10 Pet Peeves of Dental Hygienists (Plus 5 Patient Pet Peeves)

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We all go through our days capping our frustrations from those unexpected little annoyances, aka pet peeves. A pet peeve is defined as “a minor annoyance that individuals identify as particularly annoying to them, to a greater degree than others may find.” Whether you are driving in your car and someone pulls out in front of you, only to turn off at the next road, or you are sitting in the lunchroom, and your co-workers are making smacking noises as they eat, these little annoyances make getting through a day laborious. Sharing these pet peeves make us realize we are not alone in putting up with such annoying behavior. Therefore, I have compiled a list of pet peeves of the dental hygienist. Also, included is a list of pet peeves patients experience in the dental office.

10 Pet Peeves of Dental Hygienists

The pet peeves of the dental hygienist, as indicated below, have no specific order because they are all equally annoying.

1) Asking patients to turn toward you and they only move their eyes in your direction

Although these are randomly selected, this seems to be the one pet peeve that all dental hygienists have in common. We have all been there, sitting to the side of our patients as they stare ahead, then ask them to turn their heads in our direction to clean the buccal of the opposing quadrant. Of course, they move their eyes in our direction, but their heads are super-glued in a forward position.

2) The patients with the toxic saliva

The patients arrive for their cleaning, and the oral hygiene evaluation determines they have generalized, moderate plaque. As we proceed with instrumentation, they are no longer able to swallow and indicate they need the suction every two to three teeth cleaned.

3) The patients with no dental concerns until the doctor arrives

When these patient are first seated, we ask them if they have any dental concerns that they wish to address with the doctor. Their typical response is “no.” After we have completed our prophylaxis, the doctor arrives and asks the patients if they have any concerns and now they have a list longer than The Constitution. As a result, we get the “stink eye” from the doctor because we had just indicated there were no patient concerns.

4) The patients who are petrified of treatment because of the needle but have tattoos or piercings

The patients with a high fear of dental needles sometimes have tattoos on every available surface of their bodies or have so many piercings they would set off the metal detector at an airport.

5) The patients that will not open their mouths wide enough

When we ask some patients to open their mouths, they open only wide enough to resemble a guppy. Then the pry technique is the only option.

6) The patients that hang their heads off the side of the head-rest

As the appointment proceeds, the patient’s head inches closer and closer to the opposite side of the head-rest until it is hanging off the side.

7) The parents who accompany their children during the prophylaxis and tell them, “It’s not going to hurt.”

This is one of my ultimate pet peeves. As the child is first seated in the chair, I gain the trust of the child by using the “look, see, feel technique.” The young patient is responding well, but then the parent says, “It’s okay; it’s not going to hurt.” The child wasn’t even thinking about hurting until the parent brought it up.

8) The patients that have been in the reception area waiting for their appointment, and, when called to the operatory, they now have to use the restroom

Then there are the patients who arrive for their appointment, but you are behind.  These patients have to wait a while in the reception area before being called back to the operatory. When you finally are able to seat them, they ask if they can use the restroom. Frustrating! Now you’re going to be even farther behind.

9) The patients reading or using their cell phones during the appointment

How about the patients that pull their cell phones out to play Candy Crush, to text their friends, or to take “selfies” while we are trying to clean their teeth? I also don’t want to forget the patients who are trying to read their books or the magazines from the reception area while we are attempting to clean their teeth.

10) The patients whose tongue follows you throughout the prophylaxis

Finally, every dental hygienist’s nightmare is the tongue that follows our every move like a caboose on a train. Not only does it reduce visibility, but to add to the frustration, the tongue is pushing its way to the front of the line. Now, we are not only trying to see the tooth through this monstrosity blocking our way, but we are also trying to fight our way to the front of the line like we were at a rock concert.

5 Pet Peeves of Patients

I am sure we can all relate to some, if not all, of these pet peeves we see throughout a work week, and this list probably doesn’t cover all the pet peeves we deal with daily.  However, to take this a step further, I have asked patients what some of their pet peeves are when they are in the dental office. Here is a list of some of the responses I received.

1) My bill

Many patients indicated they come to an appointment with the assumption they owe nothing, but then they find out there is a co-pay, deductible, or balance on their account.

2) Saying, “Kiss, Kiss” every time the hygienist uses the suction

I had a patient who stated she had a hygienist that would place the suction in her mouth and say, “Kiss, Kiss” every time. She said it was “really annoying being spoken to like a child.” I promised her I would never say, “Kiss, Kiss.”

3) When the hygienist reclines the chair, and the patients feel like they are going to fall on their heads

I received this response from a few patients. I know I have done this countless times, where I have hit the incorrect preset button, and the backrest keeps going down.

4) When the hygienist asks a question and expects a response while the hygienist’s hands and instruments are in the patient’s mouth

Guilty as charged. We, as hygienists, spend a lot of time in a one-sided conversation and we wait for a response that doesn’t come until we remove our hands, instruments, and everything but the kitchen sink out of the patient’s mouth.

5) Being told to “Floss” at every dental appointment

Some patients responded they feel nagged to floss at every dental appointment.  One patient actually told me his teeth get flossed “twice a year.” In other words, when he comes to the dentist office.

So, there we have it. As we stumble through our lives, those little annoyances called pet peeves rear their heads at every turn. I share these because we need to remember we are not alone; there is no discrimination with a pet peeve, and they affect us all. We can only shrug our shoulders, laugh about it, and move on with our work day.

SEE ALSO: 6 Things Hygienists Wish their Doctor/Boss Knew

DON’T MISS: 4 Things Dental Hygienists Don’t Like to Hear

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


Definition of Pet Peeve, Source retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pet_peeve_(disambiguation)

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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.