The effects of dull hygiene instruments on hygiene production

The hygiene appointment is known throughout the industry to be an important source of production and overall practice health. Though the exact figure varies, most industry experts suggest that hygiene production as a percentage of overall production should be about 30%.1

This means that the tools hygienists have to work with directly affect the financial fate of a practice. In the August 2016 issue of Dental Economics, Chris Salierno, DDS, wrote that “Your hygiene systems are arguably the most important in your practice. We must keep a healthy supply of patients flowing into our practice, give them an outstanding experience, diagnose any disease that is present, and correctly bill for the services provided. There are a lot of moving parts here and a critical failure at any step can cost you lost revenue and, even worse, lost patients.”2

One moving part—literally—is the scraping of a scaler against enamel, doing the all-important job of removing calculus. Though judging from the survey comments, many dentists see sharpening as either a hygienist’s “problem” or a waste of time altogether. Why? Arguably it’s a lack of understanding of how dull instruments impact their practices, and with this last article, I’d like to take a more bird’s-eye view of the importance of sharp instruments. Some of the previous articles in this series have briefly touched on these points, and we’ll dive into them further here.

Patients—through no fault of their own—are usually not qualified to judge the quality of care they receive at an appointment.3 They are often only left with how dental professionals made them feel, whether emotionally or physically. And what is the first sustained point of contact a patient usually makes with a practice? The hygiene appointment. The hygienist continues to be the face of the practice for most patients, and their experience of the prophy is their only yardstick for judging other potential procedures.