When Your Hygiene Team Fears Being Wrong

Through my years of dental practice consulting, I have helped a lot of hygiene teams overcome barriers related to discussing treatment with patients.  In almost every situation, the doctor felt the hygienists were unmotivated to help with co-diagnosis, and based on the behavior I witnessed in the operatory, I understood the doctor’s perspective.

In a few cases, the hygienists were un-coachable and ultimately unmotivated to tell the patient to do much more than “rinse.” But most of the time the barrier was confidence.  The hygienists talked to me about times where they discussed one type of dental treatment and then the doctor recommended something completely different.  This made them shy about bringing up new treatment needs.

Other times the hygienists were unsure about the doctor’s criteria for evaluating patients for less common dental procedures such as soft tissue grafts, TMJ therapy, and Invisalign.  Clearly the doctors and hygienists were not on the same page.

These experiences remind me of a quote from Peter McIntyre: “Confidence comes not from always being right, but from not fearing to be wrong.”  The hygienists feared being wrong in front of patients, so they said very little.

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Once we moved beyond that fear, primarily through education and fine-tuning presentation skills, the hygienists consistently provided effective co-diagnosis.  More treatment was presented and accepted.

If you find that co-diagnosis is not up to speed in your practice, work with your hygiene team to overcome areas where they are not comfortable.  And consider how practice management consulting can help your hygienists overcome the fear of being wrong and improve your overall treatment acceptance.

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