Hygiene Protocols

RDH – DDS Transition

Transitioning a Patient

Occasionally a Dentist needs relational information transitioned – either they don’t remember the patient or don’t know anything personal to open up the conversation. A simple statement can help create a smooth conversation flow.

“Susan just had her 1st grandchild, and she is adorable!”

“Susan recently went on a cruise to Alaska. I know you were planning a similar trip, Dr. Smith.”

After connecting with the patient, the Doctor looks to the hygienist for a “synopsis” of his/her findings. The Doctor can initiate this stage of the transition with a phrase such as:

“What have you discovered so far?”

“How are things looking for Susan?”

When transitioning a patient, the hygienist should be prepared to share the following set of information:


Periodontal Status

Relay the periodontal condition – this should include the overall stability and the recommended interval.

“Susan’s gums are in good shape, she is coming in every 6 months, and that is working well.”

“Susan takes good care of her teeth, although there is an area on the upper right showing some signs of active gum disease. We discussed having her back for periodontal therapy if you feel that is appropriate.”

“Susan has been coming in every six months, and given the inflammation we found today, I suggested she try every four months until the gum disease stabilizes.”


Relay any outstanding treatment or new concerns and support those with an IO photo.

“Susan has 2 fillings on the “to-do list” from her last appointment. I took an additional image/illumination today so you can evaluate the decay and see if the tooth needs more treatment. Fortunately, she is not having any discomfort. There is also a fracture I noted on a tooth on the lower right, and I have an intraoral photo you can review.”

“There are several areas you are actively monitoring for Susan that have beginning decay. I have new images/illumination results for you to evaluate. In addition, Susan mentioned the lower right occasionally gives her discomfort with sweets and thermal changes.”


Relay any aesthetic discussion you have had – it is important to remember this category of information. Aesthetics are often the most frequently “dropped off” the radar, and patients need to know you can address those concerns for them. It is essential to keep the Doctor in the problem-solving role and the hygienist in the patient advocate role. This is accomplished by offering options without being a “salesman.” Please note these conversations in the chart to avoid repeating the same information at subsequent exams if the patient chooses not to move forward with treatment.

“As you know, Susan has a beautiful smile. We were both noticing some relapse she has had from her braces as a teenager. I let her know you could give her some options to correct this.”

“Susan is interested in learning about options to fix the front tooth that is starting to look gray when compared to the surrounding teeth.”

“At the moment, Susan does not have any cosmetic concerns.”

The ultimate goal in transitioning a patient is to raise their oral health awareness while giving the Doctor a short overview of the three critical areas (periodontal, function, and aesthetic status). The transition should happen in front of the patient, ideally in a triangular style with the Doctor and hygienist slightly in front of the patient. This allows the patient to feel engaged and a part of the process. In this format, the patient will be more comfortable communicating their needs.


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