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  • Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE

The Hygienist's Role in Treatment Planning

Treatment planning and scheduling the treatment plans is the backbone of every practice. It is extremely important that we have success in our treatment planning system within our practice. Although it seems that this process rises and falls with the financial coordinator, it is primarily within the hygiene department where these treatment plans are going to be proposed and most often, accepted or rejected. Therefore, we need the doctors and hygienists working in sync with each other when it comes to discussing, educating and recommending the treatment that is in the best interest of our patients.

How is this process working in your office? We have seen the hand-offs from hygienists to doctors work beautifully, and we have also seen epic fails. There are a few factors that we feel need to occur for the hand-off to be successful. With a bit of practice, they can all be achieved and perfected with a little effort.

1. Trust – is the most important of all. The hygienist and doctor need to trust each other and how they each treat the patients. This takes a little time working together and understanding the doctor’s and hygienist’s philosophies and treatment of their patients. It is essential that everyone in the office is on the same page with a patient’s treatment needs. Otherwise, your treatment planning is not going to be as successful as it should be. When the team trusts each other, this comes through to the patients and they, intern, trust what is being presented to them.

2. Pre-framing – once a hygienist understands the treatment their doctor is providing and what will be recommended, they can effectively pre-frame the patient before the doctor comes in to do their exams. It is a simple process of letting the patient know what the doctor may propose when the exam is performed. Understand that it is not diagnosing the patient’s needs, it is explaining to them there is an area that you will be having the doctor look at because you are concerned about it.

a. Mr. Smith, I am going to have Dr. Molar take a look at this tooth on the upper right. It looks like it may need a crown, however, we will have the doctor look and see when he/she comes in for the exam.

b. Have you had any sensitivity in this area? It seems there might be a crack in this tooth. We will have the doctor look at it shortly.

It is completely within the hygienist’s space to tell a patient if they see something that is going to need attention. It can give the patient a sense of comfort that the hygienist is finding the same areas of concern as the doctor. Don’t hesitate to let them know what you see. The doctor will then tell them how it will be treated.

3. Education – now it is time to help the patient understand the treatment that is recommended and the importance of having that treatment completed. It is our job as clinicians to help them understand what is happening and what we can do to help. If we are not doing our job of educating them on the condition of their oral cavity then they are not going to accept the treatment that is needed.

Once these steps have successfully been completed, it is time to hand the patient off to the admin team to work out financing and scheduling. If the clinical team has done their job in the operatory, the patient should be ready to schedule their treatment because they know how important it is to get it completed.


Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE, Consultant

At age 14, Janice Janssen got an after-school job working for her dentist. Twenty-something years later, she is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions and an expert in practice consulting. Besides hands-on experience, Janice has gained professional recognition for her hard work and commitment to excellence. She is co-author of OMG! Office Management Guide, the “bible” used in GTS training workshops. She is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC), and is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which positions her as an expert in educating dentists to deter fraud and embezzlement in their practice.

Janice can be reached at:

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