Making Your Hygiene Department a Profit Center

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Many dental offices, both new and established, see their hygiene departments as a loss leader or a nonprofit area at best. Hygienists who hear they must increase profits often believe that means working more hours. The facts couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the dental office hygiene department is capable of at least a 35% profit margin.

Role of the Dental Hygienist

The critical role of the dental hygienist must be carefully considered. A hygienist must be capable of providing a high level of quality service in a quick and efficient manner. He or she must have the skills to perform their duty but also to develop lasting and friendly relationships with dental patients. Their salaries are comparatively high and so the practice must receive maximum benefit from all they employ.

Make the Best Use of Chair Time

We talked above about how important it is to make sure the hygienist’s time is well spent. Part of that is making sure he or she packs as much quality patient care into the chair time as possible. The hygienist could spend two to three hours with the patient if everything possible is taken care of but that isn’t always necessary. A proper screening of the patient can disclose what is most important for that individual patient's care. Not every patient needs the same information. Some are already more informed than others are. It is important to know what each patient needs and to use the time in the chair while performing basic hygiene treatment, to keep them informed. Remember, the idea is not to cram more work into less time or more hours into the day. Instead, it is to tailor the work to match the patient and provide a high level of quality to each patient.


Many dental offices undervalue the re-care system. Taking the time to come up with a well-developed re-care system can drastically increase profits. Ninety-five percent of the patients should have a new appointment scheduled with the hygienist before they finish their appointment. Discuss the usual patient objections and barriers to future appointments at daily team meetings before the patients ever enter the office. Patients often claim they do not know when or where they will be in four to six months when it’s time for another appointment. A good plan of action in these instances is to offer a reminder sent to their smartphones or Google calendars.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations are a dental office's worst nightmare and they happen most often in the hygiene department. A cancellation policy for patients can be of great benefit. Strategies such as charging patients for last minute cancellations and offering incentives for kept appointments go a long way in retention numbers.

Hopefully these tips will give your practice (& hygiene department) a boost!

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