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Establishing Protocols in Patient Care


When a patient arrives to your practice for the first or 30th time, there shouldn’t be confusion between your staff or doctors as to what type of care is needed. Establishing protocols for certain types of patients is vital.

Most of these guidelines are built around the primary vision of the owner or partners, for what type of goals they have as a practice. Firm protocols make care consistent from one dentist to the next, and omit confusion among the rest of the staff when it comes to “what comes next” for each patient.

New Patient Appointments

What does your ideal new patient appointment look like? For some it may be a 1.5 hour appointment where the patient receives an office tour, a complete FMX, full mouth probing, advanced oral cancer screening, exam, and a cleaning in the absence of gum disease. For others, it may just be an exam and pano, with the patient always being rescheduled for prophylactic care at a separate appointment. Decide what is best for you, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

A Periodontal Program

At what point do your hygienists or other dentists in the office begin recommending SCRP or other periodontal therapies to patients? Unfortunately, all too many dentists vary from one to the next, making it confusing when it comes to the hygienist educating the patient prior to the dentist’s exam.

Establishing generic guidelines as to at what point a patient should start a periodontal program makes the patient hand-off more effective and gives your hygiene department a chance to explain treatment needs during the time they spend with the patient. Having to wait 10-15 minutes for a dentist to pop in for an exam, unknowing of whether or not an SCRP will be recommended depending on which doctor does the exam isn’t acceptable.

Families and Children

Does your office allow families to schedule multiple appointments at one time? This can make it easier for parents and children to work their care into a busy schedule, but it can also prove to be troubling if they all have to cancel due to an illness. There is no right or wrong, but it is important that your practice decide how to handle it.

At the same time, you should also have a protocol as for the age that you begin seeing children for the first time. While medical and dental experts suggest a child have their first dental check-up by age 1, some offices do not want to begin seeing children until closer to 2 or 3 years of age.

Types of Treatments or Adjunctive Services

Dentists often have personal preferences when it comes to specific types of dental materials or phasing treatment. Promoting different methods can cause confusion between staff, as well as patients that may alternate between providers for their care. If a specific type of treatment needs to be performed a certain way (or another type avoided,) the owner/partners should determine what the rest of the staff should say on the subject when asked by patients.

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.