How doctors annoy dental hygienists

April 19, 2011
Dental hygienists share "annoying things" that their doctors do.

RDH eVillage published the results of a “future of dental hygiene” survey in recent issues. One question was never tabulated in the results — an open-ended question that asked, “What is the most annoying thing your doctor does on any given day?”

Overall, 1,548 hygienists participated in the survey, and 1,504 had an “annoying thing” that they shared about their doctor.

We’re still searching for the 44 hygienists who are not annoyed by anything their doctor does, and the medal to be awarded them is still being poured into the mold.

The future of dental hygiene survey can be viewed by clicking:

Obviously, networks and servers would crash if we listed all 1,504 annoying things doctors do. Suffice it to say that waiting for the doctor exam, moodiness, and chattiness dominated the list.

Here’s the best of the rest:

  • The dentist introduces himself with a handshake but will not look at the patient.
  • Some of the newly graduated dentists imply to patients who have been diagnosed with advanced periodontitis that "a really, really, really good cleaning will tighten up the gums so we (does the dentist have the disease too?) can avoid future problems with gum disease." This is a burden for the dental hygienist because, in the eyes of the patients, this "really, really, really good cleaning" will CURE the problem and any future problems, as well! Sometimes in my warped mind, I envision the patient looking on in awestruck rapture as the dentist summons some of his or her almighty power to bestow upon the hygienist the ability to HEAL all periodontal woes in one miraculous hour. As a dental hygienist, my first duty (after the dentist leaves the operatory) is to clarify the limits of that one-hour appointment, and explain the option of visiting a specialist, who would provide more comprehensive care of the periodontal condition. Then, the real “miracle” begins —EDUCATION regarding periodontal disease and ORAL HYGIENE INSTRUCTIONS! I love performing that miracle.
  • The dentist is annoyed with me when a patient doesn't show up. She doesn't want to give us a bonus even when collections are up.
  • I recently quit my job of 15 years with the same DMD. I quit to go back to school full time to become an RN. The dentist I was working for had all the classic symptoms of depression. Therefore, he did not treat his patients with good clinical skills or good judgment. He often let decay slide by, he underdiagnosed much of the time, and ethically I couldn’t take it anymore.
  • The dentist tells everyone how he has to continue to pay for his children’s college education even though they have graduated and have great jobs. Like the rest of us don't have to do the same!
  • The dentist says, "No news is good news" after an exam.
  • He walks away from patient exams to avoid spending any of his time answering patients' questions. He has a double standard for appointment time: he wants me to complete procedures and have my room ready for the next patient in 40 minutes, yet he allows super long appointments for himself. He spends a lot of time online and watching TV in his private office.
  • Change my probing numbers from 3 or 4 to 5. I have to probe every patient every visit, not just for condition of health but to put them on a three-month recare schedule, or for the DDS to say "You still have pockets and we need to clean them with a deep cleaning — again." Even when they are a Class I and have a clean mouth, tissue may be spongy around the distal molars.
  • The dentist regularly uses profanity in front of patients. It's very unprofessional. He also talks down to employees in front of patients. We know he’s joking, but the patients don't.
  • The dentist does not give patients all the treatment options. He seems to make a value judgment on what patients can afford, yet we have patients with limited resources who will sacrifice somewhere else to receive the very best treatment option.
  • When we are out of something, the dentist questions whether we are actually out of it.
  • The dentist passes off caries as "something to watch" when it is so obviously into the dentin layer, as shown on bitewing X-rays. Even though hygienists cannot legally diagnose a cavity, clinically or radiographically, we know what a cavity looks like. Of course this happens after I have prepped a patient by showing him or her the cavity.
  • The gloves in our office do not fit.
  • When the dentist leaves early or goes on vacation, he does not let me work on patients of record. No work, no pay.
  • The dentist lets the front staff play games on the computer instead of filling the schedule. I lose hours when I don't have a patient. It is very annoying.
  • The dentist suggests treatment very timidly. It is nice that he is not pushy, but he is almost too opposite of pushy, so patients will put treatment off when they should be seriously considering and scheduling it.
  • One dentist I work with asks every patient at their recall, "Which teeth are we taking out today? Ha! Ha! Ha!" It is very annoying, not to mention unprofessional, especially if the patient is already nervous!
  • The dentist insists on performing exams on every patient, no matter how frequently they come in, and the first instrument he picks up is a scaler so he can basically go back over every tooth. Long-time patients tell me he has always done this, and that at three years I have been there longer than any previous hygienist. It's embarrassing when new patients say they feel like they get two cleanings. Now I quietly tell them ahead of time that the doc will rescale so they are not surprised. While he says I do a good job, he also tells me he is hard on me so I won't get "lazy." Needless to say, this kind of "exam," coupled with his nonstop chatting, keeps us both behind schedule all day.