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Spice Up Hygiene Services

Feb. 1, 2005
Great Grandma’s chili was fiery on a cold day. With great care, the ingredients were added in a certain sequence that followed her “secret recipe.”

by Karen Kaiser, RDH

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Great Grandma’s chili was fiery on a cold day. With great care, the ingredients were added in a certain sequence that followed her “secret recipe.” Each additive slowly simmered with a pleasing yet pungent aroma. Occasionally, she would lift the stirring spoon to sample it - then select from a shoebox full of haphazardly arranged spices and purposefully sprinkle. Looking over her shoulder, I watched as the freshly added flavorings floated in her stock pot, steadily swirling in a bean vortex. Grandma, scooting me closer, would hand me the ladle and say, “Your turn to stir the chili.” Meanwhile, she would continue to add her tasty “touches.”

When your hygiene services are bland and lackluster, consider turning to your spice rack and adding some zesty products and touches to flavor your patient care.

For the patient who desires more zing in their recare, flavor enhancements abound. The traditional “mainly mint” days are fading. Who would have dreamed that we could offer cookie dough prophy paste (just about any flavor can be found.) For example, professionally applied fluoride foams and gels have greatly expanded flavors - gotta love a banana split at the dental office!

Patients are amazed at the choices and, in many cases, plan ahead for the next recare. It is not uncommon to have the patient say, “I’ll try the bubble gum flavor paste today, but next time I want the root beer.” Don’t be surprised, when seeing a whole family concurrently, if the siblings help select the others’ paste choice. What happens next between a brother and sister is an “I had the better flavor” war.

Even for the more traditional-minded, mint is no longer bland - cool and icy mint mouthwashes, extreme herbal mint toothpaste, vanilla mint Control Rx for home use. Why not live a little and try the chocolate mint prophy paste while the hygienist wears peppermint fresh gloves?

Even procedures such air polishing or oral irrigation now have pizzazz. Orange calcium carbonate powder and flavorful fluoride rinses are running through the delivery lines. When doing a prophylaxis these days, because of all the varieties, one must coordinate flavors for best palatability. One may find their younger patients asking, “Would orange vanilla swirl paste go better with grape/raisin foam or the jazzy raspberry?” It puts a grin on my face every time I give a child the full flavor menu and watch as they turn there little head to the side, place their pointed index finger at the corner of their mouth and mumble- hmmm. Kids and choices!

A warm towel and laser

After completing clinical procedures that leave a patient feeling as though they have just spent a day at the beach, use a FreshenUp face towel (Dental Disposables International) to de-grit. These individually wrapped disposable towels are pleasantly pre-moistened and have a fresh lemon scent. Showing you care not only about rinsing their mouth free of debris but also wiping away the powdery residue provides an appreciated mini-facial experience. For an added touch, after a lengthy visit of root planing, warm the facial wipe in a microwave for a few seconds. The convenience of these towels brings forth a smile, a caring touch, and welcomed enhancement after any dental procedure.

Enhance traditional caries detection with a DIAGNOdent laser cavity detector. Patients are bracing for the ominous Shepherd’s hook explorer and instead are introduced to a unthreatening laser light that is guided through pits and fissures with a digital and audible detection system. This unit has been around for several years, and the reproducibility of the readings has allowed reliable monitoring of areas or the initiation of conservative dentistry instead of invasive tooth cutting. Using a DIAGNOdent can provide a vehicle for introducing fluoride or xylitol benefits for remineralization treatment to even further enhance patient care. With a unit that accurately reproduces readings recare after recare, any preventive caries program would benefit from its discerning detection.

By and large, patients appreciate the care we deliver and are very willing to assume the cost for services rendered. Yet, some feel dental fees (even hygiene fees) are pricey, discouraging needed treatment. Enhance case acceptance by adding outside financing. Traditionally, patients would not hesitate to have “just a cleaning.” As hygienists, we know that performing multiple services can add up. Periodontal therapies, site-specific antibiotic treatments with multiple sites, soft tissue lasers, oral rinses, and special brushes all incur a higher fee. Using financing companies such as CareCredit to help patients with payment plans enhances hygiene production, and takes the uneasiness out of recommending treatment.

Consider listing non-chargeable hygiene services on the patients’ bill. For example, a multiple code can be set up in the computer, instantly adding services to the patient’s chart. Even routine services can be listed. “IOC (intraoral camera), laser caries detection, oral cancer screening, homecare instruction, and supply kit” can all appear on the statement with a zero fee.

Patients see “zero fee” and then realize all of the added touches (extra value) performed during that “just a cleaning” visit.

A better view

Office imagery (especially anything digital) is improving the visual and engaging technology used in the dental office. Patients are privy to seeing “what we see” and can even have images enlarged to further improve detail. This is evident when utilizing intraoral cameras. At one time, they offered yellowed and somewhat distorted smiles at best. Cameras today offer crisp, true, vibrant color images. Intraoral cameras enhance treatment acceptance through not only verbal description, such as “there is a large fracture with craze lines in the first molar,” but go further to show magnified, up-close areas of concern. Patients will own the fracture, and treatment will be accepted and provided as prescribed.

Technology has progressed to chairside monitors and screens for patient viewing as well. The capability of pulling oral images, digital X-rays, and educational systems onto these patient displays already exists. What an enhancement to provide technology that can be viewed by both clinician and client. The CAESY educational system (available through Patterson Dental Supply) is easily digestible material for patients and explains many regularly performed hygiene and dental procedures - via the patient screen. With chairside overhead monitors, DVD movies can also be inserted into a compatible computer system and enjoyed by the patient during treatment. The Disney flick, Finding Nemo, is chock-full of amusing dental humor and has been a recent favorite pick.

Great Grandma’s stock pot was made of cast iron, and it was heavy. Moving the pot around was a chore because of its weight. Similarly, toting a bulky lead vest, and laying the heavy shield on the patient’s chest can become cumbersome. To lighten the load and enhance the radiograph experiences in the office, consider switching to a lead-free apron. Patients are pleasantly pleased when a lighter alternative is draped during the X-ray process. Removing the heavy lead from the vest does not remove protection as the lighter alloy sheet grants equal shielding. Your patients will appreciate a lightweight poncho protector instead of a heavy vest-and you will appreciate the ease of moving the apron from room to room.

Enhancing hygiene services may be as simple as introducing a new prophy paste or adding a lighter lead-free X-ray apron. Enhancements need not be costly, but can be comforting. Enhancement can also come in the form of more efficient care delivery or educational services. Remember, it is those extra touches which give the appointment spice. Stir the pot!

Karen Kaiser, RDH, graduated from St. Louis’ Forest Park dental hygiene program in 1994 and currently practices at the Center for Contemporary Dentistry in Columbia, Ill. She has written several articles for RDH and other publications, sits on dental hygiene panels, and is an evaluator for Clinical Research Associates. She can be contacted at [email protected].