Where Hygienists Fit In

How you help patients become healthier in your practice is a big question. That’s even more true when the role of your hygienists is unclear. The best method of serving patients well can become hazy due to procedural problems that have nothing much to do with care.

Hygienists in the Dental Practice

For example, there is some confusion over the relationship between the insurance company, dentist, and hygienist. Essentially, what level of care are hygienists allowed to handle and why? This brings up multiple concerns such as their ability to diagnose, who the patient wants to hear recommendations from, and how a periodic exam is charged.

The only way to figure out the right answers to these areas of interest is to take a hard look at your individual dental practice. There is no one perfect solution, no size fits all. You have to decide what is appropriate based on your relationship to hygienists on your team as well as their skill and knowledge levels.

Who Does What?

Clarity is a great motivator. When people understand their purpose, they are better able to carry it out well. The only way you can have clarity around the role of hygienists that will then seep over to them is to separate the expectations you feel bound by from what you actually think is best.

Taking the time to consider the big picture of your practice can go a long way. You can only maximize all the personnel resources at your disposal, including a hygienist’s communication skills, technical knowledge, personal perspective, and time, if you know why you’ve hired them in the first place.

First, determine where a hygienist’s value fits into your practice. What clinical service is your best and what behavioral service is your best? Most importantly: Who provides these services and why?

Where do hygienists fit into your dental practice? Give me a shout in the comments below!

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.

Mary Osborne RDH

3 thoughts on “Where Hygienists Fit In

  • November 26, 2018 at 10:54 am
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    Mary, I am working with educators that train hygienists to discuss bruxism with patients at the annual exam, provide a QuickSplint for overnight wear for 2 to 4 weeks, and return for the doctor’s evaluation and treatment planning. They are “extended function hygienists” and have demonstrated results for increasing the revenues of the practice by providing education to the patient during the cleaning (bruxism is only one of the topics, and airway is being added.)

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    • December 2, 2018 at 10:33 am
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      That is awesome, Ann! I would add that those hygienists are not only adding revenue to the practice, but are also educating their patients about their health. In my opinion, providing opportunities of learning is their most valuable contribution! Way to go!!! Christine Shigaki

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  • Mary Osborne
    December 3, 2018 at 8:50 pm
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    Hygienists are in a unique position to help patients move toward health at every visit. Too often that opportunity is focused only on perio. Hygienists can gently and supportively raise patients’ awareness about every aspect of their oral health, as well as their overall health. Asking patients about what they have been noticing in their mouths and helping them see changes in wear patterns, spacing, muscle tenderness, etc. should be part of an ongoing helper relationship in dentistry.

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