Dental hygienists have their share of ups and downs ─ something that is probably true of most professions. Most days are typically good and glide along smoothly. Occasionally, a hygienist will have one of those days when everything that can go wrong does.
Dental patients inevitably can have an impact on the way the workday unfolds. For example, are they running late? Are they a chatty Kathy? Rude? Noncompliant? And so on. Dental hygienists know the routine.
I have wondered more than once if my patients hear me or pay attention to the painstaking details as I review how they should care for their teeth and gingivae or treatment they should schedule. I love my profession, and I hope that it shows to all the patients I encounter, and I have found that sometimes that love is returned to us through our patients’ words and actions!
I have compiled a list of things that patients do that really make us feel heard, valued, loved, and a little like rockstars! Read along and see if you agree.
1) The Compliant Patient
This just gives me the warm fuzzies! I love when a patient puts in the work daily to fully adopt a home care plan that I have designed for them. They purchase the electric toothbrush and use it correctly! They are flossing daily and using the C-shape method I demonstrated to improve gingival tissues and prevent interproximal decay.
They see the results. They are ecstatic over the changes in their own mouths and are inspired to continue the daily routine to keep their mouth healthy! I love this patient!
2) The On-time Patient
Again, this patient makes me incredibly happy. Not only are they on time, but they are even a little bit early! They have already taken care of their “potty” needs, and they are not talking or texting on their phone, waving me off as they point to the phone.
We can actually start and end the hygiene appointment in our allotted amount of time together. This patient values their appointment as much as I do! What a lovely thing. Thank you to all on-time patients!
3) The Referring Patient
What a great compliment when a patient refers friends and family to you! When a patient recommends you to their loved ones and friends, it means that there is not anyone better to care for them than you, in their opinion. Wow!
That is truly humbling, to say the least. I know we all do our very best to care for patients, but when your patients feel and believe that you are “the best” at what you do and send others to you, that’s the ultimate “atta girl!” (or guy).
4) Improved Periodontal Patient
There are few things that can top the periodontal patient who returns after initial non-surgical periodontal therapy/SRP, and they have reduced bleeding points, have improved pocket depths, and the tissue color has improved. Plaque and calculus are at a minimum, and they have committed and followed through on a daily hygiene regimen and are excited about the improvement in their dental health. They even ask what else they can do to improve the health of their mouth. Isn’t that what it is all about?
5) The Ones Who Value You
Maybe they seem few and far between, or maybe not! But the patients who value your opinions and your education are incredibly special. You know the ones. After the doctor leaves the room, they turn to you and ask, “So what do you think? Should I do that treatment? Is that the right thing for me?”
These patients trust you and want your opinion because they know you have their best interests at heart when recommending treatment for them. Not only do they recognize you as the professional you are, but as someone who will not steer them in the wrong direction.
6) The Follower
When a hygiene patient follows you to a new dental office, that, my friends, is truly flattering to me. If you signed a contract with an employer with a noncompete clause in it, abide by the rules therein, of course. I recently made a job change at the beginning of this year after being with an office in a nearby town for nearly five years. I have had so many previous patients seek me out via social media or by text message, or mutual friends and change their dental homes just so they could continue to have me care for their dental health. What a blessing these patients are to me!
Editor’s note: Ethically and legally, dental hygienists are not to contact patients directly about leaving an office. Patients are technically the practice owner’s patients and not to be solicited by past employees. The point above does not imply a hygienist can reach out to patients to let them know of their job change.
7) The Bragging Patient
Yes, these patients truly lift your spirits. They are quick to tell the doctor how awesome you are, that you need a raise, and that no one has ever cleaned their teeth better or more gently than you do. They brag about your technique and how thorough you are and, if it weren’t all true, you might just blush! Seriously though, these braggers inspire us to keep doing what we love because it is appreciated and valued.
8) The Relaxed Patient
These patients make the day so much easier! They find and sit in the dental chair normally. No heroic efforts are needed for them to be comfortable.
If they are due for radiographs, they gladly let you take them and are as still as a statue during the process. They have jaws that seem to unhinge, and you can see every distal surface for miles. Their lips do not even try to tighten as I begin my process of scaling. I am not even sure they have a tongue because it is neatly tucked away out of sight as I begin my exam. They love the ultrasonic. They wear the safety shades and think they are cool. They also do not care what flavor paste I use to polish their teeth.
Recall? Just schedule it whenever is best for me. What? This patient is a unicorn! The whole visit is hugely enjoyable! We need more of these patients. Seriously!
Rock on, fellow hygienists! You are doing a great job!