Periodontal maintenance or prophy? Yes, periodontitis can be cured

Dear Dianne,

I work in a solo practice with another full-time hygienist. We both graduated 10 years ago and our doctor is a great guy. We pride ourselves on delivering high-
quality care to our patients and we focus on making sure our patients are happy with their experience.

However, I recently had a new patient in my chair who was definitely not happy when she left. This nice lady recently moved to our area and was referred to our practice by a neighbor. I seated her and gathered all the preliminary data plus took a full-mouth series of x-rays. Her medical history was uneventful and she had no history of smoking. She indicated that she had experienced some periodontal problems in the past, but as far as she knew, everything was fine now. Her periodontal charting revealed no bleeding on probing and no signs of disease activity. When I did a tour of her mouth, the tissue looked great and I only found one reading at 5 mm and a few areas of recession. Her home care was very good.

The policy in our office is if a patient has periodontal disease, past or present, the code for their preventive care is D4910. So that’s what I marked. But when the patient checked out, she was most unhappy with the charge and the business assistant’s explanation. She said, “I just came in to get a cleaning and I feel like I have been ripped off!” When the business assistant told me about the situation, I decided to send the patient a written explanation through email. I explained while there is no cure for periodontal disease, we try to control it, much like diabetes, and I was following the policies of my office. The patient replied she will never return to our practice.