anything else that you notice about your smile?"

• "I noticed this rotated tooth. If there was a way to straighten your teeth in as little as two visits, would you be interested?"

It is always easier to discuss uncomfortable topics such as discoloration, open spaces, and malodor when the patient brings up the subject first. Incorporating something as simple as a shade guide analysis is a great way to create consistent inquiries into all of your esthetic services.

Some tips are shown in the related articles on this page.

To extend the value of the process, send patients home with their own sample shade, utilizing a paper shade guide such as the one that is included in Discus Dental's ProActive Care Prophy Paks. Helping your patients understand the full menu of services offered by your practice is job-one of every hygienist. Incorporating simple steps into your routine will increase your value to the practice — without adding time to your day!

Vicki McManus, RDH, is a hygiene consultant based in Atlanta. She loves empowering dental teams to raise their standard of care and can be reached at [email protected] or (888) 347-4785 with questions.

Tips for shade selection

• For most accurate results, the colors in the room, as well as the patient's clothes, should be neutral. Cover colored clothes with a neutral (gray) cloth, and have your female patients remove lipstick.• The mouth of the patient should be at eye level.
• Determine the amber or gray color type of the patient.
• Determine the base shade of the patient and remove corresponding shade group.(Chromascope)
• Determine the shade intensity within the shade group.
• Compare the selected shade once again with the natural tooth.
• When taking a smile shade during the comprehensive exam, use the canine tooth for the base shade when possible.
• Note range of shade, striations, and color banding or mottling. Close inspection will reveal a blending of several colors.