Open Letter to Dentists: How to Show Appreciation to Your Hygienist

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October was National Dental Hygiene Month. Unfortunately, not every dental hygienist was recognized for their efforts or shown appreciation. As I scrolled through my social media accounts, I detected a consensus that more dental hygienists were not shown appreciation than those who were.

This broke my heart. As a fellow dental hygienist, I know just how deserving we are. Fellow hygienists, I feel you. You are not alone.

A Reminder Note about Dental Hygienists

Dear Dentist,

Remember why you hired me. Dental hygiene is a large part of any dental office setting. In fact, it’s a part that few dentists desire to assume and, therefore, hire highly educated dental hygienists.

Dental hygienists sit in the driver’s seat of dental prevention. Through our resources and education, we ensure that patients understand what is necessary to maintain a healthy oral cavity. I have never worked in an office setting where the dentist gave detailed oral hygiene instructions. Instead, the task is left up to the dental hygienist because that is our expertise. Let’s be honest. Most dentists are too bombarded with other tasks to even have the time to elaborate on such instructions and guidance. So, don’t fret. I got your back.

Owning a practice must be daunting. Imagine if you were responsible for maintaining the prevention side of the practice in addition to what you are doing. You would be bombarded with patients, and your workload would marginally increase. Have no worries. That’s what dental hygienists are here for. I can treat all the routine patient appointments, which allows you to focus on restoring patients’ teeth back to health.

The dental hygienist is often the first impression of a dental practice since this is where many patients begin their journey in the office. That places me in a pivotal role of ensuring that patients feel comfortable and have a pleasant experience. Through me, patients can build a confidence that brings them back for future appointments, further building the practice.

Trust me. I am highly educated, and because of that, I have the skills and education it requires to treat these patients with confidence, allowing you to relax and focus on your tasks. Please find assurance that I maintain my licensure as you do with continuing education courses, further validating my expertise. Additionally, as many dental hygienists do, I enjoy engaging in dental hygiene groups, and through these platforms, I am aware of new product developments and trends that assist in my career and further assist our patients.

If you need to take some time off, know that I can still work in your absence if my state license permits it. Dental hygiene boards in many states have voted in general supervision laws, allowing dental hygienists to practice under a particular set of rules in the absence of a dentist. This helps you to still turn a profit and have your patients treated while you take the time you need.

Respect me. Please allow me to make reasonable requests when treating patients as not every patient requires the same timeframe to treat. Just as you require a certain time allotment when treating your own patients, I deserve the same.

Dental hygiene appointments are not “cookie-cutter” time slots, as many believe. Giving me ample time to treat patients allows for the patient to be treated accurately and eliminates the need for a subsequent appointment on my schedule. Not to mention, it reduces my stress load, thus making me a more productive employee. With adequate time, I am able to effectively treat the patient while giving each patient individual attention.

Help me. As your employee, I need dependable, quality equipment and supplies to efficiently treat my patients. By providing me with the equipment needed to do my job, I can be more productive and time-efficient.

When forced to use dull, broken instruments or equipment that does not function properly, my job becomes harder to accomplish, slowing me down and not only hurting my patients but myself. If I am injured or develop musculoskeletal disorders because of improper equipment, then I become a hindrance to you. Just as you want new burs to help prep a tooth, I need sharp instruments and efficient equipment to perform my tasks.

Appreciate me. Sometimes we just need to know you care. Let me know you see what I do, that you value my work ethic, and that you think I am a great employee. An employee who is valued will work much harder.

However, if I feel you do not care about me and my work ethic, my morale will diminish, and my desire will fizzle. A little appreciation can go a long way.

Please pay me what I am worth. Lately, there appears to be a shortage of dental hygienists across the nation due to COVID-19. I watched as entry-level hygienists were paid far more than seasoned dental hygienists. This punch in the gut hurt, and while I understand the need for demand, I also understand the need for retaining the employees who have been faithful and deserving. Since my career rarely qualifies for a job promotion, I would love to see my dedication to my career pay off by being rewarded for time served.

As a prideful dental hygienist, I am dedicated to my commitment to prevention in the oral industry. I am also dedicated to making your office a success. With a little respect, trust, and appreciation, I can help your office soar.

Your Dental Hygienist

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