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What do you wish patients knew about dental hygiene or dental hygienists' jobs?

This got you talking: Patient misconceptions about dental hygiene

Aug. 28, 2023
What's one misconception the general public has about dental hygiene and hygienists? Take a look at what some of your industry colleagues had to say.

After we recently posted a question on the RDH Facebook page about misconceptions the general public has about dental hygiene and dental hygienists, we got a flood of responses—not really a surprise because who in hygiene hasn’t had their share of patients who see their appointments as “just a cleaning” and don’t fully understand the role hygienists play in their overall health?

Here’s a look at what some of your hygiene colleagues had to say about patient misconceptions.

Lisa M.: They need to realize that we are healthcare providers. The services we provide help to mitigate systemic conditions. We don’t just scrape teeth. We perform screenings that can save lives and services that can help return a patient to a stable or healthy state minimizing many risks to other health concerns such as cardiovascular issues, uncontrolled diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and the list can go on! It is time we are featured on commercials and social media posts as an essential members of the healthcare team.

Kirsten B.: Patients do not need to sit down in our chair and immediately make their confessions. We are not judging their worth by their oral care.

Julie G.: That their medication won’t have anything to do with their cleaning today. So I don’t really need to know what they are taking.

Kayle E: That we aren’t college educated. I find this one particularly annoying. When I explain the education requirements, they’re like “really?!” And this is my face -_- 

Agata O.: That what insurance companies cover for their dental care is enough for their specific dental needs.

Maria G.-S.: I would say that the average person does not know the level of education, knowledge and ability dental hygienists have. One positive note, however, I work with people from many different parts of the world in public health. I find that people from other countries have a very high respect for me and what I do. They never question my education or my abilities.

Kellee B.: That we wouldn’t be able to identify their crown or other restorative work…

Ann K.: The level of education and knowledge that is required. I was an RDH for 10 yrs but switched to nursing. During my nursing studies, a student in my anatomy class asked about learning all the facial bones, muscles, etc., and the professor laughed and replied “No one learns all that!” I was like, “Dental hygienists sure do!”

Danielle F.: After spending an hour working on them, educating them on their periodontal state for them to say “oh I hope I don’t have any cavities!” More going on in there than just teeth… .

Erin H.: I am highly educated and I am a health care provider. I am your prevention specialist. I am here to help you mitigate your risk of systemic disease. I want to partner with you on your health journey. You will see me more often than many other health care providers so being honest with me about your struggles and your health concerns will help you to reach your goals and for you to live the healthiest life possible.

Read more or join the conversation about misconceptions the general public has about dental hygiene and hygienists on the RDH Facebook page.

About the Author

Elizabeth S. Leaver

Elizabeth S. Leaver is the digital content manager for Endeavor Business Media's dental group. She has a degree in journalism from Northeastern University in Boston. Before diving into the dental world, she spent years working in niche industries specializing in creating content, editing, content marketing, and publishing digital and magazine content. She lives in the Boston area.