How to Support Your New Hygienists

November 28, 2018 Mary Osborne RDH

Hygienists make up a huge component of a dental practice’s atmosphere and productivity. You should be devoting plenty of time to understanding their motivations as well as your own. Even better, you should actively consider how best to support them.

Supporting New Hygienists

One obvious instance of support a dentist can provide occurs with the dental hygienist who is fresh out of school. Hiring someone new to the field confers pros and cons. The biggest upside is that you can mold them to your preferences. But in that upside lies a heavy burden: You must be willing to guide their learning and influence their patient care.

A hygienist who is very new to either your practice or dentistry itself needs plenty of time to become oriented. You can support them by seeing all of their patients for a while and completing an extremely thorough exam. This will ensure both the hygienist and patient get the most out of the experience.

Take steps like:

  1. Ensure all deposits that can be removed are removed.
  2. Observe the gingiva and determine if prophylaxis has caused as little trauma as possible.
  3. Measure pocket depths to calibrate the hygienists readings to yours.
  4. Look closely for decay and provide an opportunity for the hygienist to feel the signs of disease that you do.
  5. Check for wear or breakdown and teach both patient and hygienist how to see it.
  6. Carry out an oral cancer exam and clarify what is cause for concern.
  7. Point out what draws your attention on an x-ray.
  8. Finally, make any diagnostics you offer into a learning experience for both the patient and the hygienist.

Once you feel comfortable that your hygienist is appropriately skilled, you must open lines of communication surrounding who handles what responsibilities.

How do you bring new hygienists into your practice culture? Please let me know! 

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Mary Osborne RDH

Mary is known internationally as a writer and speaker on patient care and communication. Her writing has been acclaimed in respected print and online publications. She is widely known at dental meetings in the U.S., Canada, and Europe as a knowledgeable and dynamic speaker. Her passion for dentistry inspires individuals and groups to bring the best of themselves to their work, and to fully embrace the difference they make in the lives of those they serve.

4 thoughts on “How to Support Your New Hygienists

  1. Mary, one of the most valuable things I learned from you was in the benefits of the open ended question. It has been an integral part of our hygiene discussions and has led to remarkable educational opportunities for our patients. For the new hygienist, hearing the doctor ask those “Tell me more about….” statements allows them to witness co-discovery and eventually grow into comfort asking themselves. I would love for you to share more about how those transformations occurred in your career. Mike Rogers

  2. Thanks, Mike. This piece focuses on a small part of how to help a new hygienist integrate into your practice. Thanks for bringing up the – at least as important – communication aspect of that process. I went from asking patients, “Any changes in your medical history?” to “How has your health been since the last time I saw you?” For many years I asked, “Any problems or concerns you have today?” I evolved to asking, “What have you been noticing in your mouth since the last time you were here?” The closed ended, yes-or-no questions did nothing to help me understand my patients, and nothing to help them learn about themselves. Open questions invited them to share more, explore more, and learn more. It’s hard to say, “Tell me more about No?” It’s easy to follow their lead when they start with a more comprehensive statement about their own experience of their health.

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