Billing for “Difficult” Dental Cleanings

One of the most common challenges with past-due dental patients is the expectation that everything can be accomplished with one visit.  Necessary x-rays, the exam, and the cleaning all in one hour even though it’s been years since the last dental visit.  At least that’s the expectation.  But what if the patient cannot be finished in the time allowed?

What typically happens is the hygienist runs late, and even then it’s very challenging to remove all of the plaque and build-up.  Dentists and teams are usually not satisfied with how the need for a “difficult” cleaning fits into their current paradigm.

To determine how to make this situation work better for your practice, first ask yourself what the patient really needs.  If patient is past due, and if the hygienist cannot complete the cleaning appropriately, then the patient needs more than one visit.  That’s why the term “difficult” cleaning really means a multi-step cleaning.

Even when dental teams come to this realization, the obvious concern is patient compliance.  However, guiding past due patients appropriately is a team effort that starts with the phone call.

First, consider implementing a protocol for past due patients.  For example, if patients have missed two recall visits either for a regular cleaning or a maintenance visit (following treatment for gum disease) the front team will inform the patient that the hygienist may need more than one visit to complete everything.

Next, the hygienist can remind the patient of the value of coming at the recommended interval.  When someone misses three visits, for example, that equates to three hours of care.  It’s difficult to make up three hours of missed care in one appointment.

Finally, the dentist will support the hygienist’s recommendations whenever an additional visit is needed.  It means more when patients hear it from the dentist and hygienist.

Instead of having a panicked hygiene team racing against the clock to complete everything in one visit, the entire team can work together to guide past due patients appropriately.  This will ensure that “difficult” cleanings are not so challenging.

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