Perio Patient Protocols

With more than 50% of our population having periodontal disease*, it is becoming extremely important to have a good system in place for diagnosing, educating, scheduling and treatment planning periodontal therapy.

In my experience with working in dental practices all over the country, there is a lack of an organized system and, many times, the office is compromising on patient care to accommodate insurance plans or the office schedule.

Today, I want to look at the systems you can implement and the numbers to monitor so you can treat your patients effectively.

Let’s look at six key elements for the general practice to make sure you can care for your patients, satisfy the insurance companies and keep your patients on schedule.

  • First, it is critical that you are taking the proper diagnostics so you can educate your patients and please the insurance companies when they ask for information to pay on claims. I have found in many offices that there is a lack of proper diagnostics due to lack of time and patient refusal. Taking the proper diagnostics for our periodontal patients is based on clinical necessity and, if you can plan for the needed amount of time and prepare the patient for the out-of-pocket expense at the time of scheduling, you will get the diagnostics you need without disrupting the schedule.
  • If you are forecasting the patient’s next appointment to include perio charting, FMX or a Pano, you might need to allow for extra time in the schedule. This is where blocking out your schedule might be helpful. Blocking out your schedule with open times can also help with scheduling patients with perio therapy. If you don’t map out your schedule and hold time for perio patients, the entire appointment book will fill up with routine exams and prophys.
  • When you are treatment planning periodontal therapy for patients, I have found it very helpful to create sample treatment plans so you not only give your patients all the fees involved but this will also help your team schedule the correct time. You could create these sample treatment plans on a “fake” patient account or print them out to reference back to.
  • We all know that periodontal therapy has a bigger price tag to it than routine, healthy cleanings. Therefore, you must be able to offer financing options to your patients if you intend to get them scheduled. There are many options in the dental industry for patient financing and I encourage you to offer at least two options. The most exciting new feature that Dentrix now offers is an integration with CareCredit that is built right into the software. You can go through the application process right in Dentrix.
  • If you are not able to accommodate your periodontal patients with an appointment time soon, it is important that you have a good relationship with a local periodontist to whom you can refer. You cannot let the patient’s disease wait on your schedule to open and accommodate them. If you are not going to take my recommendation and block out your schedule and make room for perio therapy, then you need to refer them out to have the disease treated by a specialist.
  • I recommend you and your team create some scripted verbal skills to head off patients’ questions about insurance coverage, post-op instructions and scheduling issues. It is important that your entire team is on board with consistent communication with patients about their disease. When I say “scripted,” I don’t mean you read from a cue card. What I mean is that you have consistent answers to your patients questions and write down what your patients are asking about so you can practice what to say back. This will help with treatment acceptance and patient follow up.
  • Finally, know your perio numbers. I teach a course titled “Numbers Tell a Story – the five key stats every office should know” and the perio percentage is one of them. If your perio percentage is low, then let’s talk or reach out to a hygiene coach who can analyze what is happening in your practice. A friend and colleague of mine, Heidi Arndt, gave me a guide to hygiene statistics and I use it all the time. You can download her “6 Key Success Indicators for a Profitable Hygiene Department” online by clicking here.

Please reach out to me if you have any questions about this article or you would like to talk about how to implement some of these systems. I look forward to hearing from you.