The second thing we must do to decrease downtime is to educate our patients

A lot of our patients have a very limited scope of what periodontal problems are and their effect on the entire body. We need to be able to show our patients the links between periodontal disease and heart disease. Let them know that we do an oral cancer screening and why. We can educate our patients and let them know that snoring problems may be symptoms of more serious problems, but that wearing a dental appliance may help.

As the patient begins to realize the significance of their oral health to the rest of the body, their perception of the value of their hygiene appointment increases. When this happens, there is no longer the equivocation of their hygiene appointment to that of a hair appointment, and the hygiene downtime decreases.

By educating the patient you have also begun to transfer the responsibility of the patient’s oral health to them. By placing the ownership of oral health in the hands of the patient, it includes them in the decisions that are made.

Technology can go a long way in patient education. For example, the use of the intra-oral camera by the hygienist to show existing conditions of oral health, restorations, whiteness and brightness of teeth, areas of stain (permanent or removable) evidence of habits, and their effects on oral/facial development can have a dramatic effect on the patient. A patient will be much more accepting of a treatment plan if it can be validated to them visually. The notion of “what’s in it for me?” has been satisfied and with this in mind, the patient is less likely to cancel their hygiene appointment.

When the dentist is called into the operatory, it is important that we take this time to inform the dentist of all the important data. Have displayed intra-oral pictures and radiographs and verbally update medical/dental/social changes that have taken place since the patient’s last visit. The patient now sees your role in the dental team not as a service provider but as a problem-solver and gatherer of pertinent information that is necessary for the dentist to form a treatment plan customized for them alone.