Kindling Kindness: How Hygienists Can Make a Good Dental Office Great

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Kindness is an act or quality of being friendly, generous, or considerate. Kindness shows concern for others without expecting anything in return. Kindness can bring joy and hope. The attribute of kindness is an integral theme that runs throughout history and has the power to bring light into dark situations. With this in mind, consider daily acts of kindness in your practice to help make a good dental practice great.

One reason I decided to become a dental hygienist was because of the kindness I saw in both my dentist and dental hygienist (and, of course, the treasure chest!). As a child, I never felt anxiety or dread when it was my turn for a dental checkup. My early dental experiences were very formative in how I perceived dentistry, which is why I chose dental hygiene as my life’s career.

I remember being treated as though I was special. As a result of this kindness, “going to the dentist” was a positive instead of a negative experience for me. I could also sense the kindness that each member of the office shared with the others ‒ at least in my presence.

Kindness Within the Office

When we kindle kindness, we help create a work environment that is not only a positive environment for employers and employees but also for our patients. Do not underestimate what patients see and feel while in your dental chair. Remember, many may be anxious about being there and need to feel comforted and special. Behind-the-scenes bickering or animosity does not go unnoticed by them. Your kindness to patients and staff not only makes your work-life fulfilling it also supports patient retention.

The thing about kindness is that we shouldn’t keep it bottled up and saved only for our patients. It is an absolute necessity to share with our coworkers. Kindness begets kindness, and patients see and feel this. They sense the positive or negative vibes of the office, which can lead to a positive or negative guise (right or wrong). Perhaps they have not had the same hygienist for some time, and internal conflict may be the reason for the “revolving door.” This indirectly may affect a patient’s decision to stay and make your practice their dental home or find a more comfortable atmosphere suited to their needs. Patients who are treated with kindness and witness that kindness amongst the dental team are apt to be the best sources of new patient referrals to a dental practice.

When the Dental Infrastructure Lacks Kindness and Respect

When coworkers are left feeling chronically slighted or demoralized by any member of the dental team, over time, they may not feel committed to the good of the practice. They may start to distance themselves and limit their interactions to just the necessities of the work day. When left unchecked, a syndrome of high employee turnover may ravage the office, in essence, a revolving door. It costs absolutely nothing to be kind, which can give employees, coworkers, and patients a wonderful reason to stay for the long haul as they find their “dental home.”

Another scenario occurs when gossip and chatter-talk happen in the confines of the dental lab, sterilization area, or breakroom. We all know that gossip never leads to anything good. It spreads like wildfire, amplifies into ugliness in a short amount of time, and is usually unnecessarily based on hearsay. By not stirring the ashes of gossip, the sparks will not spread and will burn out instantly instead of roaring like an inferno. Be kind and smother the gossip before it starts.

Here’s the thing; it often starts from our own lips. So, remember the Golden Rule: Do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Kindness really matters – kindle kindness.

Be a Part of the Solution

Perhaps you work in an office where high employee turnover is commonplace. It may be time to step into action and try to stop the spread of dissent. Just because you are not part of the problem doesn’t mean you cannot be part of the solution! This can be done by showing kindness to your coworkers, talking to them, and making sure they are all right.

If they start venting to you, direct them to the office manager (whose job is to manage all sorts of issues) with kind words and respect. By bringing it to the office manager, the gossip train or dissent may get addressed early on before emotions run high and resentment grows out of proportion.

How can you kindle kindness? Smile to your coworkers, be positive, ask how their weekend went, and really listen. Too often, we are quick to judge others or interrupt someone’s conversation without really listening.

We all have life issues that we are going through, and a little bit of kindness can go a long way. Help out when you notice another colleague burdened with a crazy schedule that causes them to run behind schedule. Offer to clean their operatory or sterilize their instruments. Little actions bring more hope than you realize.

Remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so pay attention to the whole and help members in need. Kindness has a magic that can directly affect another’s life. Kindle kindness and watch it grow.

Use your words, and make them count. Remember that a simple kind act, a smile, an outreach, or a positive affirmation is an action that may be the icing that brightens someone’s day.

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Rebecca Marie Friend, BS, RDH
Rebecca Marie Friend, RDH, BS, attained her Associate of Applied Science degree in Dental Hygiene from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, in 1987, where she also met and married her husband. She has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years and has raised three sons while working as a full-time clinical dental hygienist. Rebecca currently practices in Battle Creek, Michigan. She resides in neighboring historic Marshall, Michigan. Rebecca is board certified in Nitrous Oxide and Local Anesthesia Administration and is certified in low-level laser therapy. Continuously striving to improve upon her skills and methods of forward-thinking in the dental world, she recently attained her Bachelor of Science degree in Oral Health Promotion through Action Research at O’Hehir University. She is actively involved in a mentorship with students at O’Hehir University. “I take pride in my abilities as a skilled periodontal therapist. I enjoy the patient-practitioner relationship that develops when trust and health are gained, taking mindful care of every individual that I connect with. The benefits of helping others achieve a healthy mouth and regain their confidence with a great smile and healthier self are very rewarding. Whole-body health begins with the mouth.” In her free time, Rebecca enjoys visiting the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, where the sunsets are magical, the dunes are stunning, and the rocks are a collector’s delight. She loves to immerse herself in nature whenever she gets a chance and enjoys canoeing, kayaking, nature walks, flexibility training, yoga, and little “get-a-ways” with her husband. Family life has always been important to her, and now that her three grown sons have spread their wings, she has a little more time to spread hers.