Hygienists are crucial members of the dental care team, from educating patients about oral health to implementing the newest techniques and technologies. However, hygienists are not working with patients in a vacuum; cultivating a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with the dentist is vital to maintaining high-quality patient care standards.
It can be difficult for new hygienists to understand what a dentist needs and wants from you, but here we’ll help demystify the building blocks of a successful hygienist-dentist partnership.
Hone your communication skills
The foundation of any good relationship is communication, and the hygienist-dentist relationship is no different. Being able to communicate clearly and concisely with the dentist makes the entire office workflow go as smoothly as possible. This ease of communication also extends to dental assistants, front office staff, and other members of the office.
One of the most important points of communication between hygienists and dentists is the patient handoff. When you hand off a patient to the dentist, be direct and clear. Introduce the patient, discuss any oral care issues they’re experiencing, and talk about what you uncovered in their hygiene exam. Besides being an excellent primer for the doctor, this makes the patient feel seen and heard. When a handoff is done right, patients can see how cohesive and professional the office is, which makes them feel even more comfortable.
Communication isn’t just verbal. Ensuring charts are updated, everything is documented, and the dentist is up to speed with each patient maintains the office workflow.
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Cultivate a good attitude
Communication and solid interpersonal skills go hand in hand. Having a good attitude and eagerness to learn and grow in your career makes it easy for a dentist to work with you. Being available to jump in wherever you’re needed or to multitask on the fly establishes you as a team player who will do what needs to be done for the good of your patients.
Hygienists with strong interpersonal skills also need to be coachable. No hygienist understands immediately what the dentist needs from them, so understanding how to receive feedback and adapt to your environment and colleagues is crucial. Your dentist wants you to work together to develop your skills further so you can achieve long-term success in your career while providing excellent patient care.
Good interpersonal skills benefit every person in the office, from patients to dentists to office staff. Dentists highly value the contributions of their hygienists. Through your interactions with patients, you can provide valuable insights into patient behaviors and attitudes toward oral health. You may also have tips and strategies for improving patient compliance with oral hygiene routines or for addressing patient fears and concerns about dental procedures. If you put patients at ease and communicate clearly with them, you will undoubtedly create a positive patient experience that everyone can appreciate.
Absorb and implement constructive criticism
There is always room to grow and improve, but you won’t necessarily recognize your areas of weakness unless someone tells you. Whether you need to work on multitasking or stressing the urgency of treatment to patients, feedback is meant to help develop your skills. In our office, constructive criticism is delivered clearly and specifically, with a focus on the behavior that needs to change instead of criticizing the person.
Feedback is provided in a timely fashion, and it’s usually a balance of positive and negative so hygienists feel valued while also understanding what they need to change. We treat constructive criticism as a dialogue; it’s important for hygienists and dentists to reach a common understanding of the issue and identify solutions together.
Receiving and implementing feedback requires those communication skills and that positive attitude. Remember, all criticism is shared with the goal of providing the best possible care to patients.
A solid hygienist-dentist relationship is at the core of a well-functioning office. As a hygienist, communication and interpersonal skills, a good attitude, and the ability to receive and implement constructive criticism are crucial to maintaining that good relationship. Your dentist needs to be able to count on you, but you also need to be able to count on your dentist. That relationship is a two-way street, and you should also expect clear communication, support, and respect from your dentist.
At Aspen Dental, building those positive, respectful relationships is an unwavering mission. Between regular morning huddles to discuss daily schedules, recognition of staff for excellent work, and team-bonding activities, our practices create strong teams of dental care professionals who can work seamlessly to provide the best possible patient care.