"Degrading comments and insults" topped the list as examples of bad behavior with 75% of the 497 dental hygienists who answered the “bad blood” survey in the Aug. 27, 2010, issue of RDH eVillage, which attempted to determine the extent of behavior problems between dentists and hygienists. "Refusing to speak to each other" was a second at 45% of types of behavior problems.
When asked how often does a behavior problem arise between dentists and hygienists, RDH eVillage readers indicated:
- 15% replied daily
- 21% replied weekly
- 14% replied monthly
- 15% replied several times a year
- 5% replied once per year
- 30% replied less than once a year
Seventy-two percent of the dental hygienists replying to the survey suggested that dentists exhibited the most behavior problems. When asked if either dentists or hygienists have been terminated due to behavior problems, the overwhelming majority said no; 96.2% were unaware of a dentist being fired for bad behavior, and 89.2% said the same of dental hygienists.
In addition to degrading insults and a cold shoulder toward colleagues, the respondents also reported incidents of:
- Inappropriate joking (34%)
- Yelling (25%)
- Spreading malicious rumors (21%)
- Throwing objects (14%)
- Cursing (12%)
- Sexual harassment (6%)
- Physical assault (2%)
Of the dental hygienists who responded:
- 66.4% work in a private solo-practitioner dental office
- 28.4% work in a group practice
- And less than 5% of the respondents work in an academic, military or integrated health system setting.
One question solicited general comments about bad behavior among dental professionals in the workplace, sparking some lively retorts. The responses included:
- In January 2010, I left the practice I was with for 12 years because I just got tired of all the drama. The office I am in now is wonderful. No drama, just working with a great DDS and patients. Can't believe I stayed as long as I did.
- It occurs more subtly with the dentists making sarcastic remarks or keeping too distant. But there is no abuse or terrible behavior among any in the staff.
- This is a very stressful profession. I feel hygienists tend to look down on assistants and critique dentists. One doctor calls it "the hygiene attitude." He jokingly says it must be a class in the curriculum of how to be superior to everyone in the office.
- The dentist's tardiness and poor time management is always left to his employees to "catch up and smooth over." Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that the patients ultimately suffer with hurried, stressed treatments and a gross lack of respect for their time, which frustrates everyone, every day, and creates a stressful, unpleasant work environment.
- I filled this out based on a previous work experience. I quit due to unprofessional business practices in the office. I think it is a shame that dental hygienists are not always respected for their knowledge nor are they encouraged to stick up for themselves enough.
- When patients hear bad behavior they feel like it may be because of them or aimed at them. Most of the time they leave the practice.
- The most pervasive problem I encounter is unwillingness on the part of the doctor to openly discuss her grievances with the people involved. We hear about them at staff meetings where the complaint is directed at all staff or all hygienists, for example, when in fact, the grievance is with only one person. The person who needs to "get it" usually doesn't, and all others are angry as a result of being ""falsely accused."
- We have worked hard to create a truly team atmosphere. As the dentist, formerly a dental assistant and a dental hygienist, I know bad behavior can and does exist. As an employee, I have left many offices willingly because I was not treated with respect. Now that I am the dentist and cannot leave, I will terminate an employee who chooses to behave with disrespect or who spreads disrespect among the team. Almost every other "issue" can be worked out.
- I have loved being a dental hygienist for over 30 years, but hate all the stress that comes from not having good team members and an unfair, rude boss.
- Bad behavior is present on both sides in dentistry as a whole, I am uniquely qualified to speak from both sides and feel the dentists bear more the burden to behave better. I personally didn't experience any of the above before I was a DDS but had friends who did. The dentists need to work WITH the hygienists instead of against them.
- The behavior escalates to a point to where the dentist is out of control and usually the staff has no idea what is going on with her. She threatens weeks off without pay or just springs them on us and then out of nowhere has meltdowns and sends out texts that results in someone either leaving or getting fired (the last casualty was the office manager). She has had two entire staffs walk out on her in the 23 years she has been in practice and were it not for the economy this one would too.
- As a hygienist of 30 years, I am dedicated to my profession, the patient and delivering quality care. I treat all patients with respect, along with co-workers and the dentist. I expect the same treatment, especially from the dentist. He is not superior to me as a person and has no right to degrade me in front of a patient to boost his own ego!
- I never have and never will work in that type of environment. When I have sought a new position, I interview the dentist as much as they interview me to ensure a good "fit" in a happy, professional environment.
- The dentist belittles all employees in front of patients and each other. He doesn't realize that his comments are hurtful, even after it has been brought to his attention.
- It's hard to believe a man who completed dental school thinks it's OK to throw things when he gets upset. He actually hit me once when he was throwing things. Thank goodness it was only his gloves that time.
- I have been in practice 26 years. I have one hygienist who has been with me full-time for 18 years. I did have to terminate one hygienist employment 20 months ago after 9 years of employment due to her personal life problems affecting her attendance and performance of her job. I have never had a yelling, screaming or degrading episode with any hygienist and certainly never in front of a patient. We don't see eye to eye 100% of the time, but can sit down and discuss any differences and resolve them in a civilized way. I have had some temporary fill in hygienist for a day that I decided not to ask to return, but did not degrade them or yell at them. Any person, dentist or hygienist who throws an instrument at another human being should be charged with assault. Common decency and courtesy should always be used when dealing with an employee/employer situation.