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5 things hygienists wish patients knew


The saying “In one ear and out the other” is quite applicable to dentistry. While your patients usually know what’s best for their oral health, they’re often not willing to listen to or practice the advice given to them.

Dental hygienist

Your hygienists are often the ones delivering this advice and information to your patients. Since hygienists spend a large amount of one-on-one time with patients, it’s no surprise that there are many things they wish they could tell them.

Read more: 7 reasons to respect a hygienist

We surveyed the Modern Hygienist Editorial Board to find out five things hygienists wish their patients knew. Their answers ran the gamut from common misconceptions about clinical hygiene to oral health tips.

Click through the slides to find out what they had to say!



1. Not all of us nag about flossing

For years, hygienists have gotten a bad rep for nagging about flossing. While flossing is one type of interdental cleaning device, there are so many options on the market.

Trending article: What dentists need to know about the opioid epidemic

Many hygienists are willing to talk to you about your goals and find the products that are right for YOU. That may include water flossing, rubber bristle brushes, rubber tips, traditional floss and more. Products change often and we'd love to help you understand them all.



Patient care

2. We care about our patients

What I want every patient to know is truly how much we care. We became health professionals because we wanted to make an impact in our patients' lives and to bring them health and well-being.

Read more: 5 hygiene topics that spark debate

Working as an oral health care professional gives us that opportunity. That's the reason why we provide them with the instructions that we do. All of the education we received was all for their benefit. When we talk to them about services and products, it's all so that they can have the most optimum and healthy life that they deserve.

It's often you'll see a hygienist at the front lines providing care for those in need, doing triage work, being an advocate for patients and going out of their way to assure the patient's needs are truly met.



Clean mouth

3. Go to bed with a clean mouth

A recent study found that never brushing at night raised mortality risk by 25 percent versus nightly brushing.

Related reading: Study shows toothpaste alone doesn't protect enamel

Since your mouth produces less saliva to wash your teeth and gums when you’re sleeping, it’s particularly crucial to floss and brush thoroughly before bed. We recommend using a sonic toothbrush for best results.


Patient experience

4. Each appointment is a unique patient experience

Your dental hygienist considers each dental appointment a unique patient experience.  We want you to feel comfortable in the chair, we want you to be involved in your dental needs and we want you to have an enjoyable experience. 

Read more from Katrina: A day in the life of a hygienist

When you run late to your appointment, this limits the time we have to actively address the inflammation or disease in your mouth. While the front desk may allude to it being perfectly okay to still see you today, it means we have to modify our care experience and potentially run late for the patients scheduled after you. 

We absolutely want you to be comfortable during your patient experience, but please remember that we spend entire days hunched over patients, and we don’t tip you back in the chair simply to empty the change from your pockets, but rather because it helps to reduce stress and strain on our muscles.


Licensed provider

5. Hygienists are licensed healthcare providers

I want my adult patients to know that dental hygienists are licensed healthcare providers. It bothers me that in some dental practices, hygienists are referred to as team members and here’s why. Dentists are sometimes distinguished as “doctors” in these team practices and some practice management consultants lump the rest of us together as part of a “team” with the “doctor” at the helm. Even in the Deep South where I live, I’ve heard hygienists referred to as one of the “girls.” This old school and unprofessional thinking used to apply to the cottage industry when a single dentist owned the dental practice. Dentistry has since evolved from a cottage industry to an integral part of the healthcare system. These changes include a major shift in the mix and number of dental care providers, including dental hygienists. Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) have successfully penetrated the market as have dental firms with 20 or more employees. The stereotypes of the omnipotent dentist as “doctor” and the subservient dental hygienist as a “team player” has ended, and we are obligated to work together synergistically.

Read more from Lynne: Making a case for powered toothbrushes

Sometimes I discover that patients and staff refer to dental hygienists as the person who “cleans teeth,”  not the cleaning lady (which would be even more demeaning). It’s an image I correct immediately. In talking to a hygienist/friend tonight on the phone, she was telling me about a patient who asked her if she was going to brush his teeth after she had finished air polishing. She immediately educated him about the air polishing procedure and the patient was satisfied. Often, hygienists drive this image and it’s important that our patients know a lot about our educational background as to distinguish us from being someone who brushes teeth. When I used to teach, the message I kept repeating to my students was that there are two types of hygienists: technicians and professionals. Technicians are more interested in a paycheck and getting through the day than they are in continuing the specialized knowledge and intensive academic preparation that’s required of true professionals.


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