7 reasons to respect a hygienist


Hygienists do much more than just clean teeth. Here's a reminder of why you should value them at your practice.

The content for this article was compiled from a focus group of exceptional hygienists and one supportive dentist. But this article is actually for dentists. Dentists, I am writing this for you! You need to remember why hygienists are so amazing and what you can do to keep them happy.

Here’s why dentists need to respect their hygienists:

1. Hygienists are highly educated. They must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene program and pass both a challenging clinical and written board exam to obtain licensure in the state in which they practice. They’re also required to complete continuing education requirements to stay abreast of best practices, techniques and treatments.

2. Hygienists truly care. They’re passionate and sincere about ethical practices, and they strive to do what’s right both ethically and professionally. It’s important to respect the fact that they’re looking out for the patient always. For this reason, they will speak up when concerned about questionable practices.

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3. Hygienists are trusted like family. Patients turn to hygienists for that second opinion after the doctor leaves the room. There’s a strong bond between patients and hygienists that the dentist will never have. This personal relationship can be a driving force as to why patients stay with that particular practice. Hygienists develop a relationship because they’re nonthreatening and compassionate, and they stay focused on what’s going on in the patient’s life. That relationship is priceless.

4. Hygienists are exceptional patient educators. The most important part of education is listening and asking the relevant questions. It’s only then that you can understand what the questions and concerns are of the patient. Hygienists are preventive specialists and inflammatory experts who are changing the way patients view their oral health. They want the patient to maintain optimal oral health as a part of a larger system (i.e., their whole body). This systematic view of dental care benefits the patient both with oral care as well as financial costs.

5. Hygienists are the ultimate team players. They work together to problem solve and to reinforce recommendations from you, and they’re invested in the success of the practice. The most successful practices are the ones in which everyone is viewed on equal footing. The teams that are considered all-stars are ones that work well together and have their focus on the goal - a content patient.

6. Hygienists defer to other disciplines. Each member of the team plays a critical role in the care of the patient. Each role needs to be respected for its expertise and responsibilities. Referring patients to other team members to give correct information is critical to having a good experience in your practice. Make sure that you defer to the team members who have the expertise as that’s critical to preventing problems before they manifest.

7. Hygienists deliver. They always keep the best interest of the patient in mind. Providing the best of care following clinical protocols is instrumental in oral health care.

I recently went with my husband to his dentist appointment (how fun!). He made a snide remark about how he was “only going to see the dentist for half a minute.” His prior dentist did all his own cleaning and didn’t employ a hygienist, so my husband was annoyed that his new dentist has hygienists. I had to remind him, “Your previous dentist ended up going out of business.” He wasn’t a good business owner. Not having a dental hygienist was just plain stupid. All the time, money and training that he went through to become a dentist was a waste.

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One of the most naïve things to do is not have a full dental team. A hygienist builds expertise that a dentist is unable to do. The dentist has so many different skills to maintain that it just doesn’t make sense why he would do the job of a hygienist too. The answer is simple: he was being cheap. He didn’t want the expense of hiring a hygienist, and look where that got him! His practice went out of business and his patients were left adrift. He didn’t even notify them that he was shutting down his practice. It makes you wonder, would he have stayed in business if he had employed a hygienist?

My call to action for you dentists is:

  • Post this article in your waiting room for your patients to read.

  • Let your hygienists know that you respect them.

  • Show your staff members how valuable they are to your practice.

After all, you need the support of your team to be successful. Make sure you let your staff members them know that you realize their value and that you’re a team.

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