Are we reaching a tipping point for dental hygienists?
The more I work in different offices, the more I am seeing a trend of hygienists paid so well that they struggle to reach their goals. This seems to set up a vicious cycle.
The Vicious Cycle of Dental Hygienists Production vs. Compensation
The hygienist is paid $28 – $34/hour.
She spends 1 hour per patient.
Depending upon the PPO plan of the patient, the office is paid $45 – $55 for the cleaning plus any xrays they’re allowed to take and the $24 periodic exam goes to the dentist’s production.
The hygienist has to take xrays plus try to sell whitening or recommend other dental treatment the patient needs – to both increase production and provide the expected dental care the patient expects.
The hygienist feels overwhelmingly rushed. She never feels she gets enough time to really clean the teeth well as she was taught in school.
At the end of the month, the dentist compares the hygienist compensation and her production, she sees 45% – 55% and knows that is just not working.
The upshot is that the hygienist feels the dentist expects too much in too little time, while the dentist sees that the hygienist is substantially overpaid for their production! So, how does this problem get fixed?
How to Manage your Dental Hygienists Productivity
Supply and Demand
I receive an application almost every single week from a new hygienist graduate looking for work. As more and more hygienists graduate, the supply increases and they will accept a more reasonable rate of pay – one that allows them to meet their production goals and feel good about their day’s work.
Pay on Production
I’ve never been a fan of this approach, but the more I’m seeing we’re in the middle of a vicious cycle with hygienists compensation, I’m considering this option. A quick way to put your hygienist’s compensation in proper proportion to their production seems to be to pay your hygienist say, 35% of their production. If you make this change from a salaried $30/hour hygienist and start the next month paying 35% of production, you need to be prepared for your hygienist to quit. If you’re seeing the increased supply like I am, you may be more comfortable taking that risk.
I enjoy working with hygienists – their level of professionalism and knowledge makes them a significant strength in a practice as staff naturally look to them for clinical answers and leadership. At the same time, I believe we’re reaching a tipping point where a lower pay rate would actually increase the hygienist’s job satisfaction because she would be celebrated for contributing to the office, rather than dragging down the profitability.
Managing dental hygienist compensation vs production is just one way to run a successful dental practice. If you’re interested in new ideas on running a dental practice, please subscribe to my weekly blog. One of the biggest challenges to managing a dental practice is managing dental insurance. With dental insurance handled, then dental marketing for new patients becomes a primary focus. In today’s day of online reviews, handling patient complaints well is essential. As your practice grows, hiring dental staff becomes more important. With 16+ years of dental practice management experience, I’m open to your questions to help you run a successful dental office.
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