Building Trust in Dentistry Takes Time, Effort, and Work

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Trust is the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.6 Trust can be fragile, much like glass. Once it is compromised or broken, it might be able to be repaired or patched, but it will never truly be the same again. It may also be damaged beyond repair. Statistics show that people trust each other less today than they did 40 years ago.2

The glue and foundation to all relationships (both good and bad) is trust. Trust is a critical part of all interactions that we have on a daily basis, and it plays an integral role in how effective our communication is.5 Trust is important. It creates team chemistry and reduces stress.2 Without trust, there is sure to be conflict, friction, cliques, and hurt feelings.

On an individual basis, dental hygienists must learn first to trust themselves and their talents. Trusting yourself and gaining confidence may take some time and will develop at different rates for different individuals. Positive reinforcement from superiors and teammates will spearhead this process, as will positive self-talk. Once pristine, undeniable trust in abilities has been developed, the dental hygienist will perform tasks with a sense of rhythm, synchronicity, and flow.4 Trusting in yourself allows you to perform to your potential.

In turn, this makes a dental hygienist a valued, high-functioning team member. But you must “fill your cup” first.

Building Trust

People who work at high-trust companies experience 74% less stress.1 The opposite is also true. A low-trust work environment can be stressful for everyone involved. Furthermore, a boss or manager who doesn’t trust you is less likely to give you freedom and flexibility to work independently. They are more likely to micromanage and frequently double-check your work.5

So, how do you build trust? There are two distinct types of trust to know about. The means of developing them are different, but they are both very important and work together synergistically. The two types are practical trust and emotional trust.

Practical trust: This is what comes to mind first when thinking about how to develop trust in a relationship. This is the more traditional type of trust. Being reliable and competent earns you this type of trust (you show up on time, for example, work hard and meet deadlines).

All in all, you are dependable and follow through on commitments. When you say you are going to do something, you actually do it. Without practical trust, communication will suffer, productivity will decrease, and people will tend to micromanage you.

Emotional trust: People create and maintain emotional trust by going above and beyond what is expected of them. They create meaningful bonds with those around them that are genuine and sincere.

A level of emotional intelligence is needed to make sure that you are not sharing too much or too little. Begin by sharing gradually. Done correctly, opening up about your feelings can strengthen a trusting relationship. Developing this type of trust requires a higher level of emotional intelligence.3 You are likable. You do not view yourself as superior. You do your very best each day to show sincere appreciation for those around you.

It’s a scientific fact that emotions precede thought. When emotions run high, they change the way our brains function, diminishing our cognitive abilities. This further affects our decision-making and interpersonal skills. Emotional intelligence helps us have uncomfortable conversations without hurting feelings, manage our emotions when stressed or feeling overwhelmed, improve relationships with the people we care about, resolve conflicts, coach and motivate others, and create a culture of collaboration.

Do you have a best friend at work, someone that you can count on no matter what, and know that you have each other’s backs and treat each other with the utmost respect? You feel confident confiding in them and sharing ideas, thoughts, and feelings that you may not feel comfortable sharing with other members of the team. This is emotional trust.5

You need to take actionable steps to build trust. It won’t happen automatically.5

  1. Value long-term relationships
  2. Be honest
  3. Honor your commitments
  4. Admit when you’re wrong
  5. Communicate effectively
  6. Be vulnerable
  7. Be helpful
  8. Show people that you care
  9. Stand up for what’s right
  10. Be transparent

There is no set formula or sequence for developing trust, and it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It requires networking, relationship building, and sincere effort.5 Keep in mind: employers building trust with their staff is just as important as the other way around. Whether you’re a manager or an entry-level employee, it’s crucial that you build trust with those around you. Just as importantly, as a team, you’re in it together; your success is only determined by how well you respect, trust, and work with one another.4

Before you leave, check out the Today’s RDH self-study CE courses. All courses are peer-reviewed and non-sponsored to focus solely on high-quality education. Click here now.

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


  1. The Importance of Building Trust in the Financial Services Workplace Explained in 6 Eye-opening Statistics. (2019, September 06). Accenture. Retrieved from
  2. Ortiz-Ospina, E., Roser, R. (2016) Trust. Our World in Data. Retrieved from
  3. Ranosa, R. (2020, November 04). Three Elements of a Positive Employee Experience. Human Resources Director. Retrieved from
  4. Williams, E. (2018, October 29). The Many as One. Eric Williams. Retrieved from
    View at
    5. Wooll, M. (2021, May 28). How To Build Trust in the Workplace: 10 Effective Solutions. BetterUp. Retrieved from
  5. Trust. (n.d.) Merriam Webster. Retrieved from
  6. The meaning of Emotional Intelligence. (n.d.). The Institute for Health and Human Potential. Retrieved from
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Brooke Ackerman, MSDH
Brooke Ackerman, MSDH, is known as an efficient and personable dental professional with a passion for education and connecting in ways that truly make a difference. Her creative expertise in communication, leadership, and innovation within the dental office and her commitment to working within a network of professionals as part of a dynamic team committed to excellence make Brooke a trusted expert in the dental field - an advocate for successful dental practices. Brooke has over 10 years of experience practicing clinically as a Dental Hygienist and holds a Master’s degree in Dental Hygiene, with a focus on Management through the U of MN/Carlson School of Business. Brooke is a practice management consultant at Advanced Practice Management. You may contact Brooke at 952-921-3360 or through