5 reasons hygienists are the key to a great dental practice

March 23, 2017
Ethel Hagans, RDH, MBA
Ethel Hagans, RDH, MBA

Ethel Hagans is a dental hygienist first, and then, the author of the book Extraordinary Dental Care. She is obsessed with motivating hygienists to raising their level of care, in order to woo their patients into patterns of great oral hygiene. Her motto: “In the end our main goal is to make sure their teeth outlast them!”

From being mediators to educators, dental hygienists are the backbone of every dental practice.

As a dental hygienist, you are good enough to meet all the challenges of a successful dental practice, and it is common for you to have to play many roles as well. Some of these roles include being a mediator, educator, revenue booster, team player and, for some, even a possible lifesaver.

Despite how chaotic juggling all these jobs may seem, just know that as the backbone of any great dental practice, you are well trained enough to handle it all. So, know your worth; you are important!

Click through the slides to find out the five reasons hygienists are essential to every dental practice.

 

We are conflict mediators

Being a hygienist, you are constantly trying to convince your patient to agree to dental treatment that is prescribed. For instance, you may want to change a patient’s hygiene recall from six months to a three-month recall to make sure his or her perio therapy stays under control, but when he or she doesn’t agree with the treatment, conflict can arise.

An example of this was when my dentist and a patient were arguing over prices and the diagnosis. Despite the fact his tooth couldn’t be saved, the patient simply wanted a filling to repair it. I was unaware of what the argument was about until they both came running and shouting to the front of the office, where I just so happened to be. The office manager tried to calm both the patient and dentist as they shouted back and forth, though unfortunately it was to no avail. So I stepped in and said, “Boys really, I’m going to call the police if you two don’t quiet down! You are scaring the other patients.” Thankfully, this halted tensions and the patient immediately left the office.

 

We are dental educators

As dental hygienists, our primary goal is to make sure our patients’ teeth outlast them. In some offices, you will be the only provider to see the patient, and so with the dentist’s busy schedule, you are the one person with the time to get a full diagnosis of the patient’s problems and address his or her concerns. Use your time to not only clean patients’ teeth, but also to check their medical history for changes as well as to explain to them ways they can improve their oral habits. Take the time to inform and educate them on their condition, because an educated patient is a healthier patient.

 

We are revenue boosters

When it comes to revenue-the word every dentist loves to hear-we excel at it. We drive revenue by including product sales, SRPs and pending treatment the patient needs yet may not understand. Some offices are promoting dental products and rely on the hygienist to promote and explain these products to their patients. Many patients trust your opinion, sometimes before the dentist, especially if the dentist is new to the practice. It is not uncommon for your patients to look to you and ask if they should proceed with the treatment the dentist has prescribed. If you trust your dentist’s treatment, you may be the deciding factor on the patient agreeing to it.

 

We are team players

Dental hygienists are not only the “teeth cleaners,” but we also help and support the whole dental team. In the back of the office, we take X-rays, clean operatorie, and sterilize instruments, while the rest of the dental team is busy attending to patients. Helping in sterilization is everyone’s job, and dental instruments can quickly pile up. Keeping them cleaned and ready will not only increase the productivity of the office, but also help to ensure everyone goes to lunch and leaves the office on time. At the front desk, there are also multiple duties, such as checking the mail, answering the phone and confirming patient schedules for the following business day.

 

We are lifesavers

At some point in your career, you may have a medical emergency, and it may not be your patient but another patient in the office. Someone needs to know the office protocol for handling emergencies, and that may fall to you.

One day, while at the front desk, a dental assistant came rushing up to the office manager saying she was afraid because her patient was hyperventilating and seemed incoherent. I immediately asked her, “What was the dentist doing?” She replied that he was waiting for the woman to calm down! I ran to the room to assess the situation, where I found the patient just as the assistant had described. I asked the assistant to get the oxygen tank, and as she was doing so I thought maybe the patient was having an adverse reaction to the local anesthetic she had been given just minutes ago. To make matters worse, the dentist looked completely puzzled. After being administered oxygen, the patient was still not responding, and my worry only worsened. The thought of losing the office and my license also crossed my mind. So, in a very stern voice  I told the dentist, “Let’s call 911 and get her some help!” He finally agreed, and I had the office manager stand by the door to help wave the ambulance in. They were there within minutes, and luckily the office was empty due to this being our last patient. As the ambulance sped off with the patient, the dentist jumped into his brand-new BMW to follow it to the hospital. I guess he was worried about losing his license, too.

Thankfully, later that afternoon he called the office and said the patient was stable. He also said he was waiting until her husband arrived, and he thanked me for being there that day. He said he had never had an emergency before. I told him, that’s what the team is for; united we stand, divided we fall!

As you can see, dental hygienists are an essential element in every great dental practice. We are mediators, educators and sometimes the only money maker of the day. We are also supportive team players and can handle any emergency that comes our way. So, to all the hygienist out there, know that you are critical to the dental practice and that you are appreciated.