Part of your fantasy should be to know the business

Oct. 1, 2001
Before creating your next 'hygiene wish list,' make sure that you have a clear understanding of the business aspect of the hygiene department.

Before creating your next 'hygiene wish list,' make sure that you have a clear understanding of the business aspect of the hygiene department.

How often do hygienists enter exhibition halls, with their lists in hand, ready to spend all of their employer's money? Well, I've got a song for you. Even though my life's calling is not song writing, I hope you'll appreciate this spinoff of Manfred Mann's, "Do Wa Diddy."
There I was just a walkin' down the convention aisle,
singing, do wa need composite polish?
Diddy dum, yes I do.
Wanting the Finale System and PropEz,
singing, do wa deserve them?
Diddy dum, yes I do.
Cavity Shield looked good,
3D Power looked fine,
Clinpro looked good,
Petite Web LF looked fine;
With all this hi-tech stuff,
I nearly lost my mind...

I acknowledge that some contemporary hygienists will invest in their careers and purchase new equipment themselves. But the majority of hygienists still create their wish list with their employer's' pocketbook in mind.

Dental hygienists deserve to work in a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line environment. Our clients ought to have the most innovative treatment options available, and many of those services come with newer equipment. Hygienists realize that employers buy "dental gadgets" to make life easier in the restorative operatory. So why can't hygienists order some "really cool hygiene" items too?

Only the hygienist who is completely informed about the "hygiene business" and actual numbers of the hygiene department can truly answer the "I deserve it" question. Why? Such a hygienist knows all of the figures associated with running a profitable hygiene center. They know how daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly profit-and-loss numbers add up for the center. They know what is left over for new equipment, and they can determine how much money can be spent on upgrading a "hygiene smile gallery."

Numbers ... "Yuk" is what some readers may be thinking. If your paycheck were dependent on those numbers ... Did I write if? Heck, your paycheck is dependent on those numbers, regardless of whether you are on commission or straight salary. If the practice is not returning a profit over expenses — and the hygienist has not analyzed the hygiene department to determine its strongest and weakest areas — then say goodbye to the new Dental View or the Orascoptic loupes, as well as the raise. As the chief executive officer of the hygiene department, hygienists need to know how to run their division efficiently and effectively.

Is the hygiene department profitable enough to give the hygienist an increase in compensation or to buy the latest and greatest equipment? That is what hygienists need to discover by assessing the hygiene department's bottom line — data such as hygiene production compared to total office production. Is it at least 30 percent? Calculate current and previous years' percentages of 01110s, 04341s, and 04910s. Are 90 percent of hygiene services traditional 01110 prophys, or is there a solid core of periodontal treatments? How about the percentages of adult topical fluorides, composite and preventive sealants, occlusal guards, home service products, and whitening services?

Have you evaluated the percentages of cancellations and no-shows, calculating the crippling effect they have on production numbers? For example, if the targeted hygiene production goal is $100 per hour and you have four hours open per week due to no-shows or cancellations, then that would equal $400 in lost revenue. Continue this scenario for a month ($400 x 4 weeks); now the loss is $1,600. How about over the course of a year? This example does not even take into account the overhead expenses that are still adding up while the chair is empty. Can you now begin to see an area that may be taking away from your wish list for new equipment?

What is the percentage of successful preappointing of all hygiene clients? More specifically, from an esthetic perspective, how much cosmetic/restorative treatment was prediagnosed in the hygiene department? Which procedures? What was the percentage of case acceptance (not just discussed but actually scheduled and performed)?

By being astute about business information and taking responsibility for the hygiene schedule, hygienists can determine for themselves how much money is available for development — salaries, continuing education, and equipment.

Currently, user-friendly management systems can run daily reports, so a hygienist can easily track the numbers. In addition, if the numbers are proving to be less than stellar, enlist the talents of a "coach" who can guide the hygiene department and, ultimately, the practice to a higher level.

Bobbi Anthony, RDH, is owner of Comprehensive Care Consulting ([email protected]) explains, "Certain reports should tell you the total amount of production by that hygienist for the month. By dividing the number of hours the hygienist worked for the month, we can also determine her/his average daily production."

To determine your average daily production for an eight-hour day, just multiply your hourly production by eight hours (or the number of hours you work).

Anthony continues, "Many practices have daily hygiene goals. However, it is surprising to see how few hygienists know how to figure their actual daily average. To determine profitability and where the goal should be set, a hygienists must know their daily compensation, including benefits. A formula for determining profitability and goal may be multiplying the hygienist's salary, including benefits, by three."

Esthetic hygiene is about discussing, facilitating, and managing the synergy of health, beauty, and function. So the hygiene department is a major part of the fuel that sustains an esthetic office. When hygienists are not providing ultimate preventive care, prediagnosing esthetic/restorative cases, or tracking and evaluating business data, the entire office engine could stall.

This failure results in a "no" to purchasing any new product or equipment that may lead to innovative hygiene services. So, before creating your next "hygiene wish list," make sure that you have a clear understanding of the business aspect of the hygiene department. After all, that is what any CEO would do!

By the way, if you'd like to see product information for examples of "wish list" hygiene products discussed in this column, contact these companies:

  • 3M ESPE, (800) 634-2249,, Clinpro Sealant
  • Dental View, (800) 370-4891,, Perioscopy
  • Omnii Products, (800) 445-3386, www.omniiproducts. com, cavity shield 5 percent sodium fluoride varnish
  • Oral-B Laboratories, (800) 765-2959,, 3D automatic toothbrush
  • Orascoptic Research, (800) 369-3698, www.orascoptic. com, flip-up and through-the-lens magnification
  • Ultradent, (800) 552-5512,, Finale Polishing System and PropEZ silicone mouth prop.
  • Young Dental Manufacturing, (800) 325-1881, www., Petite Web LF prophy cup product

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