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Set Your Dental Hygienists Up for Success

By Planet DDS
May 24, 2021

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

That quote has primary reference to economic conditions and forecasts. But in principle, it could certainly apply to your practice culture and how you set your dental hygienists up for success.

The “lift” you provide your hygiene team can impact your practice in general and your patient experience specifically. As with all teams, each member brings unique contributions to overall success.

And that sets the tone for what’s next.

They’re still in-the-game

No doubt dentistry faced big challenges in 2020 (and into 2021). Your clinical teams (including your hygienists) were especially tasked with carrying the extra “weight” of additional PPE and infection control protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As some protocols relax to pre-pandemic modes, hygienists in particular are collecting their strength. But they, like you and your assistants, are in need of renewal.

What’s on their minds?

Content relative to the world-of-dental hygiene indicates a season of reflection. Perhaps this reflective consciousness is nothing new but seasonal challenges have heightened its relevance.

Connect with what your hygienists are thinking these days and you’re more likely to help them succeed.

  • Hygienists are seeking empowerment
  • Hygienists are relying on their resilience
  • Hygienists are owning their role
  • Hygienists are committed to growth
  • Hygienists are self-aware

In essence, dental hygienists desire a “wholehearted” approach to their role. A related article in RDH Magazine confirms this drive:

”Wholehearted hygiene professionals have figured out how to move past the obstacles and create a career where they don’t feel like something is missing at the end of the day. So, what’s their secret? Can they just give us the blueprint, and then we can do exactly what they are doing so we’ll feel just as valued and fulfilled?” [1]

Likewise, there’s a contrary emotion some hygienists might feel. Lacking a sense of being “valued” and “fulfilled” could lead some on your team to feel “half-hearted” about their role.

””Halfway hygiene is the idea that we know so many things as hygienists and can make such a difference, yet we’re still stuck in a decades-old hygiene model that doesn’t allow us to treat patients to the entire scope of our practice . . . and certainly nowhere close to what we’re capable of.” [2]

Whatever mindset each of your hygienists is experiencing, it’s good for your practice and your patients to help them succeed.

How to set your dental hygienists up for success

1-Empower your dental hygienists’ skills and education

Most dental hygienists stay current with clinical trends. Their training provides them perspective into research that enhances their evidence-based care.

  • Perspective and research around preventive care and periodontal therapies
  • Supportive insights into systemic care
  • Professional development that assists with training new and current dental hygienists

Support their growth and development. And showcase the training and skills they bring to your clinical systems.

2-Trust your dental hygienists’ appointment protocols

Your hygienists will feel your commitment to their success as you give them some degree of appointment latitude. Within reason, allow them to “own” the time they spend with a patient.

This instills your trust in how they choose engage with patients. Of course, this isn’t carte-blanche permission to waste valuable patient or schedule time. It’s more about trusting that time invested is for the benefit of the patient, their oral health conditions, and their oral health goals.

3-Align your examination narratives with your dental hygienists’ patient conversations

Keep in mind that your dental hygienist has already spent time discussing areas of concern, current issues, preventive care priorities, etc. Allow them to bring you up-to-speed as you prepare your examination comments.

Remember that typically you’re seeing teeth and gums that have already been scaled, cleaned, and polished. Their efforts reveal a best case scenario rather than the one the patient brought into the chair.

Hearing from you, as the dentist, that you support the hygienist’s recommendations further supports their relationship with the patient. It’s a win-win-win.

4-Keep your dental hygienists dialed-into the business of dentistry

Like you, your hygienists have an educational bias toward the clinical side of dentistry. Business-thinking requires more intentional effort.

This is where the economic wisdom of the “rising tide (lifting) all boats” comes into play. Hygiene success helps lift the practice.

It’s important to keep this in perspective as you coach and lead your hygiene team.

  • Guard against giving the impression that “money” is the focus. Join your practice manager in keeping the focus on patient care and how the hygiene team uniquely contributes to practice success.
  • As necessary, provide guidance about how revenue streams, KPIs, insurance adjustments, etc fit into the financial margins of the practice.
  • Highlight the hygiene connection to scheduling, production, patient retention, and overall practice profitability.

Of course, these aren’t one-and-done conversations. They require consistent revisiting on a quarterly and annual basis.

Bottom-line: the business of dentistry is everyone’s business from front office, to clinical treatment, and of necessity – the hygiene department.

Give your dental hygienists the resources they need to help drive practice success

Planet DDS has experience with the ins-and-outs of how to run a successful dental office. Our dental practice management software, Denticon, provides a streamlined system for the success strategies we just shared.

Denticon is the proven cloud-based Dental Practice Management Software in today’s market among solo private practices, private group practices, and top DSOs.

Contact us for more information about how Denticon can streamline your workflow systems and operational tasks that can help you (and your dental hygienists) stay productive and successful.