Dentists Innovate to Tackle the Hygiene Staffing Crisis

 

Author: Rachel Wall, RDH, BS

The shortage of dental hygienists has posed a significant challenge for dental practices across the US. This shortage not only affects the efficiency of the practice but also compromises patient care. Proactive dental teams are recognizing the critical need to innovate and evolve in order to serve their patients and protect the future of their practice. At Inspired Hygiene, we have the opportunity to interact with dentists every day in private forums, at study club events and in our interaction with our coaching clients. 

What we’ve observed this year is a higher level of innovative strategies to address the hygiene staffing crisis. These strategies include, but are not limited to utilizing associates for hygiene duties, implementing assisted hygiene programs, and integrating expanded function dental assistants (EFDAs) into their teams.

Associates Taking on Hygiene Duties 

One effective strategy employed by dentists to combat the hygiene staffing crisis is the utilization of associates for hygiene duties. In some cases, dentists with additional training and experience in dental hygiene are able to step in and perform preventive services and exams. This approach ensures that patients continue to receive essential oral healthcare while the team continues their search for a great fit hygienist.

Assisted Hygiene Model

An increasing number of dental practices are adopting an assisted hygiene model, which involves a team-based approach to patient care. In this model, dental assistants work alongside hygienists to perform certain tasks, such as taking radiographs, applying fluoride treatments, or conducting oral health education. This collaboration optimizes efficiency and enables hygienists to focus on their core responsibilities, such as periodontal assessments, therapies and maintenance. This model not only improves productivity but can also provide opportunities for skill development among dental assistants and provide elevated patient care in the team approach. 

Expanded Function Dental Assistants (EFDAs) 

The integration of expanded function dental assistants (EFDAs) has emerged as another promising solution to the hygiene staffing crisis. EFDAs receive specialized training that allows them to perform advanced dental assisting tasks and in some states, scaling for pediatric patients. While some may view this as a threat to hygienists, in practices with a significant backlog of patient appointment requests, EFDAs can take some of the burden off hygienists by doing simple pediatric recare visits with the supervision of dentists, conducting critical screenings to free up hygienists to focus on more complex treatments. By incorporating EFDAs into their teams, dentists can also expand their productivity by delegating allowed procedures. This approach has proven particularly effective in underserved areas where access to dental care is limited.

Comprehensive Staff Training

One of the key aspects of Inspired Hygiene’s approach is team training and calibration. Administrative team members may not diagnose periodontal disease however, when they have knowledge of the basis for that diagnosis, it increases their confidence in the clinicians in the practice and the treatment they are recommending. 

Whatever alternative approach a team takes to address the hygiene shortage, education of the entire team will increase the chances for success. When the entire team understands the goals and purpose of assisted hygiene, for example, they can speak confidently to patients about the care they are receiving in this model. The admin team can understand why there are periodontal therapy blocks and the importance of honoring them when they understand the urgency in treating active disease. 

Inspired Hygiene’s coaches provide training that goes beyond clinical skills to provide the team with support in communication, patient education, and teamwork. This holistic training ensures that the entire team is aligned and works collaboratively to achieve optimal patient care.

Dental practice owners are actively addressing the hygiene staffing crisis by implementing creative strategies. Through the utilization of associates for hygiene duties, assisted hygiene programs, and the integration of EFDAs, dental practices are striving to maintain the delivery of timely oral healthcare services. These innovative approaches not only address immediate staffing challenges but also enhance patient access to essential dental care.

Ready to elevate the hygiene department in your practice?  Schedule a Discovery session with our Founder and CEO, Rachel Wall to discover how our tailored coaching programs can transform your practice and enhance patient care.

My predictions for dental hygiene

 

Author: Rachel Wall, RDH, BS

Are you wondering where the profession of dental hygiene is going in the next 5-10 years? You’re not alone. While I don’t have a crystal ball and I’m sure our industry will change more in the next few years than it has in decades, I do have a few predictions. I shared these with Gary Bird recently on his Dental Marketing Theory podcast.

Here’s a bit of what I share in this episode:

  • Where the hygiene world is at right now in my view
  • Where I see it going
  • How temp hygiene has evolved
  • Why Practice Protocols > Provider Protocols
  • How the clinical leader can make or break a hygiene team
  • Changes in PPO involvement within our client community

17 Tips to Attract Hygienists to Your Practice

 

Author: Rachel Wall, RDH, BS

Lately I’ve been reviewing a lot of hygiene job postings for our clients. There are a few that are stellar and I have to say, I’m surprised how many job postings are really bad.

Would you send out a patient mailer that has plain text and looks like every other piece of boring mail they get? Of course not. You’d use a beautiful, multi-color marketing piece that is a reflection of your beautiful practice. You might include a patient testimonial or a great photo of your team.

Do the same with your marketing for TEAM MEMBERS.

This week, I’d love to share with you our new resource guide, 17 Tips to Attract Hygienists to Your Practice.

Attracting skilled and motivated dental hygienists to provide quality care and support your practice’s growth can be challenging in today’s competitive market. To help you succeed, we’ve compiled a list of 17 proven tips that can enhance your ability to recruit top-tier hygienists.

Engagement

1. Continuing Education Events: Host Continuing Education (CE) events at your practice and use these opportunities to interact with attendees. Ask if they know of any potential candidates looking for positions, thus expanding your network.

2. Highlight Team Outings and Events: Share photos of fun team outings, birthday celebrations, and volunteer events on your social media platforms and within job postings. This showcases a vibrant and engaging work culture that candidates would want to be a part of.

3. Showcase Team Member Testimonials: Encourage your current team members to create short 1-minute videos highlighting why they love working in your practice. Authentic testimonials can provide valuable insights and attract like-minded professionals.

4. Networking with Educational Institutions: Establish connections with nearby dental hygiene schools by hosting happy hours, lunches, or offering to give regular guest lectures. Building relationships with educators and students can create a direct pipeline for potential candidates.

5. Leverage Social Media: Utilize the power of social media by posting open positions on your practice’s accounts. Engage with potential candidates through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to increase your reach and visibility.

Team Culture

A positive and vibrant team culture is a magnet for attracting exceptional hygienists. Focus on these strategies to foster a team environment that resonates with potential candidates.

6. Team Culture: Build a healthy team culture that your existing members are proud of and want to brag about in your community. A supportive and collaborative atmosphere will naturally attract like-minded professionals.

7. Guest Hygienist Experience: When guest hygienists visit your practice, provide them with an exceptional experience. Impressions from these interactions can spread, making your practice more appealing within the dental community.

8. Flexible Work Options: Whenever possible, offer flexible work hours and consider job-sharing opportunities. This appeals to candidates seeking a better work-life balance and can make your practice more attractive.

Listing Strategy

9. Visual Job Postings: Make your job postings visually appealing by incorporating colorful images that resonate with the practice’s culture and values. Balance text with visuals to capture candidates’ attention more effectively.

10. Clear and Concise Format: Use bullet points to present job details in a clear and concise manner. Avoid long-form text that may overwhelm candidates, allowing them to quickly grasp the essentials.

11. Ad Space: Don’t waste valuable space in job postings on things hygienists already know they will need to do as part of their job (scaling, patient education, take x-rays, etc).

12. Utilize Recruiting Services: Consider partnering with a recruiter or staffing agency that specializes in dental professionals. Their expertise can help you identify and connect with suitable candidates more efficiently.

13. Competitive Compensation: Clearly communicate that you offer competitive pay and opportunities for compensation growth. This can be a decisive factor for candidates weighing their options.

14. Posting Platforms: Use multiple job posting platforms and check your postings at least weekly, ideally daily. 

15. Utilize Video: Embed links to doctor videos, patient testimonials, and team videos on your practice website within job postings. Video content adds a personal touch and gives potential candidates a glimpse into your practice’s environment.

16. Technology Training: Highlight your willingness to train candidates on the practice’s technology and provide support for seamless integration. Assure potential hires that they’ll have the tools and guidance to excel in their roles.

17. How You Will Help Them Succeed: Highlight what you provide to help hygienists do their jobs well. Highlight modern equipment, sharpening service, time for patient care, solid perio program, hygiene assistant, etc

Incorporating these tips into your recruitment strategy can enhance your ability to attract talented dental hygienists to your practice. By focusing on engagement, team culture, and strategy, you’ll create an environment that appeals to top-tier candidates and sets your practice apart in the competitive landscape.

Inspired Hygiene has proven results helping dental teams create an average increase in hygiene production by well over 30%. To learn how we can help you create the same, schedule your customized, no-cost Hygiene Opportunity Assessment here. 

Contact info:

InspiredHygiene.com

clients@inspiredhygiene.com

704-541-0995

Dental Hygiene Compensation Models

 

Author: Rachel Wall, RDH, BS

Hygiene compensation has always been a hot topic. In light of current hygiene staffing challenges, it has become a critical element in securing and retaining hygienists. In addition to incentivizing hygienists, for a compensation model to be sustainable, it must provide structure to ensure the hygiene department remains a profitable part of the dental practice.

For the last 20 years at IH, we’ve contributed to the development of healthy hygiene compensation plans for hundreds of practices. One of my dental CPA friends recently reminded me of this piece I did a few years ago and these principles still hold true.

A long standing industry benchmark for hygiene profitability is that hygiene production should be at least 3 times the total hygiene compensation and that hygiene produces 25-30% of total practice production. Of course there are variables that affect this such as insurance participation and doctor procedure mix.  In this article, we will explore several hygiene compensation models that dental practices use to incentivize their hygienists and a few pros and cons of each model. 

  1. Hourly Pay Model
    The hourly pay model is the most straightforward compensation model for dental hygienists. Hygienists are paid a set hourly wage for the hours they work. With this model, we often see a team bonus in place that provides an equal distribution of additional income for team members based on hours worked.  

Pros: This model is easy to administer and provides a predictable income for hygienists. 

Cons: It may not incentivize hygienists to work more efficiently or improve protocols and systems to improve patient care. Hygienists may come to expect regular pay raises regardless of performance. 

  1. Commission-Based Model
    The commission-based model ties hygienist compensation to the amount of revenue they generate for the practice. Hygienists are paid a percentage of the revenue they generate, which can incentivize them to work more efficiently and provide better patient care through higher level services and adjuncts. This model can calculate pay based on individual or group performance. 

Pros: Hygienists can see a direct relationship to their performance and their income. When based on net production, the model ensures hygiene is producing at the desired level compared to compensation. 

Cons: This model can be difficult to administer, and hygienists may feel pressure to upsell unnecessary treatments to increase their commission. Also, when there are no patients on the schedule, there may

  1. Hourly Plus Commission Model
    The hourly plus commission model combines the predictability of an hourly pay model with the incentives of a commission-based model. Hygienists are paid a set base hourly rate and can earn additional commission based on the revenue they generate compared to their base pay. This model can incentivize hygienists to work more efficiently and provide better patient care while still providing a predictable income.

Pros: Hygienists have a stable base income to count on while the opportunity to  earn more once they reach a certain production level. The practice owner can determine what percentage of the hygienist’s compensation is hourly vs commission and ensure the first profitability point is reached before the commission starts. 

Cons: This model requires careful math and clear communication between practice administrators and hygienists to make sure the hygienist knows how their commision is calculated and which procedures count toward their production goals. 

Changing your dental hygiene compensation model
Over nearly 20 years, Inspired Hygiene has worked with numerous practice owners to elevate dental hygiene services, systems and hygiene profitability. When our clients ask us for help with restructuring dental hygiene compensation, we are eager to help because we’ve seen this touchy situation result in a successful transition when a few key components are implemented simultaneously. 

1-Create a compensation plan that is easy for the hygienists to understand and have very clear communication around expectations, fears and concerns from all parties. Have a transparent method for reporting production and commission on the agreed upon timeline (monthly, quarterly).

2-Incorporate very specific clinical and communication training and coaching to give hygienists the confidence, knowledge and skills to implement clinical services and increase patient acceptance. 

3-Map out a plan for the hygienists to reach the goals they set for their compensation. Use sample schedules to run different scenarios for hitting their goal and arm them with the proper equipment and products to achieve clinical outcomes that elevate patient health and profitability. 

In the vast majority of practices, both employee and employer desire a dental hygiene compensation model that is fair and supports ethical clinical behavior as well as creating an income growth plan for both the practice and the providers. It’s important to consider the impact of the model on the hygienists’ attitudes and effectiveness in meeting compensation benchmarks. 

No matter the model you choose, clear communication of expectations and the system for compensation is critical. We recommend a written agreement between employer and employee to

A few points you’ll want to be very clear on are: 

  • The threshold at which commission on production will begin
  • The percentage of production that will be shared
  • Duties expected of the hygienist during open time on the schedule 
  • Expectations of team work and support of the productivity of the entire practice
  • Clinical protocols that must be honored 

In conclusion, the right hygiene compensation model will depend on the practice goals and philosophy and the hygienists willingness to see it as a growth opportunity. By choosing the right hygiene compensation model, dental practices can incentivize their hygienists to provide better patient care, ensure the profitability of the hygiene department, and adapt in an ever-changing industry. 

Check out this article and video interview I did with Patient Prism founder, Amol Nirgudkar.

Are you interested in learning how Inspired Hygiene can help your dental practice? Use this link to Book Your Discovery Meeting.

Real Talk About Hygiene KPIs and Opportunities

 

Authors: Emme Sanders, RDH and Rachel Wall, RDH, BS

Being a dental hygienist is no longer solely about cleaning teeth; it’s a multifaceted profession that has evolved to embrace a partnership with healthcare. This collaboration has resulted in a profound positive impact on patients’ lives, underlining the crucial link between oral health and overall well-being.

Emme Sanders was recently interviewed by Jacquelyn Hurley, Director for Dental Zing, on the Growing Your Dental Business podcast. They talked about what it takes to create benchmark opportunities for a thriving hygiene department. Click the image below for the episode.

To ensure the success of your hygiene department from a clinical and business standpoint, it’s important to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflect the effectiveness of your practices. Let’s delve into some of the most crucial benchmarks that can help elevate your dental hygiene department’s performance.

  1. Periodontal Percentage 30-50%

The ADA, CDC and AAP state that a significant portion of the adult population, 50-75%, suffers from some level of periodontal disease. Developing an effective periodontal diagnosis and treatment protocol is essential for a dental hygiene department to properly care for patients. 

Knowing the Periodontal Percentage of your practice is the top KPI to evaluate whether a clear periodontal protocol is in place and being consistently implemented.  Many practice owners are not aware of this KPI and what it means to their patients and practice. 

The goal in a general dental practice is 30-50% of hygiene procedures are periodontal related. When practices find themselves with a periodontal percentage less than 20%, they are often treating periodontal disease within the prophy procedure and active disease is not being consistently identified. Inspired Hygiene has proven results helping teams develop clear, consistent systems that drive improved patient health and business outcomes. To determine the periodontal percentage in your practice, download our Perio Percentage Calculator Tool

  1. Treatment Acceptance 70%

Case acceptance in hygiene directly impacts patient health, billing accuracy, coding integrity, open time on the hygiene schedule, production and the list goes on. Even if hygienists are presenting the appropriate treatment, if patients aren’t accepting at a rate of at least 60-70%, it’s time to consider why and determine if there are skills that can be improved.. When patients don’t accept periodontal therapy, for example, it puts the hygienist and doctor in a difficult situation.Does the hygienist proceed with preventive care? It depends, however, when the treatment is not re-presented at subsequent visits, it can lead to inaccurate billing of what’s actually being done.

Efforts to consistently utilize tools such as intraoral cameras, bacterial testing and clear communication about how active infection can affect overall health can nudge the patient closer to seeing the value of moving forward. If not accepted at the time of presentation, follow up and reevaluation of the disease at the next visit are processes that serve all parties well.

  1. Open Time 8-10%

Striking a balance between efficiency and flexibility is crucial in maintaining a thriving hygiene department. Open time refers to unscheduled gaps in the hygiene schedule and should ideally be limited to 8-10% looking backward in time. While aiming for high efficiency, having zero open time may indicate the need for increased hygiene hours.

Looking forward on the hygiene schedule, it is ideal to have time blocked on the schedule for priority procedures such as new patient hygiene care and periodontal therapy and maintenance. Having available appointment times in the next 3 months allows for flexibility to accommodate unexpected situations, such as patient rescheduling due to illness.

  1. Profitability 3:1

Analyzing the compensation of hygienists in relation to the revenue they generate is vital. A profitable hygiene department creates positive outcomes and opportunities for patients, team and practice. As hygiene drives profit to the practice, there are increasing opportunities for additional investment in technology, continuing education and improved services for patients. Hygienists may also see increased income as their profitability grows.

The standard benchmark for the first point of hygiene profitability is hygiene production at three times hygiene compensation.  A hygienist earning $50 an hour in pay and benefits would need to generate $150 in revenue to hit the first point of profitability. Maintaining a threefold return on investment ensures the financial sustainability of the practice and the current hygiene compensation model.

Partnering with Industry Experts
To ensure the success of your hygiene department, it’s essential to strike a balance between patient care, scheduling efficiency, and financial stability. The team of industry experts at Inspired Hygiene are a valuable resource. They can help identify areas of opportunity in your hygiene department and guide you in elevating your standard of care to ensure your patients achieve optimal health while realizing solid business growth as a result.

A successful dental hygiene department goes beyond routine cleanings. By focusing on key performance indicators like Periodontal Percentage, Treatment Acceptance, Open Time, and Profitability, dental practices can elevate patient care and financial sustainability. Embracing a comprehensive approach with the guidance of industry experts can pave the way for an even brighter future in dental hygiene.

We are happy to show you your areas of opportunity in your hygiene department and where you can increase your standard of care to get your patients to their optimum health. 

Book your Discovery Meeting today!

81% Hyg Production Increase

 

There’s a misconception that dental coaching creates significant results only for teams that have no foundational systems or protocols in place. That couldn’t be further from the truth and this team is proof of that.

The team at 30A Smiles already had a solid hygiene department by most definitions. They worked well together and they had a foundational perio protocol.

The doctors knew there was a higher level of care and engagement possible and they were willing to invest in training and support to realize that next level of growth. This takes hygienists who are open to learning and growing (even if they are a bit hesitant at first) and leaders who are willing to empower and support their team.

The results speak for themselves.

And let me be clear, these results are NOT a function of aggressive periodontal diagnosis or loading patients up with an excessive amount of products or services. This is real-life, patient-centered care.

Kudos to this team. They are a pillar of healthcare in their community and they are still going strong!

Empowering Hygienists Podcast Episode

 

This week, I’m sharing a recent podcast I did with Ross Brannon on the Financial Flossing Podcast.

In this episode I share some valuable tips on empowering hygienists to elevate care and their role in the practice. Here are a few takeaways and a link to the podcast. I hope you enjoy it.

TAKEAWAYS:

✅ Inspired Hygiene emphasizes elevating the hygienist’s role in dental practices to improve patient care and overall practice profitability.

✅ How the IH Team works with dental practices to set achievable goals for growth and help them achieve those goals through coaching and consulting services.

✅ How Inspired Hygiene emphasizes the importance of comprehensive patient care, including periodontal therapy, oral cancer screening, restorative treatment, and sleep apnea screening.

✅ Inspired Hygiene aims to shift the mindset of the entire dental team to that of healthcare providers, focusing on the patient’s overall health and well-being.

✅ Inspired Hygiene offers free Hygiene Opportunity Assessments to help dental practices identify areas of growth and improvement.

You can listen to the interview on:

iTunes  Spotify  TuneIn iHeartRadio C-Suite Radio Amazon Pandora and YouTube

Don’t Let it End

 

As April comes to a close, please don’t let Oral Cancer Awareness end. As dental professionals, we are on the front lines and we must be diligent and consistent in our screening efforts.

As a dentist or hygienist, you’re not expected to ‘diagnose’ oral cancer. However, your work is critical to early detection.

Please screen and identify possible pathology
Please refer to the appropriate provider for definitive diagnosis
Please document in detail what your screening reveals and your referrals
Please check in with patients after referrals to be sure they follow through

Here’s a very thorough review of the head and neck screening. While every provider may do this a little differently, screening consistently is key.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more on Oral Cancer Awareness and #IHTeamScreen.

What happened to your neck?

 

If you’ve read our emails this month you know our focus this month is on oral cancer screenings for YOU and YOUR TEAM.  

In this video, I share my own personal experience with head and neck pathologies and how we can’t rely on patients to tell us there’s something abnormal.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more on Oral Cancer Awareness and #IHTeamScreen. 

Eva Grayzel, oral cancer survivor has created a simple, effective method for screening and patient communication resources. Check out digital images and appointment cards to show your patients you’re committed to early cancer detection. www.sixstepscreening.org

Are you missing this critical piece?

 

Often when we ask dentists and hygienists if they regularly perform an oral cancer screening they say emphatically, ‘Well, of course I do!’

Then, when we ask if that includes an extraoral head and neck screening, the answer is quite different. We’re all human and with the hectic schedule of a dental office, things do get missed occasionally. What we find, however, is that the head and neck screening is rarely a consistent piece of the dental hygiene exam.

I urge you to read this vulnerable and impactful article by one of our Lead Coaches, Kathryn Gilliam that outlines The Dental Professional’s Role in Head and Neck Cancer.

Click the image below to access the article.

Are you interested in learning how Inspired Hygiene can help your dental practice? Use this link to schedule your Hygiene Opportunity Assessment.