10 Sep 2020  •  Blog, Covid-19, Practice Management  •  5min read By  • Amber Ojak

How to best utilise your dental hygienist or therapist post-COVID-19

Amber Ojak, a Dental Therapist based in Edinburgh, shares some of her top tips on how you can reintroduce your dental hygienist or therapist back into the workplace and maximise their impact on your diary post-lockdown…

As an ambassador for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy and an elected council member, I fortunately have an insight into what’s happening behind the scenes with the dental profession.

After emerging from lockdown, a key strategy for moving your business forward and navigating the ‘new normal’ is to ensure the practice team is working to their full potential. This in turn may ease the burden of a vastly increased demand for your services.

To utilise your dental hygienist (DH) or dental therapist (DT) effectively, it’s best to understand the benefit of their services by fully grasping their role within the practice and the potential they present for working more efficiently. Not only will this benefit your team with more experience and responsibility, it will also free up valuable time that’s needed to work through the waiting list of patients post-lockdown.

Alleviate the backlog

The demand on dental practices across the UK continues to grow now that practices have reopened their doors. Your DH/DT will have the capabilities to undertake treatment planning appointments and, from there, support with triaging patients. This frees up your valuable time so that you can do what you do best as a dentist – treat your patients.

You can also refer your patients for treatment that fits under the scope of the DH/DT role. Small composites, staining, x-rays and other areas that aren’t causing your patients pain are opportunities for you to decrease your workload, with the added benefit of reducing the risk of patient dissatisfaction due to waiting times.

Unlock their potential without using an AGP

Allow your DH/DT to flourish by presenting them with opportunities to use their full skillset.

Your DH/DT may have more availability than the dentists in your practice to see patients for a range of non-AGP periodontal treatments. Periodontal patients who haven’t been identified as in need of immediate attention are still a concern and are at risk of deteriorating in terms of dental health. We have a responsibility to these patients to get them seen as soon as we can.

They might feel more comfortable waiting to see a dentist but, with your endorsement, they may have the confidence to visit the DH/DT instead, if it were to prevent their dental health from deteriorating further. We have the qualifications and capabilities to get your patients’ health back on track post-lockdown with oral health education and non-AGP treatments.

While these patients may need further attention, they at least will be having the discussions about the next steps needed and will feel that they haven’t been forgotten.

Other than undertaking the usual hygienist visit with hand scaling, these team members (with the right qualifications) can also provide additional procedures to include whitening and facial aesthetics.

Patients who undergo hygiene services are more likely to ask the DH/DT about aesthetic procedures. I myself make it part of the hygiene process to take a shade of their teeth to encourage a conversation regarding whitening.

Increase your practice income

Now is the time to consider increasing the cost of dental hygiene appointments, as this has never been more unopposed by patients. The increase in cost for PPE, time required and risk to the staff at the practice are all grounds for reviewing your fees.

When communicated well, you can explain the impact of these factors in a way that is acceptable to your patients. It is, after all, to keep themselves and yourselves safe.

Dental practices across the UK have introduced these measures to help ease the building pressures of longer appointment times and reduced resources, such as the availability of safe surgeries.

Further to the standard service expected by your DH/DT, you can increase treatment offering with whitening and facial aesthetics – this and other non-emergency appointments will help get your practice income back on track.

Whitening is one of the rare areas that doesn’t seem to have seen a decrease in demand due to the pandemic – my personal experience has been the opposite. Your DH/DT can see patients to fit trays, organise bleaches that you have prescribed and more.

With so many challenges thrown at the dental profession this year, now is the time to come together as a team in order to weather the storm. Use your DH/DT to their full potential and receive the beneficial outcome of a smooth-running, less burdened dental practice.

To find out more about how to make the most out of your DH/DT, you can see the webinar with Amber Ojak in full here.

If you would like more insights on new ways to utilise your DH/DT, coming up we have another blog from Amber on a game-changing approach to oral health education. Watch this space.

About Amber

Amber graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2018 and is currently working in private practice, following experience with the NHS.

Amber is an ambassador for the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy as well as an elected council member. She has written for Dentistry Nursing and Oral Health magazines and the journal Dental Health, among other publications.

Amber has a great passion for supporting patients in achieving dental health and for the dental profession.

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