10 (More) Pet Peeves of Dental Hygienists

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Although the dental hygiene profession can be rewarding at times, those little nuances called “pet peeves” can overshadow the day. After a positive response to my first article, 10 Pet Peeves of Dental Hygienists (Plus 5 Patient Pet Peeves), I am following up with 10 additional pet peeves.

The following is a list of pet peeves not yet explored on paper and in no particular sequence. Please be advised that Today’s RDH is not responsible for any PTSD if you decide to proceed.

1) The patients who spit into the suction.

While attempting to suction, after a good rinse, these patients push the fluids in their mouths with the force of a tsunami, causing it to spray on the clinician’s lab coat and to run down the patients’ faces to the floor. At this point, there are only two choices before continuing: either explain to these patients that they do not need to force water into the suction or to pull out the big gun, the high-speed suction.

2) The “Are we done yet?” patient.

After seating the patient, reviewing the patient’s medical history, and after only 15 minutes of an hour appointment has elapsed, the patient asks, “Are we done yet?” This precipitates an “eye-roll” while the actual answers to this question are bouncing through dental hygienists’ minds like balls in a pinball machine.

3) The parents who accompany their children to the operatory and spend the whole appointment talking on their cell phones.

This pet peeve is a tough one. The distraction during the appointment and disregard for the clinician and patient typically result in the dental hygienist asking if the parents can take their call out into the reception area. This, in turn, causes the parents to become annoyed with the clinician resulting in a no-win situation.

4) The patient who states, “You must be new.”

This pet peeve is not for just the newly licensed dental hygienist, but for any dental hygienist new to an office or one who is temping. Hearing this response throughout the day from patients is annoying, to say the least. After 20 years of dental hygiene, I have learned to respond with, “My son tells me I’m old. So thank you for recognizing that I’m new.” Of course, I am stating this with a smile on my face.

5) The patients who complain that they are reclined back too far.

As the dental hygienist slowly reclines the patient to a supine position, the patient grips the armrests and sits up, stating, “I can’t go back that far. You’re gonna drop me on my head.” Really, I wonder, how do you sleep at night? Unfortunately, they don’t teach this ergonomic position, to which the dental hygienist must adapt, in hygiene school.

6) The patient that denies x-rays because of radiation exposure, but has a year-round tan.

This is one of the most common pet peeves of dental hygiene. Explaining to the patient the diagnostic importance of an x-ray may not be enough to change the patient’s mind.  However, under the standard of care, we are obligated as dental hygienists to provide the proper diagnostics for the dentist to perform an examination. Sounds like a conundrum to me. Refer to the Dental X-Ray Radiation Comparison Chart provided by Today’s RDH. This may help.

7) The patient who refuses fluoride but smokes.

The fluoride controversy is another top 10 aggravating pet peeve that results from ignorance. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the dental hygienist to educate the parents or patient on the benefits of fluoride as an inexpensive deterrent to decay. A cost comparison of fluoride applications two times a year versus the co-pay of a two-surface restoration usually does the trick.

8) The patient who states, “I hate the dentist.”

Wow, what a positive way to start off the appointment. Thankfully, dental hygienists are not dentists. Another fan favorite is “I’d rather see my gynecologist.”  “Well, sit right back, and we’ll get the stirrups out, so you are more comfortable.”

9) The patient who enters the chair from the foot of the chair and inches back.

This is a pet peeve that deserves a head shake and an eye roll. Although I don’t want to stereotype the perpetrator, the patient is usually a male. This feeble attempt to throw the leg over the side of the chair, sit down, and inch back at a snail’s rate is mind baffling. It kind of reminds me of my father, who always takes the longest route to get somewhere. Sorry, Dad.

10) The patient who needs to return for periodontal cleaning but really just wants the “free cleaning.”

This, my fellow dental hygienists, is the grand finale. After an hour appointment of dental and periodontal charting and explaining to the patient the diseased condition of the patient’s mouth and the recommended treatment, the patient’s response is “Can we just do my free cleaning, and I’ll think about it?” I’m sorry; I have no words.

Well, there you have it, a two-part list of the daily frustrations we, as dental hygienists, combat. However, these mystical beasts called pet-peeves somehow never seem to push us to the edge and are frequently the source of much humor within the dental hygiene community.

Now Listen to the Today’s RDH Dental Hygiene Podcast Below:

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Heather Hakes, RDH
Heather Hakes, RDH, was born in Upstate New York where she started her Dental Hygiene career in 2000. Heather practiced in Upstate New York for three years at a general dentist practice where she gained experience with high and low functioning special needs patients. Heather then went on to pediatrics before moving to Virginia in 2007. She currently practices in Virginia in a general dental practice, where she has worked for the last ten years. Heather also works one day per week in an office with periodontal focus. Heather resides in rural Virginia with her husband, Robert, her son Ryan, and two dogs, Rex and Jake. Heather enjoys home improvement projects, reading, writing, and spending time with family and friends.